Statistically, the Sacramento Kings aren’t a very good defensive team and have struggled on that end of the court for years. They haven’t had a solid defensive team since the last time they were in the playoffs back in 2006.
Looking at the numbers, the Kings aren’t likely to become a strong defensive team overnight.
Points Allowed per Game – 29th
Turnovers per Game – 18th
Blocks per Game – 19th
Steals per Game – 20th
Defensive Rebs per Game – 22nd
Opponent points from 3 – 24th
Opp. 2nd Chance points – 27th
Opp. Points off T.O. – 29th
Opp. Fast Break Points – 23rd
However, there are two areas that, if improved, could help the Kings in their quest to return to the playoffs.
The Kings gave up 115.8 points a game last season. The only team worse than that was Houston at 118.2 points a game.
The top 15 teams in points allowed gave up between 103.9 – 110.9 a game. If the Kings can shave off 5 to 6 points a night, they would be a top 15 team in that category, and I believe that is realistically possible with their current roster.
There are two categories to focus on if the points allowed is to change.
OPPONENTS 2ND CHANCE POINTS
The first category is Oppoents 2nd change points. The Kings gave up 14.8 second chance points last season, ranking them 27th in the league. If the Kings can shave 2 to 3 points off of that, they would be a top 12 team in that category.
The team can complish this by gang rebounding. As soon as the shot goes up, every player must put a body on the player their guarding and box out. It can’t just be the bigs who box out. The whole team must box out.
The NBA has evolved to more 3 point shots. Long shots can lead to long rebounds.
The guards can’t get caught ball watching when the shot is released, or trying to leak out for an easy bucket. They must box out and give the team a better chance at limiting their opponent’s second chance opportunities.
If the Kings can be one bucket better, two or three points less per game in second chance points by boxing out and rebounding the ball, they would only be giving up 112.8 to 113.8 points per game. That would move them up to top 25 in the league.
OPPONENT’S POINTS OFF TURNOVERS
The second category to focus on is opponent’s points off turnovers. Opponents scored 17.9 points a game last season off the Kings’ turnovers. The Kings must take better care of the basketball. Turning the ball over will happen.
However, limiting the live ball turnovers allows the Kings to set up their defense. Not only does it allow the Kings to have a better chance of getting a stop, it also cuts down on opponents fast break points which the Kings rank 23rd (giving up 13.4 a game).
8% of the Kings defensive stances occur after live ball turnovers. The Kings give up 1.29 points per live ball turnover as opposed to 1.12 points after a made basket or deadball turnover and 1.13 points after a missed shot.
If the Kings can shave off another bucket by taking better care of the ball, they could be a top 13 team in opponent’s points off turnovers and a top 16 team in points allowed per game.
One less bucket given up after turnovers and one less bucket given up after an opponent’s missed shots, and the Kings will have shaved four to six points off the points allowed category. They still wouldn’t be a solid defensive team, but they would have a lot more wins by winning the close games.
During the 2021-2022 season, the Kings lost 16 games by 6 points or less.
Ignoring health, bad referring, and the NBA’s bias towards big market teams, if the Kings had won half of those games, they would have jumped the Lakers, Spurs, and Pelicans and been in the play-in tournament.
If they had won all of those games, they would have had 46 wins which would have been good enough for the 7th seed this past season.
Last year, I was adament that the Kings needed a top 15 defense if they wanted to make the playoffs. I’m revising my thinking.
Good defense or bad defense, the most simplistic view of the game is the score. To win you have to either score more points than the other team or stop the other team from scoring more points than you.
The Kings have shown they can score points with a top 16 offense three of the last four seasons. That isn’t the problem. The problem is on the other end and everyone, including the Kings, knows it.
The Kings started the 2021-2022 season with “physical defense,” but they struggled to sustain it. The fans want a great defensive team, but it will take time.
It will require drafting players like Davion Mitchell, trading for players like Donte DiVincenzo, and hiring coaches like Mike Brown. The Kings are changing, and hopefully, in a couple years, they will have a top 15 defense to compliment a top 15 offense.
Until then, small improvements are the baby steps that lead to big rewards.