One Team, One Stat: Preventing layups not enough for Kings
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2016-17 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Sacramento Kings, who protected the rim, but not much else.
Sacramento Kings opponents attempted only 28 percent of their shots from the restricted area last season. That was the lowest rate in the league.
Restricted area shots are the most valuable shots on the floor, worth 1.2 points per attempt league-wide. Preventing layups and dunks should be the No. 1 priority for every defense. And the Kings did it better than any other team in the league.
But they were still a below-average defensive team for the 10th straight season (the league’s longest active streak). They may have prevented a lot of layups and dunks, but they didn’t defend the ones they allowed very well.
Furthermore, the 2015-16 Kings allowed more 3-pointers than any other defense in NBA history. They allowed the most attempts in the league and ranked 23rd in opponent 3-point percentage. According to SportVU, only one team (Oklahoma City) contested a lower percentage of its opponents’ jump shots.
The Kings allowed the most threes (11.4 per 48 minutes) when bigs DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein were on the floor together. Cousins’ size and Cauley-Stein’s athleticism should make for a solid defensive combination, but that didn’t pan out in the latter’s rookie season.
The Kings’ defense improved in regard to forcing turnovers and keeping their opponents off the free throw line. But they were a bottom-10 defensive rebounding team. They also ranked last in SportVU’s perimeter ball pressure metric.
The Kings made some roster changes on the perimeter and hired Dave Joerger, who was an assistant or the coach for five straight top-10 defenses in Memphis. Joerger’s teams forced a lot of turnovers, but never defended the 3-point line particularly well.
Even if Cauley-Stein shows improvement in his second year, Joerger doesn’t have the defensive personnel with the Kings that he had in Memphis. And though his team will keep their opponents away from the basket, he’s got a lot of work to do to end a 10-year run of bad defense in Sacramento.
10 MORE KINGS NOTES
The Kings have also been a below-average offensive team for 10 straight seasons, tied with Philadelphia for the longest active streak on that end of the floor.
According to SportVU, the Kings averaged just 2.77 passes per possession last season, the second lowest rate in the league, ahead of only Oklahoma City (2.67). Joerger’s Grizzlies ranked eighth at 3.21 passes per possession.
The Kings’ free throw rate (FTA/FGA) dropped from 0.363 (first in the league) in 2014-15 to 0.295 (seventh) last season. That (about seven free throws per 100 shots from the field) was the league’s biggest drop-off last year.
Sacramento was outscored by just 1.0 points per 100 possession when it had a day or more of rest, but by 9.7 points per 100 possessions on the second night of a back-to-back. That was the league’s biggest NetRtg differential between games with rest and games without rest and they were just 4-15 in second game of a back-to-back (losing their first nine).
Though Cousins took 141 more threes than he had in his first five seasons combined, the Kings still took 53.0 percent of their total shots from the paint. That was the second highest rate in the league, behind only Milwaukee (56.5 percent).
Shot 41.8 percent on corner threes (including 47.1 percent from the left corner), the best mark in the league. But they ranked 22nd in corner 3-point attempts.
Ben McLemore averaged just 16.5 touches per turnover, the fewest among players with at least 1,000 touches. Cousins had the second lowest mark at 18.4 touches per turnover. McLemore was the most likely to commit a turnover when driving.
Cousins grabbed 17.9 percent of available rebounds while he was on the floor last season, down from 20.9 percent in 2014-15. That (-3.0 percent) was the fourth biggest decrease in rebounding percentage among players who played at least 1,000 minutes both seasons.
Omri Casspi attempted 17.1 3-pointers for every shot from mid-range, the highest ratio among players with 500 total field goal attempts and up from 3.2 in ’14-15.
The Kings outscored their opponents by 5.4 points per 100 possessions in 964 minutes with Casspi and Cousins on the floor together, but were outscored by 5.0 in 2,197 minutes with only one of the two on the floor and by 7.8 in 798 minutes with neither on the floor.
NBA TV’s Kings preview premieres at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Oct. 18.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.
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