Kings

Is there a pathway to success for the Sacramento Kings?

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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.

Kings notes: De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield flash skills in loss to Rockets

Kings notes: De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield flash skills in loss to Rockets

It was a track meet from the opening tip Saturday night in Houston. The Rockets looked like an inspired team after a rough start to the season, running over the Kings over for a 132-112 win

Houston rained down 3-pointers at a startling clip, and when it wasn't burying the 3-ball, it was finishing at the rim. James Harden dropped in a game-high 34 points, and Chris Paul added 24 points and nine assists in the Rockets' win.

The Kings had plenty of chances, but their inability to slow the Rockets' offense cost them any chance at a win.

Here are six notes as the Kings fell back to .500 on the season at 8-8.

Buddy scores

After failing to reach the 20-point plateau for four consecutive games, Buddy Hield found the basket against Houston. The third-year guard posted 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting to go with seven rebounds and two assists.

Hield has taken a few games to adjust to Bogdan Bogdanovic's return, but the Kings' second-leading scorer should be just fine.

How good is Fox? 

In his second season, De’Aaron Fox has put the NBA on notice. Not only is he a Most Improved Player candidate, he should be in the discussion for an All-Star bid.

Against a future Hall of Famer in Chris Paul, Fox finished with 19 points and three assists in 25 minutes of play. He can’t control whether his teammates hit open jumpers, but if he’s playing 36 minutes per night, the Kentucky product is putting up nearly 21 points and eight assists.

Bogdan impactful

Bogdanovic completed the second biggest step in his recovery from offseason knee issues. First, he made his way back to the court. On Saturday, he completed his first back-to-back and should be cleared for regular duty ASAP.

The Serbian-born wing finished Saturday's game with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting and added five assists in the loss. He’s ready for stage three, which is returning to the Kings' starting lineup.

Play me

Marvin Bagley struggled against the Grizzlies and clearly was outplayed by fellow rookie Jaren Jackson. Bagley had a bounce-back game in Houston, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes.

[RELATED: Kings deny report that coach Joerger, front office have disconnect]

Bagley is a talent, but he needs time to figure out the defensive end. There will be a point this season when he jumps ahead of Nemanja Bjelica in the Kings' starting rotation, but he first needs to show activity on both ends of the floor.  

The disappearance of Willie Cauley-Stein 

If nothing else, Cauley-Stein has been consistent this season. Often times, he’s been extraordinary. Against Clint Capela, Cauley-Stein was less than serviceable.

Cauley-Stein shot 1 of 9 from the field and finished with three points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. It’s possible he was winded on the second night of a back-to-back, but he can’t have nights like this if he hopes to cash in this summer.

Play some D 

The Kings struggled to contain the Rockets from the early stages of the game. In the end, Sacramento couldn’t stop penetration, struggled with the pick-and-roll and allowed Houston to shoot as many 3-pointers as it could muster.

The Kings gave up 132 points on 56.8 percent shooting, and allowed the Rockets to hit 20 of 47 from long range. It’s hard to stay in a game when your opponent outscores you 60-33 on 3-pointers. Sacramento's defense has to get better, especially against top-tier teams.

Kings coach Dave Joerger sidesteps Yahoo report about his job status

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AP

Kings coach Dave Joerger sidesteps Yahoo report about his job status

Dave Joerger wasn't in a mood to talk about his job status moments after his Kings lost to the Rockets on Saturday night.

Asked by reporters about a Yahoo Sports story claiming "substantial disconnect" between him and the Kings' front office, Joerger tried to deflect the question back to basketball.

"Well, usually, I would say, 'I'd be happy to answer all your questions about tonight's game,' but in this case, I'm going to tell you that my focus is with our team," Joerger said. "And coaching our team and getting better every single night. And we've got young guys, and they're mixed with older guys, and go in there and rally them up.

“This is a tough five-game stretch for us, so I want to make sure we stick together, grab onto each other ..."

Pressed on the reported disconnect, Joerger refused to address it.

"I'm not going to get into that stuff," the coach said before exiting the scrum after no other questions were asked.

The Yahoo story came out about 30 minutes before the Kings and Rockets tipped off in Houston. During the game, Kings general manager Vlade Divac issued a statement to NBC Sports California's James Ham and denied there was any issues between Joerger and the front office.

"Dave has our full support and confidence,” Divac said in the statement. “We continue to work together to develop our young core and compete.”