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Five key takeaways after a 1-5 stretch

Opponents are suffocating the Sacramento Kings, and the 1-5 stretch is exposing multiple flaws in the squad.

Hype can evaporate quickly. 

The Sacramento Kings' budding start that incorporated some impish victories is, currently, ephemeral. The NBA, this season more than ever, is a fluid league and requires additional context when analyzing wins and losses. The Kings, fortunately, haven't dealt with the complications of COVID-19; the recent injury knocks to the rotation include Tyrese Haliburton's wrist, De'Aaron Fox's hamstring, and Richaun Holmes' left ankle soreness.

With those hitches in mind, the Kings have tromped to a 1-5 stretch and are playing as we suspected them to (to different extents per player). In a nutshell, defenses are exposing Sacramento's creativity shortage while mismatch hunting on offense, and the Kings seem ill-equipped to consistently perform at their best to overcome their defects.

Here are five takeaways from the stretch, including honorable mentions to conclude:

No D in defense

If the last two games weren’t conspicuous, Sacramento is floundering defensively. When a team comprises below average and inadequate defenders, the results, like the ones we’re witnessing, aren’t startling. Haliburton is the lone beacon on that end off and on the ball, and Harrison Barnes and Holmes aren’t distant. 

As a team, Sacramento’s defensive rating has plummeted from a mesial team to an inferior one. The Kings now possess a DEFRTG of 116.6, 29th in the league. They can thank Minnesota for being the substratum of poor defense. 

The defensive concerns advance individually. Let’s look at the DFG DIFF% of players that tell how opponents are faring when guarded by that player (the lower the better):

Marvin Bagley, +13.7 

Buddy Hield, +9.4

Cory Joseph, +8.3

Tyrese Haliburton, +3.2

Glenn Robinson, +1.9 

Harrison Barnes, -0.8

De’Aaron Fox, -2.3

Nemanja Bjelica, -3.6

Hassan Whiteside, -5.1

Richaun Holmes, -6.2

Opponents are cooking against Sacramento, and once again, teams are circling the Kings on their calendar for easy wins. As evident against Portland, Portland hunted for the Bagley mismatch and succeeded whether shooting from the perimeter or getting to the basket on pick-and-rolls, switches and give-and-goes. Toronto had a field day from deep, bombarding Sacramento with triple after triple. And Portland definitely watched the tape, because Fred VanVleet prospered when pursuing the Bagley mismatch. This statistical category doesn't tell the entire story (looks at Bjelica's percent), but it's pretty cogent given what we've seen.

But as Whiteside told Bagley, this is an opportunity for Bagley to watch the tape and hone his defensive abilities. The same applies to every other player. We’ve seen the Kings communicate well defensively with smooth rotations showing trust in each other. That’s not the case right now, and they need to salvage it. 

Buddy, where are the buckets?

If you'd never witnessed Buddy Hield before this season, you'd presume his shooting abilities are wretched. But then you look at his previous production. And then you glance at his contract. 

This slump is eminently unorthodox for Hield. The Bahamian typically drowns defenses with his lights out shooting off ball screens, staggered screens, simple catch-and-shoot scenarios, and more. But as the season progresses, there's a striking theme: Hield is failing to cooperate on his end of the deal. 

After shooting 2-8 (25%) from three against Portland, Hield's three-point percentage has dipped to a career-low 33.7. To add the expired cherry on top, he's attempting a career-high 9.8 threes a game. It's absolutely dreadful for his standards. 

Per Cleaning the Glass statistics, Hield is in the 37th percentile on all three-point attempts. And if you think the problems pause there, he's in the 20th percentile for mid-range jumpers (5/24) and in the 26th percentile for eFG% (48.2). All are career-low percentiles for the 28-year-old guard. 

It's more than reasonable to expect the shot to revert to prior levels, but that's simply not the case currently. Buddy, Sacramento needs those buckets. 

Marvin Bagley’s range

This 1-5 stretch covers the best and worst of Bagley. In the first loss to Houston, Bagley finished the game shooting 1-9 for four points while grabbing eight rebounds. In the lone win against Chicago, it was a completely different version of Bagley, who went for 21 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Most impressively, however, was his long-range shooting. Bagley shot 3-5 (60%) from deep in that win, looking comfortable and in rhythm with his release. 

