The Sacramento Kings are ranked near the middle of the NBA pack defensively, tied for 14th in the league surrendering 99.1 points per game.
Not bad, right?
Well, the advanced metrics aren’t so kind. With a defensive rating of 104.7 (points per 100 possessions), Sacramento is 25th in the league. The points per game stat can be influenced by the page at which an offense moves (and the Kings are sort of, well, pokey), but the defensive rating tells the tale of the troubles the Kings are having keeping opponents off the scoreboard.
Opposing guards are combining for 44.1 points and 14.4 assists per game, with the point guards averaging 11.1 assists—a sign that the defensive pressure coming from Greivis Vasquez and Isaiah Thomas isn’t a problem. Those numbers make it appear the Kings’ point guard tandem isn’t even a minor annoyance.
Thomas has a defensive rating of 110. That’s bad. Vasquez checks in with a 112. That’s worse.
Things aren’t a lot better at the shooting guard spot, where rookie Ben McLemore checks in with a D-rating of 109—the same as what was being posted by Marcus Thornton, you know, back in the days when Thornton actually took off his warm-ups and left the bench.
Would now be a bad time to mention that Marcus Thornton is the highest paid King this season at $8.05 million? But I digress.
But the point guard production against the Kings has been both consistent and awful:
Coach Michael Malone says the problem isn’t hard to diagnose. It’s the whole fixing-it thing that’s been the issue.
“We can’t contain them,” Malone told the Sacramento Bee. “Your defense starts on the ball and obviously a lot of nights we’ve gone into it and we’re not able to contain the ball on the perimeter. And when you add that to the fact that we don’t have much shot blocking on our back line—we’re 30th in the NBA in blocked shots per game—that’s not a good combination.”
The Kings are tied with the Minnesota Timberwolves for 29th in the league at 3.4 blocks per game.
Sacramento just traded away Luc Mbah a Moute, the team’s best perimeter defender, in the deal to bring Derrick Williams to the Kings. But even with Mbah a Moute, Sacramento was getting shredded on the perimeter.
It’s been a problem the Kings have had for a long time and it appears Malone hasn’t been able to dial up the right solution to fix it yet.