Kristaps Porzingis

Kings head into All-Star break in dire need of mental, physical reset

Kings head into All-Star break in dire need of mental, physical reset

The 2019-20 season isn’t over for the Sacramento Kings, but it hasn’t gone how anyone expected. Missteps in free agency, injuries, close losses and Last Two Minute reports have led to a 21-33 record for a team that came into the campaign with high hopes.

Before the Kings headed in different directions for the All-Star break, they had one last game to play. If the final score is any indication, the Kings might have missed the memo.            
“Not how we wanted to go into the break,” head coach Luke Walton told reporters following the 130-111 loss at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. “It’s going to make it tough to enjoy ourselves, but give them credit. They played well.”

Luka Doncic barely missed a triple-double, finishing the night with 33 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Kristaps Porzingis dropped in a 27-point, 13-rebound double-double as Dallas' two stars took turns pounding on the Kings.

“For some reason, we didn’t feel the need to try to play much defense tonight,” Walton added. “We had a handful of guys that did. We couldn’t stop their top guys, and when we did it just didn’t feel like we had the passion and desire that it takes to win – especially on the road in this league. So that’s a good team and a frustrating loss – well, the loss we can live with, [but] the effort is frustrating.”

The defensive effort was one of the worst of the season for Sacramento. They allowed Dallas to shoot 56.5 percent from the field, including 17-of-40 from long range. The game tape won’t be pretty when the team sits down and dissects the action.
“I think we are just giving up dribble penetration too much, guys are getting to the lane and being able to shoot a layup or spread it out for an open three,” De’Aaron Fox told media members. “Obviously, that is something that we would have to address team-wise after the break.”

It’s called a getaway game for a reason. Buddy Hield is off to Chicago to compete in the 3-point shootout at All-Star weekend. The rest of the group will scatter around the globe for some much-needed rest and relaxation before returning for the final 28 games of the season.

The All-Star break is an important respite for the players. For a team like the Kings, who have struggled with consistency all season long, it’s a moment to get a mental and physical break from the game.
“I have needed a few days for a while, but I feel like we have been playing good basketball as of late,” Fox said. “We have dropped the last two but before that, I think that we were playing pretty good basketball – so to each their own as to that.”

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Sacramento won’t return to the court until Feb. 20 when they’ll host Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies at Golden 1 Center. Following that game, they’ll hit the road for four games beginning Feb. 22 against Clippers at Staples Center.

The Kings are in no position to have a letdown game where they don’t really compete like the one they just had in Dallas. They walk into the break seven games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies in the standings.

If they have any hope of turning the season around they have to come out of the break with fresh legs and a new mindset.

Warriors' Draymond Green rated as best NBA defender by FiveThirtyEight

Warriors' Draymond Green rated as best NBA defender by FiveThirtyEight

You know you're either really good or really bad at something if they name a statistic after you.

In the case of Warriors forward Draymond Green, it's most definitely the former option.

The former Defensive Player of the Year has long been regarded as one of the top all-around defenders in the NBA. However, the ways in which we've been able to evaluate defensive performance up to this point haven't painted the whole picture. Blocks and steals are good, sure, but there's a lot more that goes into being a good defender then simply collecting stats in those categories. 

Similarly, the league-provided opponent shooting data can produce the unintended consequence of punishing good defenders, simply due to being the nearest defender to the shot. After all, if the defender hadn't been there at all, there's no guarantee anyone else would have, and some defense is typically better than none. 

It's with that disconnect in mind that FiveThirtyEight set out to develop a better way to evaluate NBA defense. And which player have they chosen to name their model after?

None other than Green, of course.

FiveThirtyEight's 'DRAYMOND' metric stands for Defensive Rating Accounting for Yielding Minimal Openness by Nearest Defender. A mouthful, I know.

But don't be daunted by the name. Without dumbing it down too much, DRAYMOND essentially calculates a player's effectiveness at minimizing the openness of opponent shots, relative to the rest of the league. It's a plus-minus statistic measured per 100 possessions, where a score of 0 represents average defense.