After shooting 0-5 from deep in the first two games, Bagley has crept up to a season average of 36% (2.5 attempts per game). Cleaning the Glass, which filters out garbage time attempts and heaves, has Bagley at 41%, good for the 60th percentile among big men. That’s easily a career-high so far. 

Compared to his scoring from other levels (61% at the rim, 26% on mid-range jumpers), Bagley is enjoying success in at least one level. We’ll see how his numbers fluctuate because it’s too early to tell after just 10 games, but the long-ball appears propitious. 

Passing trends

Before you proceed any further, who do you think leads the Kings in assists per game? The answer is...is...Tyrese Haliburton, averaging 5.5 assists per game. That’s a fusion of encouragement and doubt. But let’s be clear: De’Aaron Fox is still the best creator on the team. Fox is averaging 12.1 potential assists a game, slightly less than the 15 he averaged a few games ago. On the other hand, Haliburton is up to 9.5 potential assists a game, up from 6.8 a few games ago. It’s fair to point at the Chicago game where Fox only played five minutes due to a hamstring issue, leaving Haliburton with the mantle. That game skewed some numbers, but there are some other notable passing trends. 

The assist: usage ratios for the guards aren’t as pleasant as you’d hope. Besides Haliburton’s outstanding 1:62 ratio (100th percentile), the other two experienced guards aren’t experiencing the same fruitful success. Fox, with a 0.95 ratio, is in the 34th percentile. Cory Joseph, with a 0.86 ratio, is in the 45th, per Cleaning the Glass. Though the obvious caveat for Joseph is his scarcity in quality initiating.  

Assists rely on making shots; Sacramento ranks 14th in FG% and 17th in assists per game. The Kings average 24.2 assists per game, faintly better than the 23.8 they averaged a season ago. Here are more teetering facts: Joseph is down exactly one assist a game, but Barnes is up exactly one. Haliburton’s APG is an upgrade from Bogdan Bogdanovic’s 3.4 a season ago. Holmes ascended from the 10th percentile in assist: usage ratio to the 54th, with a career-high of 1.6 APG. 

Sacramento needs to move the ball more and settle for fewer isolations, on which they’re shooting 38% from (4.7 attempts), per NBA.com tracking data. 

Run, run, run

In my previous 5 on 5 article, Sacramento positioned as the 17th best team in pace. Despite the recent vile stretch, the Kings are running more. They now rank ninth in the league with a pace of 102.43, just .22 away from leaping into seventh. 

The increase in pace isn’t directly correlating to winning basketball because of the putrid defending, but if they defend as they did earlier while maintaining this pace, maybe it can translate to wins. But at this point, that may be more of a dream than reality. 

Honorable Mentions

Let’s talk more Whiteside. He’s been a polarizing topic lately because of his exclusion in games where his skills could’ve been utilized. Everyone knows who Whiteside is as a player at this point. If Sacramento is relying on Whiteside to be their defensive savior, there may be more substantial issues at hand. His contract is amiable, but the Kings will struggle with or without him at this rate.

Moving to another aging big — Nemanja Bjelica. He’s down to 24% shooting from three, nosediving into the 4th percentile, per CTG. Last season, Bjelica triumphed in the 93rd percentile. Bjelica’s provided some nifty passing, but he’s not adding any significance to the court. 

Onto a more auspicious big — Chimezie Metu. His sample sizes are minute since he’s only featured late in games, but he’s making a case for extra playing time. The intriguing aspect of Metu’s game is his jumper; Metu is 4/8 on mid-range jumpers, exhibiting a confident release that’s tough to contest. Against Golden State, he displayed a nice turnaround jumper, scored on a pick-and-pop and ran fast in transition for a slam. He needs more minutes to prove these small samples aren’t a fluke, but I like that idea. 

What else stands out to you?

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1951
January 11, 2021 10:54 am

To D, or not to D. That is the question.

Kosta
January 11, 2021 11:04 am

More Metu, please.

