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30Q: Can the Kings be an average defensive team?

Will the Kings finally take some pride on the other end of the floor?

The Sacramento Kings finished last season with the worst defensive rating in the NBA. It was also the second-worst defensive rating in NBA history. The Kings spent most of the season with the worst rating in NBA history before narrowly avoiding the dubious honor with some late-season improvement.

The Kings have had a below average defensive rating for the entirety of the playoff drought, something I doubt is a coincidence.

All of this begs the question: can this Kings team be at least an average defensive team?

The Kings added some help in the middle with Alex Len, and added help in the guard rotation with Davion Mitchell, but neither of those two moves will be enough to turn around the defense on their own.

As noted previously, the Kings defense did improve as the season went along. It still wasn’t good but players like Maurice Harkless, Terence Davis, and (the now-traded) Delon Wright did help the Kings play better defense in the second half.

The Kings should reasonably expect to be a better defensive team this season, but barring additional trades I don’t know if this team has made enough improvement to the roster to even be a top-20 defense.

The one other notable change is on the bench. Luke Walton has coached a team that improved on defense from one year to the next exactly once, in his second season with the Lakers. The team’s defensive rating then got worse the following season. But the Kings did make a change to Walton’s staff. Rex Kalamian, who was supposed to help fix the defense last year, is out and Mike Longabardi has been brought in. We’ll see if adjusting the defensive scheme can help.

Of course, if the Kings manage to trade for a Defensive Player of the Year runner-up who is regularly an All NBA First Team defender, that could also improve the team’s defense.

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RikSmits
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September 5, 2021 8:08 am

The more scary question that isn’t being asked; could they be worse?

I know there is no drop off from last place, but the defensive numbers could get worse, which would demand even better offensive to overcome it.

We are really letting a lot ride on the shoulders of a rookie and a second-year player. And Tyrese, although clearly crafty and intelligent on that side of the floor, wasn’t even a good defender last year.

The Mitchell pick seems to indicate an emphasis on D, but the fact that Walton is here does not have my hopes up. I know, we have a new assistant, but Kalamian was highly regarded as a defensive assistant before coming to Sacramento. Longabardi came over from Washington who were – checks notes – a bit less awful than Sacramento on D last year.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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September 5, 2021 8:29 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Agreed. An assistant coach and a rookie aren’t going to move the needle all that much. To go from worst to average takes a seismic change like a head coach (see Knicks) or a major roster overhaul. The Kings are basically rolling out 90% of the same team as last year.

Roaddog
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September 5, 2021 8:59 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

what’s scary to you might not be what’s scary to me.

If the Kings do improve their defense to average, that might earn Coach Walton an extension.

Whereas if they get worse, we might finally get a NBA head coach.

Ellis5
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September 5, 2021 9:18 pm
Reply to  Roaddog

Agreed.. If you are a Kings fan you have nothing to be “scared” about.

RikSmits
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September 5, 2021 10:33 pm
Reply to  Ellis5

Unless it’s Vlade drafting the second pick in the draft?

SMF-PDXConnection
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September 5, 2021 9:29 am

You just know from what we’ve seen so far that Mitchell is gonna be giving a lot of stink eyes at other guys in practice for not hustling or paying attention on defense.

This is when I wish the NBA had its own Hard Knocks and we could see the rookie go full Jimmy Butler on the TWolves against guys like Bagley and Buddy in practice.

Daydreamer
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September 5, 2021 12:15 pm

Not to mention Hali and Fox, especially Fox: steel sharpens steel (Mitchell will get better too).

eddie41
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September 5, 2021 10:20 am

They can be above average defensively this year. They’ve achieved a critical mass of defense-minded players. Bagley does not have to be in the rotation at all. That leaves only one below average defender, Buddy Hield, who might lose minutes if he does not buy in defensively, and be the best version of himself. They have a long forward who can guard the opponent’s best wing/forward (Harkless). They have a great on-ball defender at the guard spot (Mitchell). go through the rest of the top 9 players. They’re all good.

RighteousandHopeful
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September 5, 2021 4:56 pm
Reply to  eddie41

Righteous and hopeful post!

