The Sacramento Kings continue to expose their biggest flaw

Chicago Bulls v Sacramento Kings
Chicago Bulls v Sacramento Kings / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

After missing the previous two contests due to a left knee contusion, De’Aaron Fox returned to the lineup on Monday to help reinvigorate a Kings’ defensive unit that posted a defensive rating of 119.5 (22nd since Mar. 1) in their last two games without him. However, despite being a bright spot defensively for the Kings this season, Fox was not a bright spot against the 29-32 middling Chicago Bulls on Monday.

In about 15 minutes of defensive action against the Bulls, Fox held opponents to 63.6% shooting from the field on 11 attempts. Not to mention, his primary defensive assignment in Coby White happened to erupt for a career-high 37 points, proving that it just wasn’t Fox’s night on that side of the ball.

However, even the best defensive players have nights where they just aren’t as effective, and it’s the job of the rest of the team to help uplift them. The only problem is that the Sacramento Kings aren’t equipped to do so because of their biggest flaw: a lack of rim protection.

Take some of these clips from Monday's game as an example:

Watch De’Aaron Fox bite on a pump fake here, and then watch as Coby White glides into the paint with zero resistance because big man Domantas Sabonis is away from the basket. But even when Sabonis is at the basket, he isn’t the most effective rim protector.

Take this instance, for example, when De’Aaron Fox got caught ball-watching in the pick-and-roll action between Ayo Dosunmu and Nikola Vucevic, allowing Coby White to slip right behind him and dive to the rim for an easy dunk with no resistance from Domantas Sabonis.

On this play, Coby White has De’Aaron Fox on his back, allowing him to play one-on-one with Domantas Sabonis at the rim. All White has to do to beat him is hit him with a euro-step and go up strong, resulting in an and-one momentum play for Chicago.

Their lack of rim protection is hurting the Kings

All of the defensive miscues I highlighted stemmed from De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis. It wasn't my intention necessarily to just pick on the two of them, it just so happens. Fox is arguably Sacramento’s best perimeter defender, and if he has an off night where he’s gambling on too many loose balls or losing sight of his man off the ball, it’s up to Sabonis to protect the rim, which he’s proven he can’t do at a very high level.

Sabonis averages just 0.6 blocks per game, which ranks third from last of all starting centers who have played in at least 30 games and average at least 30 minutes a night. And, because Sabonis plays just shy of 36 minutes per game (35.7), he negatively impacts the overall effectiveness of the Kings in that statistic, as Sacramento ranks 28th in blocks per game this season at 4.1 a night.

Sabonis isn’t the only Kings’ big man contributing to this issue, however, because Sacramento’s depth at the center position is extremely weak. Trey Lyles serves as the current backup, but at 6’9” and 234 lbs, he’s more of a traditional power forward than he is a center, meaning Lyles is not much of a rim protector either.

In fact, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, the Kings have a -7.2 net rating with Trey Lyles at center this season. The lineup Sacramento put on the floor Monday night against Chicago with Lyles at the five was outscored 17-8 amidst a blown 22-point lead.

After Monday's loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Kings dropped to 3-3 since returning from the All-Star break and have allowed a ridiculous 57.7 points per game in the paint to opponents, which is 28th in the entire league. So, this goes beyond Domantas Sabonis. The Kings don’t have the personnel to defend the rim at a very high level, which is a massive red flag for a playoff team.