#MetuMondays

ZillersCat
January 11, 2021 11:34 am
Reply to  Kosta

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Adamsite
Nostradumbass 14
Nostradumbass 14
January 11, 2021 11:55 am
Reply to  Kosta

Raising my glass that Metu can become our Christian Wood.

SMF-PDXConnection
January 11, 2021 11:05 am

There is a part of me that almost wonders if Walton is telling them to push the pace vindictively to try and make some sort of passive aggressive point about defense and halfcourt offense.

Kosta
January 11, 2021 11:19 am

I bet he’s also trolling us by purposely pulling down his mask under his nose whenever he notices the TV camera pointing at him.

MidtownMike
January 11, 2021 11:46 am
Reply to  Kosta

how about the 30+ players in the immediate vicinity not wearing masks…does that bother you?

MidtownMike
January 11, 2021 12:01 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

You downvoters are obviously anti-science.

Science deniers

Carl
January 11, 2021 12:04 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

Apparently, it bothers the NBA. And no one is expecting players on the floor to wear masks.

NBA informs teams that active players must wear masks until they check into game, per report
https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/nba-informs-teams-that-active-players-must-wear-masks-until-they-check-into-game-per-report/

What’s your point with this, because I don’t get it. That mask wearing doesn’t matter or what?

Last edited 6 months ago by Carl
SMF-PDXConnection
January 11, 2021 12:07 pm
Reply to  Carl

Also this:

The BOG doesn’t just meet out of the blue like this unless they’re really serious and concerned about something.

MidtownMike
January 11, 2021 12:29 pm
Reply to  Carl

That’s it ridiculous to constantly be complaining about one person not wearing a mask properly amongst a crowd of 40 people not wearing a mask at all…pretty straightforward.

I dislike Walton as much as the next Kings fan, but for actual basketball reasons, this obsession with his mask is silly

January 11, 2021 1:17 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

I don’t like it. I don’t think they should even be playing, but they are. The players logistically can’t wear masks, but coaches have to and Luke isn’t wearing his according to League standards. If the rich owners must conduct their season, is it too much to ask that their employees follow the rules set by their employee voted representatives?

richie88
January 11, 2021 2:10 pm
Reply to  Gabriel_Bonito

The players logistically can’t wear masks

I don’t expect the players to wear masks while they’re playing, but they should wear masks while they’re on the bench.

MidtownMike
January 11, 2021 2:58 pm
Reply to  Gabriel_Bonito

The 20-30 players on the bench can’t wear masks? That’s some strange science you follow…

Otis
January 11, 2021 4:28 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

People are complaining because if operating a mask is too difficult for him to do consistently, it doesn’t bode well for him as an HC.

January 12, 2021 4:23 pm
Reply to  Otis

Yes, exactly.

Kosta
January 11, 2021 12:10 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

I would be totally fine if the NBA didn’t play basketball until the country has the pandemic under control and the virus is not raging like it is right now because of people who choose to not wear masks for weird reasons, and for people who say it’s a hoax.

Wouldn’t bother me at all.

MidtownMike
January 11, 2021 12:31 pm
Reply to  Kosta

At least you would be consistent and I don’t have a problem with consistent ideology 🙂

Kosta
January 11, 2021 1:17 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

Mike, I’m consistently low IQ when it comes to talking about basketball stats and plays so I try to stick with hot takes and making jokes.

Honestly, I was trying to be more silly than anything with my comment about Walton trolling us. I understand your point for sure. 🙂

MidtownMike
January 11, 2021 1:35 pm
Reply to  Kosta

haha all good 🙂 Thanks for that, always nice when a potential “conflict” can be eased up on like that, I appreciate it.

It just happened to be a constant comment in the game threads.

I appreciated your Kosta hook shot for years

Kosta
January 11, 2021 3:46 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

Hell yeah–High five!
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sonny
January 11, 2021 12:31 pm
Reply to  Kosta

I’m all in for no basketball at all this year or next year so Kings can’t suck!

Kosta
January 11, 2021 1:17 pm
Reply to  sonny

Trying to delay the playoff drought record!

RORDOG
January 11, 2021 11:57 am

Why would he do that though?

