In their opening preseason game Friday night at the Moda Center, the Kings looked like they were competing in a Pop-A-Shot competition. They hurled 30 3-point shots before the halftime buzzer could sound, hitting 11 long range shots in the first 24 minutes.
When the Kings came back out in the second half, it was more of the same, although the ball fell through the hoop with much less frequency. Overall, the Kings hoisted 50 3-balls, just one off of their franchise record. Unfortunately, they hit a total of 16.
Is this the new offense we should expect in Sacramento this season?
“That’s a little high,” coach Luke Walton said following his team’s 127-102 loss to the Trail Blazers. “I thought the threes we actually got in the first half, for the most part, were pretty good.”
The plan is not to shoot the ball as soon as it crosses over halfcourt. It is to have De’Aaron Fox and the rest of the squad attack the heart of the defense and when it collapses, hit the open man on the perimeter.
“I do think we shot a lot of threes today,” De’Aaron Fox said. “We definitely can touch the paint more. That doesn’t mean we have to shoot the ball (in the paint). If those paint touches result in kickout threes, then those are the best threes that you can possibly get in basketball.”
In the first half, the ball moved freely. Fox was aggressive and when he drew the defense in, the ball seemed to find the open man. The Kings still trailed by 10, but they were running an efficient offense and taking shots with purpose.
“I think in the first half, it had a good flow to it, the ball popped, we had 15 assists in the first half,” De’Aaron Fox said of the offense. “There were definitely positives you can take away from it.”
15 assists on 20 made baskets is solid and 11 of those makes came from long range. While the number of attempts was high, the types of shots were acceptable.
Like plenty of nights last season, the Kings came out of halftime without the same sense of urgency, even though they were trailing by double-figures. They continued to chuck from the outside, but without breaking down the defense first.
“I wasn’t happy with many of them at all in the second half,” Walton said. “We turned stagnant, the ball was swinging side-to-side and I feel like we stopped making the extra pass.”
Some of the issue was that the Trail Blazers are a veteran team and they made adjustments during the intermission. But the Kings stopped attacking the basket and many of their second half attempts were flat footed and well guarded.
Sacramento hit just 5-of-20 from 3-point range in the second half. They also finished with just nine assists in the final 24 minutes as the offense became predictable.
Many of the 3-point attempts came in the fourth quarter when a large percentage of the players on the court were young and inexperienced. But the team already stopped penetrating into the paint, the ball movement had slowed dramatically and the offense unraveled.
Overall, nine different players hit a 3-point shot for Sacramento, led by Buddy Hield's five makes from distance. That's a solid number, as is the fact that 12 player were credited with an assist.
If the long range shot is going to be one of the staples of the Kings’ offensive attack, they have to find consistency throughout the entirety of the roster and also from one quarter to the next.
The Kings averaged 34.9 3-point attempts per game last season, which ranked 12th in the league. Walton has said he wants that number higher this season, although he might not want to hover around the 50 attempt mark.
It’s early in preseason and the team has a lot of work to do. While Sacramento wasn’t able to sustain their level of play, an outlined formed of what this team might look like this season.
If they can continue to progress, the offense could be very entertaining, although relying heavily on the 3-pointer can also lead to some lopsided scorers depending on whether the ball goes through the net or finds iron.