AnybodyButBagley
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September 5, 2021 10:21 am

Nope

reydarly
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September 5, 2021 1:00 pm

Well they can be if Walton took notes from Bobby Jackson in the Summer League. Focus on defense and let the offense come to you. Poor defense and free throw shooting need a lot of attention.

Sacto_J
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September 5, 2021 3:21 pm

Checks website, sees Walton is still the coach, slams laptop on coffee table, wonders why team owners insist on running team half assed, wonders why this is a 30Q, goes back to bed.

mdeedublu
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September 5, 2021 4:07 pm
Reply to  Sacto_J

I think the reality that we all need to realize is this is going to be another growth year. Build with the young guys, make a significant move either at the trade deadline or next offseason. Get a new coach next offseason and then strive for the playoffs. That’s not what any of us want, we want success now but that’s likely the reality.

deez
September 5, 2021 4:06 pm

Don’t worry, everyone. Doug Christie will turn this defense around.

jctar
September 5, 2021 4:17 pm
Reply to  deez

It’s hard to imagine his enthusiasm for it not having an impact which makes me more curious whose hire he was.

Ellis5
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September 5, 2021 4:28 pm
Reply to  deez

Will this be situational or verbal irony when this statement comes to fruition?

HongKongKingsFan
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September 5, 2021 4:28 pm
Reply to  deez

Don’t worry, we have Hassan Whitside Alex Len ?

I do think the defense would improve, simply because of the team chemistry……..keep the main core……..and no more Bagley would helps a lot.

GreatSuccess
September 7, 2021 11:08 pm

I was at an Alex Len game, he affected a lot of shots inside. Do not sleep on this guy!

Rosevillain
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September 5, 2021 5:01 pm

Will Fox ever learn to fight through a screen, preventing an entire defensive break down at the first point of attack?

Ellis5
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September 5, 2021 5:13 pm
Reply to  Rosevillain

If he develops a killer pull up like Simmons….. Burp….. maybe he don’t need to fight so hard.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ellis5
murraytant
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September 5, 2021 5:18 pm

Defense is scheme, talent, desire and execution. New coach- scheme might change a little but only a little. Talent- some improvement Desire- unclear. Execution- better scheme + slightly better talent and better desire might result in better execution.

But all teams are saying the same thing. My guess- move up to 20th from the bottom.

Roaddog
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September 5, 2021 5:56 pm

if the powers that be read this, a segment called 30Q could number their Qs

andy_sims
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September 5, 2021 6:17 pm

Only second-worst in NBA history!

EXTEND LUKE WALTON TO 2030 BEFORE HE’S SNAPPED UP BY GREG POPOVICH

Ccc
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Ccc
September 5, 2021 7:05 pm

I don’t know. I guess we will see.

Klam
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Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
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September 5, 2021 7:17 pm

“Can the Kings be an average defensive team?”
comment image

Last edited 1 year ago by Klam
Putthegundown
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September 5, 2021 7:28 pm
Reply to  Klam

America’s most wanted.

SMF-PDXConnection
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September 6, 2021 9:12 am
Reply to  Putthegundown

You mean Sacramento’s least wanted.

sonny
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September 6, 2021 11:41 am

But he defended himself well on sexual harassment charges!

Want2win
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September 5, 2021 7:29 pm

Can they? Yes I believe they can, but will they? Doubtful!

AnybodyButBagley
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September 5, 2021 9:28 pm

The lofty goal of being average. For 15 years it has been a constant struggle. Some years average was achieved. Other years new historic lows were set by the Kangz.

Lately the race to the bottom has been the model chosen for the team.

RikSmits
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September 5, 2021 10:31 pm

Lately the race to the bottom has been the model chosen for the team.

The sad thing is, it wasn’t chosen. It just sort of happened, despite the efforts to become average.

jctar
September 6, 2021 12:50 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Our chosen model seems more like–to tread the waters of mediocrity.

We may have won the race to the bottom, defensively speaking. But in the race to the overall bottom, the kings failed, badly; otherwise, we’d be talking about a starting line-up of Fox, Hali, and Cunningham.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 6, 2021 10:15 pm
Reply to  jctar

The decision not to tank is a race to the bottom in NBA standings.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 6, 2021 10:14 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Drafting Bagley instead of the obvious choice was a decision.

Firing Michael Malone was a decision.

Firing Joerger was a decision.

Vlade as a GM was a decision.