SMF-PDXConnection
January 11, 2021 12:04 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

I don’t know. It’s not logical or rational, but I don’t expect logic or reason from Walton.

BTW, congrats on being the last undefeated team in TKH Fantasy.

RORDOG
January 11, 2021 12:07 pm

on the one hand it would kinda suck if they shut down the league. On the other, I’d become a 2x league champ if the season ended today.

SMF-PDXConnection
January 11, 2021 12:09 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

I thought I might have had a chance until I saw my last active player yesterday was Wiggins and the other team had Lowry and Boucher.

eddie41
January 11, 2021 11:11 am

Did you say “opportunity for Bagley to watch the tape?” Ha! Joking aside, nice write-up.

Kosta
January 11, 2021 11:16 am
Reply to  eddie41

Walton and Bagley passing that videotape to each other like a Ringu hot potato
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Last edited 6 months ago by Kosta
1951
January 11, 2021 11:14 am

What else stands out to you?

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Jman1949
January 11, 2021 11:21 am
Reply to  1951

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Kosta
January 11, 2021 11:25 am
Reply to  1951

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Klam
Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
January 11, 2021 12:00 pm
Reply to  Kosta

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rockbottom
January 11, 2021 11:27 am

Not certain Fox is now or will ever be a better playmaker than Tyrese ! Most of his assisted baskets come via his trying to score first and finding a teammate after ! A much better scorer but not playmaker ! Actually a potentially terrific backcourt if Tyrese handles more and Fox less !

RORDOG
January 11, 2021 11:42 am
Reply to  rockbottom

What’s up with the space in between the exclamation point and the last word in the sentence?

Hobby916
January 11, 2021 11:45 am
Reply to  RORDOG

Sometimes you just need a little room in life. lol

Adamsite
Nostradumbass 14
Nostradumbass 14
January 11, 2021 11:56 am
Reply to  RORDOG

There are invisible question marks in there.

sonny
January 11, 2021 12:05 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

Those spaces are reserved for Hield, Bjelica, Whiteside and Bagley so they could just stand there while Joseph pounds the ball trying to play-make but with nobody moving or cutting!

rc50cal
January 11, 2021 6:01 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

He’s the kind of guy who takes a wide stance. Nothing wrong with that!

OakieNiner
January 11, 2021 11:38 am

Offensive inefficiency leads to poor defense. Not only are individual Kings players playing poor defense but those same players are also wildly inefficient on offense to go along with your “star” player often being inefficient. Kings are just giving too many opportunities to other teams offenses.

I believe that most NBA teams can figure out a way to score…the great ones figure out how to do it efficiently. Even as bad as the Rockets can be on defense over the years they are efficient on offense with their start play continually getting to the line and making high percentage of free throws.

To start with, Kings should limit the minutes to all inefficient players and then increase the minutes to all players with at least a -5 Defensive efficiency. If you have a problem finding you 8th or 9th man off the bench that full-fill those requirements then you go to your rookies to see what they got.

OakieNiner
January 11, 2021 12:22 pm
Reply to  OakieNiner

Sorry, I meant +5 defensive

TerzoM
January 11, 2021 11:55 am

Could we hire Shump just to yell into player’s ears

RikSmits
January 11, 2021 11:56 am
Reply to  TerzoM

It’s okay, we have Hassan Whiteside.

January 11, 2021 11:55 am

Boogie is still a goon.

That is all.

RikSmits
January 11, 2021 11:56 am

What stands out to me? That there are already noises that there are two different voices talking bball in Vivek’s ear, and that Joe Dumars is apparently sowing discord – per Carmichael Dave and Amick, in Dave’s show of January 7th.

The trouble at the top have not gone away, it seems. And it all starts at the top.

sonny
January 11, 2021 12:09 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Don’t forget Aneel and Matina who may or may not be part of the new “insurrection”.

SMF-PDXConnection
January 11, 2021 12:11 pm
Reply to  sonny

I think that’s a pretty poor choice of words using insurrection after last week’s attempted coup and the ongoing threat of violence in DC and the 50 state capitals.

sonny
January 11, 2021 12:35 pm

My bad. I feel sorry I can’t delete it.
mod, can delete it if he wants.

thanks for the constructove reponse.

sonny
January 11, 2021 12:37 pm
Reply to  sonny

Constructive response.
well-taken. Lesson learned.

