Kings

Is there a pathway to success for the Sacramento Kings?

buddy-ap.jpg
AP

Is there a pathway to success for the Sacramento Kings?

Great teams dictate the action in an NBA game. They push their opponent into rushed, low percentage shots. They control who gets the bulk of the shots and where on the floor those shots come from.

It’s no secret, but through 10 games, the Sacramento Kings are not a great team. They lost seven straight before stunning the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday evening and they sit at 2-8 on the season. It’s a young and inexperienced team with eight new roster pieces, including five rookies. Losing 10 days of training camp and preseason was the last thing this group needed.

Unfortunately for Sacramento, that means they often get bullied, not just on the defensive end or on the glass, which both have been an issue, but also when and where they take their shots.

It’s a small sample size, but the stats show the abuse the Kings are taking. Here is a look at the three biggest areas of concern.

SHOTS AT THE RIM

The NBA average field goal percentage for shots at the rim is roughly 60 percent. Since a basket is worth two points, that means that the league average for shot attempts in the circle is 1.2 points per possession. This is the best shot in the NBA and getting to the basket has a secondary effect. The team that attacks the rim usually racks up the free throw attempts as well.

Sacramento isn’t bad when they get in the restricted area, the issue is that they don’t get there very often. Through 10 games, the Kings have taken just 230 shots in the circle. Only the Chicago Bulls have taken less. They’re hitting 65.7 percent of those shots, which ranks 10th in the league, they just aren’t getting nearly enough.

In addition, the Kings are getting to the line just 15.7 times per game, which ranks 30th in the league. Free throws are easy money in the NBA. Kosta Koufos, who shoots just 55.6 percent from the line, still averages 1.11 points per possession. Unfortunately for Sacramento, Koufos is second on the team in free throw attempts per game at 1.8, just behind De’Aaron Fox’s team leading 2.2 attempts per game. DeMarcus Cousins attempted 10 free throws per game last season for Sacramento, more than the top five Kings combined so far this year.

3-POINT ATTEMPTS

Like points at the rim, the Kings are faring well percentage-wise from behind the arc. They hit 35.4 percent of their shots from long range, which is good enough for 17th in the NBA. They just don’t shoot enough.

Both Buddy Hield and Garrett Temple are averaging 4.2 3-point attempts per game to lead the team. Sacramento is last in the league in 3-point attempts at 212 and 29th in makes at 75 on the season. It’s hard to compete when you allow 33.5 attempts per game and shoot only 21.2. Through 10 games, the Kings have been outscored 375-225 from distance.

Like a shot at the rim, the corner three is worth 1.2 points per possession on average. For the Kings, they’re a little below average at 1.13 points per possession from the corner, but they’ve shot just 55 triples from that spot on the floor, tied for eighth worse in the league.

And similar to free throw attempts, corner 3-pointers are often directly correlated to shots in the restricted area. The Kings aren’t doing a good enough job of attacking the rim, which frees up the corner for wide open looks.

MID-RANGE JUMPERS

To recap, quality teams usually score in bunches at the rim and from behind the arc. For example, the Houston Rockets are third in the league in attempts in the restricted area (302), seventh in free throw attempts (254) and first in 3-point attempts (390). They’ve shot just 52 mid-range jumpers on the season, which is the lowest number in the league. Houston is an offensive juggernaut, but they give a clear picture of where the league has been heading for years.

Sacramento has taken the third most mid-range jumpers in the league at 230 attempts. Like most teams in the NBA, they hit roughly 40 percent of those shots (39.6 percent) which is worth 0.8 points per possession. Some of this is by design. They have shooters that excel in the midrange, but it’s easy to see how a team would fall behind when their opponents are outscoring them dramatically with higher point per possession shots.

CONCLUSION

The first 10 games have been an adventure for the Kings to say the least. While they have a few holes with regards to personnel, the Kings are clearly settling for what NBA defenses are giving them. With more experience, Sacramento will hopefully figure out how to get to the rim more often, increase their free throw attempts and take more 3-pointers.

Some nights it will work. Sacramento took just 24 3-point attempts and 12 free throw attempts against the Thunder and pulled out the win. But OKC also shot just 33.7 percent from the floor and still had a shot to win the game in the final two minutes. The Kings made shots and did a nice job on the defensive end and the Thunder couldn't buy a bucket.

It’s a process. Dave Joerger and his staff are working to refine the offensive playsets and the team is getting more comfortable. But the NBA doesn’t wait for anyone. 10 young players, 10 fewer days of training camp and a frantic schedule have played into the struggles. The hope is that the Kings will show growth in these areas as the season progresses.  

Statistical numbers used in this article were provided by NBA.com/stats and Basketball-reference.com.

Hill to the Cavs? The best and biggest deal for the Kings is...

kings-trade-hill-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Hill to the Cavs? The best and biggest deal for the Kings is...