Hiring Walton was a decision.

Not tanking is a decision.

Stauskas was a decision.

These are a few of the highlights. Accountability is missing in this organization. The fans do not hold them accountable. The local media does not hold them accountable. The ownership does not promote accountability.

You don’t just randomly end up being the worst team in the NBA. There were some decisions that created the situation.

Kingsguru21
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September 6, 2021 8:16 am

We know the Kings had a historically bad DRtg, but I think what’s instructive is that the Kings didn’t also have the worst Net Rtg in the NBA last season. 24th in Net Rtg isn’t anything to crow about, I just think it’s something to keep in mind if you’re talking about one of the worst defenses in history. Offense can’t really save you…..unless you’re not as terrible as it might appear on defense.

The Kings were bad, but they were garden variety bad in a weird year with a lot of distorted shit going on. I think if we see that again this year, yeah, there’s no hope.

In the first month or so of games (Dec 22nd to Jan 22nd) the Kings DRtg was 118.7 with an ORtg that was middle of the pack (14th) about 110.4. That DRtg was 30th in the NBA.

In the next month (Jan 23rd to Feb 22nd), the Kings had a 117.3 DRtg. That was 25th in the NBA for that month. Their offense was also 114.6 ORtg which was still middle of the pack (12th).

In the next month plus (I added some days due to the ASG or ‘break’) from Feb 23rd to Mar 31st, the Kings DRtg was 117.2 good for 29th in the NBA. The ORtg was 117 good for 4th in the NBA at that time.

For the month of April, the Kings were again dead last in DRtg at 119.3. They were also bottom 3rd (21st) at 110.9

The last several weeks (May 1 to May 16th) really don’t matter much in my mind, but the Kings were 2nd in DRtg at 105.2 and 23rd in ORtg at 108.6.

Post trade deadline, the Kings were at 113.9 DRtg (24th), and a 20th ORtg in 110.4. The Net Rtg was 24th.

My point is that this team was bad on defense but not historically bad. More like garden variety bad due to some factors (playing teams b2b early, Bagley in the starting lineup, the overall defense just being horrendous early) somewhat out of your control.

Those excuses are gone. Those ‘well it’s not that horrendous in context’ bits are gone. None of that applies to this season. This team had better be in the average range if they are serious about winning games. They had better rebound better than the worst team in the league all year. They had better get more physical. De’Aaron Fox had better play with more intent and effort on that end to the extent that he really can. Carrying the offense matters in that equation, too. Tyrese Haliburton needs to be better, but he’s still a young player. There’s more depth, and more physical players. There’s more defenders even if it comes at a cost on the offensive end (Davion Mitchell).

Do I expect this to be a top 5 team in DRtg? No. But I expect them to be middle of the pack’ish defensively if they are serious about improving and competing on a nightly basis. Last season, I had no expectation of such things. I expected the Kings to be bad defensively and they were bad defensively. There was slight improvement but nothing to write home about as the season wore on. This year? I expect real improvement if the team is to take a step forward. How? Better activity on the defensive end, and realistically better defensive rebounding. That’s where I think this team failed in the physical department. It wasn’t so much that they couldn’t get stops as much as they couldn’t get the ball often enough after they got the stops. They weren’t just last in eFG% virtually all season (until playing OKC), they were dead last in DRB%, too. That’s a problem. That can’t ever happen unless you want to be bad on defense.

As always, proof is in the pudding. But I see potential for improvement. But I also see it being quite possible it doesn’t happen.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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September 6, 2021 8:46 am
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Excellent stuff, Nate. I think what concerns me in addition to the obvious holes in the team and defensive issues, is the rest of the West when it comes to the W/L column. Sure, the Kings may improve in all facets of the game, but I think everyone else they are going up against may have improved more.

The Kings are in the hardest division in the League and I really only see about 2 teams I feel confident will finish below the Kings (OKC and Houston). Minny is better on paper if healthy will finish ahead of the Kings. IMO, he Pels got better, Memphis gets JJJ back, and the Spurs still have Pop.

So, the Kings may play better defense, click on offense, and Fox may sniff an alll-star selection, but none of it will make a difference where it counts… in the standings.

sonny
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September 6, 2021 11:39 am

My prediction:

The Kings will defend their 31-win season of last year!

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