And, among all players who have played at least 10,000 possessions over the last six seasons, guess who rates out as the top defender, according to DRAYMOND?

That's right. Draymond. Duh.

Since the 2013-14 season, Green leads all such players with a DRAYMOND rating of plus-3.16, meaning he's been worth an average of 3.16 points per 100 possessions of defensive value over that span based on his scoring defense alone. That doesn't even factor in the other ways (blocks, steals, etc.) in which he makes a more traditionally measured defensive impact.

What's even more impressive is that Green has played far and away the most possessions (38,282) over that span of any of the top-ranked players according to DRAYMOND. Only two other players in the top-20 have played at least 30,000 possessions over the last six seasons.

After Green, DRAYMOND ranks Philadelphia's Joel Embiid, Dallas' Kristaps Porzingis, Utah's Rudy Gobert (the reigning Defensive Player of the Year), Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, Oklahoma City's Andre Roberson and Los Angeles' Anthony Davis as the best defenders dating back to 2013-14, which -- for the most part -- passes the eye test.

Green took a step back defensively last season, though, posting a DRAYMOND rating of plus-1.76 points per 100 possessions. However, only one other NBA player -- Giannis Antetokounmpo -- played more possessions than Green and rated higher.

Golden State's best defender last season, according to DRAYMOND? That would be Kevon Looney, who ranked eighth-best in the NBA with a DRAYMOND rating of plus-2.72 points per 100 possessions.

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As the saying goes, there are lies, damn lies and statistics. But based on the results produced by the DRAYMOND metric, it seems to do a better job of highlighting the top defenders in the league than the more rudimentary statistics we've generally relied upon until now.

Green believes he's the best defender in the NBA. Now DRAYMOND does, too.

NBA rumors: Porzingis wasn't psyched about possibly playing with Kevin Durant

NBA rumors: Porzingis wasn't psyched about possibly playing with Kevin Durant

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders Saturday at 4:00 p.m. PT, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

On Jan. 31, the Knicks agreed to trade Kristaps Porzingis to the Mavericks.

The move shocked most of the basketball world, because the 23-year old was the face of the franchise.

His time in New York, however, was filled with turmoil and he wasn't shy about voicing his displeasure with the state of the most valuable team in the league.

Hours before he was shipped to Dallas, Porzingis told Knicks management that he "no longer wanted to be a part of our group," team president Steve Mills told reporters shortly after the trade.

Was there anything in particular that cemented the Latvian's feelings about his future (or lack thereof) in the Big Apple? 

Well, there is a new piece of information that just might be very interesting to Warriors fans. On the most recent episode of The Lowe Post Podcast, Lowe said the following to ESPN Knicks reporter, Ian Begley.

"There is the possibility that they (the Knicks) got the sense that he wasn't psyched of how aggressively they were going to court bigger names than him. That's possible.

"I'm confident after talking to a lot of people -- I don't think he was psyched about playing with Durant. I don't know how directly that was verbalized to the Knicks. I'm confident that it wasn't something that was like his Plan A he was super thrilled about it.

"He wanted to be the face of the franchise. I think that's known, that's fair. Kevin Durant will be the face of the franchise if he comes. That's it. That's decided. 

"There are other guys who for various reasons I don't think would be the face of the franchise. Kemba Walker would not be. You could argue Kyrie Irving would not be if he were here with Porzingis. It would be close."

First and foremost, it needs to be made clear to everybody that Lowe is not specifically reporting that sources told him Porzingis flat out didn't want to play with KD. So don't get that twisted.

However, Lowe is as connected as it gets and he wouldn't just say something like this unless there was some degree of truth. His assertion is obviously newsworthy because of the connections between the reigning two-time Finals MVP and the Knicks.

And let's be real, if the Knicks were somehow made aware of Porzingis' feelings about Durant -- and if they are confident in their chances of luring Durant away from the Warriors -- it would make perfect sense to part ways with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft in order to free up the necessary cap space to potentially sign Durant and another max-level free agent in July.

OK. That's enough for today. Have a great Friday night and we will see you tomorrow for Warriors-Rockets.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller