The Sacramento Kings’ improved defense is holding up well

Philadelphia 76ers v Sacramento Kings
Philadelphia 76ers v Sacramento Kings / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

The Kings are not a good defensive team simply because of the personnel. This team is built to be an offensive machine and that is the foundation for Sacramento’s return to relevance in the NBA world. 

Coach Mike Brown knew that the next level would require a better defense, however. With scoring continuously going up, it is difficult to win games if you can’t slow anyone down. 

Keegan Murray was the first to answer the call, and now the rest of the team has finally followed. Since the All-Star break, the Kings are tenth in defensive rating and fourth in March with a 108.9 rating. Four times this month, they have held opponents under 100 points. 

It was a nice change of pace early this month, but given the Kings’ track record, it was difficult to believe that it would hold up. With the end of the month coming up, that looks a little different now. 

This new Kings’ defense seems legit

There has been only one outlier this month. In a costly loss to the Washington Wizards, the Kings’ new-found defensive intensity was nowhere to be seen. Otherwise, it has been steady, however, and it seems sustainable. 

They don’t necessarily have to be a top-five defense, but if the intensity and physicality carry over to the postseason, that is a win. Almost everyone in and around Sacramento has credited Keon Ellis with leading the charge and bringing Mike Brown’s vision to life. 

He has, without a doubt, impacted the team’s defense. Ellis is a master at navigating screens and getting deflections. He moves his feet well and knows how to use his long arms and quick hands. It is not just him, however.

De’Aaron Fox has played great defense lately. With 28 total steals in March, he is tied with Alex Caruso and Dejounte Murray to lead the league. Ellis is next in line with 23. 

Davion Mitchell is the other guard who has had a hand in this. Defense is his calling card—we all know that—but lately, his offense has been good as well. Early in the season, Coach Brown felt like he could only play one of Ellis and Mitchell. Now, they are both offensive threats—they just had 19- and 18-point games respectively—and are both in the rotation and sometimes even on the court together. 

It has done wonders for the Kings’ defense because both are playmakers on that end of the floor, and it divides up the pressure. Just last night we saw that in full effect. Ellis started guarding Tyrese Maxey. He went off, and Ellis got into foul trouble, but it was not a problem because Fox could take him on for some possessions, and Mitchell completely shut off his water. 

Between the three guards, Murray, who is guarding well on the wing, Domantas Sabonis, who swallows up every defensive rebound in sight, Chris Duarte, who battles off the bench, and Alex Len, who has been blocking shots left and right lately, the Kings suddenly have plenty of defensive contributors. 

It has been almost a month now, and it seems that this is a sustainable improvement rather than just a phase of good defense. Everyone is bought in, and the players are enjoying this new style of play. 

Now, the Kings just have to show that they can do it when it matters the most. 

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