1951
January 11, 2021 12:38 pm
Reply to  sonny

It’s okay. Star Trek wants to delete it too for being a bad movie.

sonny
January 11, 2021 12:47 pm
Reply to  1951

Sorry, didn’t get the drift.
I never watched Star Trek and any other futuristic films.
I have no future.

SMF-PDXConnection
January 11, 2021 1:19 pm
Reply to  1951

First Contact is better than Wrath of Khan and the Voyage Home.
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Hippity_Hop_Barbershop
January 11, 2021 2:35 pm

Oof thats a tough call but Khan and First Contact are definitely the best.

NinjaFetus
January 11, 2021 5:53 pm

Voyage home is the all time worst Trek film. Anything is better than that one.

Kosta
January 11, 2021 12:13 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Ultimately, it’s Vivek’s fault for setting up things like this.

SMF-PDXConnection
January 11, 2021 12:15 pm
Reply to  Kosta

Someone should ask Vivek if he’s studied early 20th Century Russian history. Maybe he likes having a Rasputin type advising system.

Kosta
January 11, 2021 12:17 pm

Or heck, even just reading (or watching) Return of the King!
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Last edited 6 months ago by Kosta
Adamsite
Nostradumbass 14
Nostradumbass 14
January 11, 2021 12:29 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Well………shit.

NinjaFetus
January 11, 2021 5:51 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

I don’t have time in the morning to listen to Dave, so I’m going to just sit here and wait for the “just kidding” end to your post…….

extra
January 11, 2021 11:59 am

Pace is up and defense is down. The problem with pushing the team to run more is that it creates more opportunities for opposing teams as well, and it fatigues players. IMO, this is probably the biggest challenge facing this team: figuring out how to strike a balance between playing fast (i.e. knowing when to push the pace) and conserving energy for putting in solid defensive efforts.

PatFenis
January 11, 2021 12:03 pm
Reply to  extra

Another issue with their running, is they have 3 of the slowest players in the league, so they consistently get beat in transition.

OakieNiner
January 11, 2021 12:26 pm
Reply to  extra

Pace should never be pushed. Pace should be natural. If you are pushing something then you are likely not doing it correctly. Fast pace is fine so long as it is controlled. What we often se with the Kings is fast pace that feels forced at times and leads to poor decisions, poor shots, and poor defense. Fox can naturally push pace but when he pushes hard or other players that are already have poor handles push harder it doesn’t usually end well. By pushing this you also take the team out of their natural rhythm in half court sets.

1951
January 11, 2021 12:36 pm

rc50cal
January 11, 2021 6:04 pm
Reply to  1951

Strong troll game!

NinjaFetus
January 11, 2021 6:00 pm

Sure, some of these things are surprising but I don’t think the record or play is too far off from where we thought it would be. They were able to sneak a couple wins in the first week or two against good teams but now it’s caught up to them as other teams have had time to take notes and learn from games. I’m thinking a couple things additionally:

1) I’m not too concerned yet with Buddy’s shooting, maybe give it a couple more games. He had covid, so he may be still feeling effects from it that we don’t know about that is affecting his shot more than anyone thought at first. I hope I’m wrong, but it’s possible.

2) Hali may be technically a rookie, but he’s far outplayed rookie status!

3) The Kings have never, nor probably ever will be, considered more than a mediocre defensive team. It doesn’t surprise me someone on the defense and who’s not doing well outside of CoJo, who was supposed to be one of the defensive stabilizers when brought in.

4) Who knew that if you pass the ball more, your more likely to score??? Shocking revelation it would seem.

I think some of the article and my points are fixable by addressing the coach, whether that is getting a fire under Walton or a new coach, but some is just the players we have.

Want2win
January 12, 2021 9:26 am

i really think Bjelly needs to start so he can get his rhythm back.. and allow Bagley to feast on second units.. or try too.

as slow as Whiteside is he does a good job because he studies opponents.. something others can pay attention to.

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