Kings: Cold Shooters Are Only A Part Of The Problem

(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Sacramento Kings have made more than their share of mistakes on both ends, but two of their key players also can’t buy a bucket.

There is no escaping the clear flaws of this Sacramento Kings’ four games into the season. Having the second-lowest field goal percentage, third-most opponents points per game, and barely being out of the bottom five in pace have done the team no favors.

In combination with that, two of the top scorers for the Kings have not been able to hit shots for the life of them. Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic are shooting a combined 33% from the field so far this season. They each have a pair of single-digit scoring nights already, something that was a rare sight last season.

In 2018-’19, there was never an instance where both Bogdanovic and Hield finished with single digits in the scoring column, which is something we witnessed in the last game against the Denver Nuggets. While they have had their faults in regards to turnovers, they are struggling to knock down open looks that both of these players have previously hit at a high-rate.

Hield and Bogdanovic have gotten quality looks often to start this year. 45% of Bogdanovic’s attempts qualify as “open” (which defines as a defender within 4-6ft), compared to 20% last season. That is an astronomical jump, which surely will not continue but is nice to see none the less.

Hield is getting open shots at a 31% rate, practically identical to his 32% rate from 2018-’19.  But he has increased his attempts that qualify as “wide open” looks (defenders no closer than 6ft) by roughly 5%. Bogdanovic has jumped in that same category by a comparable 4%.

They are getting good looks, but shooters go through slumps. It is just unfortunate that both of them are experiencing these at the same time of the year as the Kings are trying to get off on the right foot.

A Reason For Optimism

Let’s have a look at both of their basic shooting splits from last season:

Hield: 45.8/42.7/87.6

Bogdanovic: 41.8/36.0/82.7

Each of them could use an efficiency jump in regards to total field goal percentage, and they both need to improve their finishing at the rim, but they were clearly top-tier three-point shooters. That was also seen as a disappointing year from distance for Bogdanovic after shooting 39% from three in his rookie campaign.

But now look at their numbers, albeit on a small sample size of four games, so far in 2019-20.

Hield: 35.1/37.5/100

Bogdanovic: 27.5/31.6/66.7

Bogdanovic’s splits are simply unsustainable from a player of his caliber. Yet even with the two of them uncharacteristically struggling, the Kings remain 4th in three-point percentage and middle of the pack in field goal percentage.

Going back to the open looks that these two shooters have been attempting, there are notable slips. On open shot attempts last season, this pairing knocked them down at a 42% rate and about 37% from three. This season, those numbers have fallen to 30% from the field and an identical 30% from downtown. A 12% difference in total field goal percentage and 7% from distance has left plenty of points off of the board for the Sacramento Kings.

In regards to wide-open looks, the three-point attempts are the real difference. Last season in wide-open attempts from the field, Bogdanovic and Hield combined to shoot 48% from the field and they are currently at 46% this season. From three, however, it is night and day. They combined to just under 35% this season after 46.4% last year. These shots will eventually start to fall.

The Kings Will Be A Powerful Shooting Team

One easily identifiable positive for the Kings as a team has been their three-point shooting, despite the increased attempts not being as high as Luke Walton wanted. They are sitting pretty at 37.8%, even through the slumps from their two best shooters.

The percentages are not taking a dip due to shot quality — the Kings have time to knock down shots but are simply failing to do so. This is no cause for concern. The shots will begin to fall and the Kings will surely be benefactors of their improved offensive contributions. Meanwhile, De’Aaron Fox, Richaun Holmes, and Nemanja Bjelica will help carry the load as they have been.

There are aspects of the Sacramento offense that have been horrific, but the shooting is only going to get better as the year progresses. I have not yet even mention Dewayne Dedmon shooting 18% from three this year after 36% in 2018-’19. Cleaning up the turnovers, keeping the ball moving, speeding up the pace of play, and their top shooters starting to hit their shots should make this team a top-half offense fairly easily.

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Buddy Hield will not shoot 35% on wide-open looks for long, and it is only a matter of time before Bogdanovic starts to hit greater than 31% from three and 27% from the field. Those numbers will come back to what Kings’ fans have grown to expect from the duo and Sacramento will be the beneficiary.