Is the George Hill era in Sacramento coming to and end? According to Shams Charania, the Kings might have an interested party in the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Hill signed a massive three-year, $57 million deal with Sacramento over the summer, but has yet to live up to the contract. Through 37 games, Hill is posting 10.5 points and 2.7 assists per game for Sacramento. Those numbers are down from 16.9 points and 4.2 assists he averaged last season as a member of the Utah Jazz.

If a deal between the two teams is going to happen, it might be more complex than just shipping the 31-year-old to Cleveland on the next flight. Here is a look at a couple of possibilities without going into potential 3-way deals.

BEST DEAL FOR KINGS

Kings receive: Jae Crowder (3-years, $22 million), Iman Shumpert (2-year, $21.4 million - year-two a player option at $11 million)

Cavs receive: George Hill (3-year, $57 million), Malachi Richardson (2-year, $3 million with team option for third year)

Why Kings make deal: They land a very serviceable forward that instantly fills the team’s biggest need. At 27-years-old, Crowder is affordable and under contract for another two seasons, although he’s really struggled in his first season in Cleveland. Shumpert is coming off an injury and would likely opt out of his final year.

Why Cavs make deal: Hill instantly improves their backcourt. He can play the one of the two either as a starter or off the bench. Giving up tow wings might not be the best option, but Sacramento is going to want something of value back. Richardson is thrown into the deal to make salaries match.

BEST DEAL FOR CAVS

Kings receive: Channing Frye (1-year, $7.4 million) Iman Shumpert (2-year, $21.4 million - 2018-19 contract a player option at $11 million)

Cavs Receive: George Hill (3-year, $57 million), Malachi Richardson (2-year, $3 million with team option for third year)

Why Kings make deal: Kings give up an asset in Richardson, but they shed Hill’s $19 million owed for 2018-19 season. If Shumpert opts in, the Kings still save $8 million off the books for next season.

Why Cavs make deal: Basically, they land Hill for a couple of spare parts. Richardson is

BIG DEAL

Kings receive: Jae Crowder (3-years, $22 million), Channing Frye (1-year, $7.4 million) Iman Shumpert (2-year, $21.4 million - 2018-19 contract a player option at $11 million)

Cavs receive: George Hill (3-year, $57 million), Kosta Koufos (2-year, $17 million with player option for second year), Malachi Richardson (2-year, $3 million with team option for third year)

Why Kings make deal: They land Crowder and a get out of jail free card on Hill’s contract. Koufos can opt out of his deal at the end of the season and the Kings get nothing. Throwing in Richardson isn’t ideal, but the Kings are deep at the two and they have to match roster spots.

Why Cavs make deal: They get an upgrade in the backcourt in Hill. They are also rumored to be in the market for a big and Koufos is a much more affordable option than DeAndre Jordan.

Bogdan Bogdanovic breaks his shell early in 2018, 'he’s able to do everything'

Bogdan Bogdanovic breaks his shell early in 2018, 'he’s able to do everything'

He’s not really a rookie. After playing for years overseas, Bogdan Bogdanovic has proven very quickly that he is an NBA player. Midway through his first season in the league, the 25-year-old Serb is finding his stride. 

From the moment he stepped on the floor in Sacramento, Bogdanovic showed flashes of something special. You could see early on that he was trying to fit in and make nice with his teammates, but the honeymoon phase is over. Bogdanovic is no longer holding back.

For the third time in the new calendar year, Bogdanovic set a career-high in scoring on Wednesday evening. He dropped in 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including a perfect 6-of-6 from long range. 

“I’ve said it all year, he’s not really a rookie, he’s been playing pro ball for so many years,” De’Aaron Fox said of his backcourt mate. “He definitely doesn’t play like a rookie. He brings the intelligence, the savvy, the shooting - defensively, he gets after it. He’s able to do everything for us.” 

He’s pushed his season numbers up to 11.5 points, 2.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 26.6 minutes per game. Bogdanovic has also raised his shooting percentages drastically as the season has progressed, knocking down 48.8 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from behind the 3-point line. 

In eight games in January, Bogdanovic has taken his game to another level. He’s hit the opposition for 16.3 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 30.6 minutes a game. Dave Joerger has come to rely on the former Fenerbahce star, even giving him starts in the last two games since the youth movement was officially put into motion.

“I’m working every single day as hard as I can, I’m trying to be the best version of (myself).” Bogdanovic said following the team’s loss to Utah on Wednesday.

It’s a small sample size, but Bogdanovic’s shooting numbers in 2018 are off the charts. He’s hitting 54.8 percent from the floor, a stunning 58.3 percent on the 3-ball and 92.3 percent from the line.

With All-Star weekend on the horizon, Bogdanovic has likely earned his way into an invitation for the Rising Stars Challenge. Amongst rookies, he’s currently seventh in scoring, fourth in 3-point percentage, eighth in field goal percentage and sixth in steals. 

Sacramento’s 2017-18 season is about sifting through the young players and figuring out what they have. It appears the Kings have found a keeper in Bogdanovic.