Walton knows Kings' season will be defined by defense

Luke Walton

After a historically bad defensive year in 2020-21, the Kings know their success on that end of the floor will define how far this team can go as a new season nears its start.

"It's a very big deal for us, because we know and we've seen that when we're better defensively, we are going to win games," Kings coach Luke Walton told reporters after Sacramento's final preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers. "We're going to score the ball on offense, we just are. We've got firepower offensively, and it is about our defense."

The Kings have shown an emphasis on the defensive side of the ball throughout the preseason, as their staggering 117.2 defensive rating from the '20-21 campaign has been blown away by the 98.5 rating through three exhibition games.

It is a much smaller sample size, but that 98.5 figure is the fifth-best mark in the NBA this preseason.

Davion Mitchell's presence certainly has played a role in that. The Baylor product was the most elite individual defender in the 2021 draft class, and he brought that intensity to the Kings in Summer League.

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The Kings came away with the Las Vegas Summer League title, and went a perfect 4-0 in the preseason.

Whether that defensive ability will carry over to the regular season will be tested right away in Game 1. The Kings will take on the Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 20 to begin the campaign, a team led by Damian Lillard that finished with the league's second-best offensive rating in '20-21.


Walton knows he has a team that can score, but defense will determine just how much success the Kings can find this season.