Sacramento Kings: One big adjustment Luke Walton must make

Sacramento Kings (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Sacramento Kings (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Sacramento Kings’ head coach Luke Walton must make this adjustment.

The Sacramento Kings currently sit as the 13th ranked team in the Western Conference (last amongst teams in the bubble).

While it has been of great benefit for the franchise to sharpen their skills and gain experience playing meaningful games, it appears as though their opportunity to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005-2006 is all but over.

While the team has made some encouraging strides in recent seasons, they once again find themselves in the worst place in the league. They have yet to crack the postseason field but are recording too many wins to land a difference-making talent at the top of the draft.

The Kings seem much closer to postseason contention than the basement of the league standings. They just need to get past the difficult hurdle of breaking through an incredibly tough Western Conference.

While a superstar signing would expedite this process exponentially, that possibility does not seem likely for the small-market team. However, there is one adjustment that head coach Luke Walton can make that I believe will increase their chances — play faster.

The Sacramento Kings’ Issue

The Kings’ biggest strength is their collection of young athletes. Players like De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, and Buddy Hield are at the heart of the Kings’ ascent into the fringe of contention.

However, despite having so many capable athletes, the team is currently ranked 20th in pace of play in the 2019-2020 season. For the record, they were third in this category in 2018-2019 (before Walton joined the staff).

Asking a team like the Kings to play slow is like asking the Golden State Warriors to emphasize the mid-range game over three-point shooting. Or asking James Harden to play off-ball.

Teams and individuals can adapt to a point. But leaning away from your greatest assets will hamper overall success.

The Cause

The reason for this drastic change in style? One of Walton’s biggest points of emphasis is the team’s defensive efficiency. And he’s found some success.

The team ranks 18th in defensive rating in 2019-2020. While this is hardly stellar, it is an improvement for a traditionally porous unit.

Teams that play slower are able to control the pace and set their defense with much greater success. Inversely, faster teams tend to find themselves hemorrhaging as other teams take advantage of the inherent chaos.

The strategy makes sense in a vacuum. Use your athletes to control the defensive side of the court. However, the effect on the offense has been detrimental to the effectiveness of the franchise.

The Solution

The answer is as easy as it seems — run more.

A good coach has the ability to morph his or her strategy around the strengths of their individual players. And the Kings’ strength is their speed.

More from Golden Gate Sports

It is a waste to have players like Fox, who may be the quickest player in the NBA, handling the majority of your ball-handling, without allowing him to put his foot on the gas.

Players like Bagley (when healthy), Richaun Holmes, and Harrison Barnes also have experience in fast-paced systems.

Imagine this Kings team running a version of the Steve Nash Phoenix Suns offense. Or even the Stephen Curry Warriors offense that Walton helped lead. It would give the team a clear identity, while giving their opponents a legitimate reason to fear matching up with the Kings.

While it is not worth abandoning an emphasis on defense, the sacrifices of a faster overall pace seem worth the cost.

Additionally, a change of this nature would allow the Kings’ front office to build around a set identity. The team could specifically target players who would make their transition game stronger.

Next. Sacramento Kings: Playoff hopes slipping after three straight losses. dark

It is the biggest single change the team can make heading into the new season.