For the first time in years, the Sacramento Kings put together a successful regular season and made it to the playoffs. The offense Coach Mike Brown and his team put together was historic. Per 100 possessions, the Kings averaged 118.9 points, a mark no team had ever reached before.
Even though Kings fans finally had great basketball to watch, the team was not perfect. For most of the season, defense was their weak spot, and they simply relied on outscoring opponents. When they met the more experienced Golden State Warriors in the playoffs, that was not quite enough, however, and the Kings’ first postseason trip since 2006 ended in seven games.
Now, Sacramento is returning all the core pieces from that historic season while refining the roster around the edges. Compared to other teams, the Kings’ offseason was very calm and undramatic, but they still have plenty of stuff to figure out.
So, let’s look at three issues the Kings must sort out during training camp.
Issue # 3: Defense
The Kings’ defense is far from hopeless. Coach Brown holds everyone accountable and has certain standards; Davion Mitchell is a lock-down on-ball defender; De’Aaron Fox has the drive and commitment needed to improve; Malik Monk puts in the work on that end of the floor with the second unit; and the team collectively grabs defensive rebounds, allowing only 12.7 second-chance points per game.
On the other hand, however, they allowed around 118 points per game during the regular season. That number ranked 25th in the NBA, ahead of only five mainly non-contending teams: the Hawks, the Pistons, the Rockets, the Pacers, and the Spurs. They also allowed 53.5 points in the paint, which ranked 26th in the entire league.
The Kings have virtually no rim protection. Murray and Sabonis averaged the most blocks per game with 0.5, and Sabonis picked up a lot of fouls in the paint. On the perimeter, the defense wasn’t perfect either. Opposing guards often hunted Kevin Huerter, for example, trying to get him to switch onto them.
Nevertheless, the Kings did not add any defensive-minded players over the summer. So, the improvement has to come from within. This does not mean that every single player has to become a flawless defender, but if they can get to the middle of the pack defensively as a team, it could very well be good enough.
The Denver Nuggets didn’t have a top-10 defense last season either and they won the championship. Given their personnel, the Kings will probably try to follow the same route and get to work on their team defense during training camp.