This was supposed to be the year for the Sacramento Kings. No, not the year where the Kings won the NBA championship, or even the year when the Kings returned to the playoffs. It was supposed to be the year the Kings returned to respectability. The year they became more than an NBA afterthought.
Instead, they have just been the same old Kings. They show promise for three quarters and get trounced at the end. Or, as we've seen recently, they play well in the first half and lose it in the third quarter.
They're also falling into the same pitfalls as before: they're not rebounding the ball with any consistency; they play too much one-on-one basketball on offense; they're not hitting open shots; they're committing too many fouls. You name it, and it's probably an ailment of this team.
And all of this despite the best roster the team has boasted in years. Sure, it's not a championship-caliber roster, but there's an actual bench and some players that would have prominent roles on a contending team.
So, even with an improved roster, why are the Kings still performing so poorly? Well, here are five reasons why the team can't seem to win despite winning talent.
(Note: All stats reflect games played through Nov. 19.)
Sacramento's offense has really been struggling in the early part of the season. They're not finding enough quality shots because of poor ball movement, which we'll get to later. Even more alarming, is that when the Kings do get open shots, they're simply failing to knock them down.
So far, the Kings are only shooting 41.8 percent from the field. That's the 27th-worst in the league. Believe it or not, they're even worse from three-point range, ranking 28th in the NBA with a percentage of .298.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you're not shooting the ball well, it's going to manifest into low point totals. As expected, that's exactly what's happened. The Kings are currently ranked 26th in points per game at 91.20.
When your offense is only putting in 91 points per game, it puts a lot of pressure on your defense to pick up the slack. More often than not, the defense hasn't been up to the challenge.
Indeed, a lot of the offense's struggles can be traced back to poor shooting. Some of it is simply that—an inability to knock down shots. Another part of the equation, however, is a lack of quality shot opportunities due to poor ball movement.
Too many times, the Kings come down the floor and look to play one-on-one basketball. This isn't the way to be an effective offense, especially when your team is lacking a true go-to guy like the Kings are. This also shows up statistically.
The Kings are the worst team in the NBA—that's right, the worst—at distributing the ball and finding open men, indicated by their last-place ranking in assists per game at 17.3.
And it's not just due to less possessions than other teams, thereby resulting in less assists. The Kings are also the worst in the NBA in assist ratio (the percentage of baskets coming by way of an assist) at 13.7 percent.
Rebounding has been a real problem for the Kings this season, on both the offensive and defensive glass. Offensively, a lack of rebounding prevents second-chance points. Defensively, failing to rebound creates second-chance points for your opponent. With Sacramento already struggling on offense, the last thing it needs to do is give its opponents even more opportunities to score.
The Kings are currently 20th in the NBA in total rebounds. That's certainly not good, but even then it's misleading because it implies Sacramento is more middle-of-the-pack than a cellar dweller when it comes to rebounding.
A more accurate way to look at it is rebound differential per game. In that stat, the Kings are 27th in the NBA, as their opponents out-rebound them by an average of 4.50 rpg.
Or, you could look at rebound rate (the percentage of missed shots a team rebounds), where the Kings are tied for 26th in the league at 47.4 percent.
No matter how you cut it, the Kings simply aren't getting the job done on the boards.
Along with losing the battle for second-chance points because of their poor rebounding, the Kings are also losing the battle for free points, better known as free throws. Sacramento is fouling its opponents way too often, and in turn, the Kings aren't getting to the free-throw line nearly enough.
It shows up with this team's immaturity, whether it's DeMarcus Cousins committing a foul out of frustration, or Tyreke Evans carelessly charging into defenders in the open court instead of dishing off to teammates.
The Kings' lack of free throws are a reflection of the team's poor ball movement. Sacramento ends up settling for too many perimeter shots or one-on-one possessions, instead of working the ball for high-percentage shots and drawing fouls. This also shows up on the stat sheet.
The Kings are currently ranked 27th in the NBA in free-throw rate (free throws attempted/field goals attempted) at 22.0. At the same time, they're 29th in opponent's free-throw rate at 36.3. That leads to a differential of 14.3, which is the worst in the NBA.
By looking at the roster on this team, there's no reason for the Kings to be 2-8. Granted, they're not the most talented team in the NBA, but to be as bad as they've been is inexcusable. The real issue is nobody really knows for sure how to turn it around.
Normally, we'd just blame it on the coaching. After all, isn't it the coach's job to get the most out of his players? In this case, it's not quite that simple.
As Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee pointed out in a recent tweet:
This essentially the same roster for the last 2-3 seasons. At what point do you blame the players?
— JasonJones (@mr_jasonjones) November 19, 2012
Jones is right. This is on the players. You could try bringing in a new coach, but the Kings have been through plenty of coaches recently and it hasn't led to better results.
At this point, it's up to the players to get on the same page. They can't expect the coaches to do it for them. Everything starts with them. They're the reason the ball movement has been bad; they're the reason the team consistently gets out-rebounded; they're the ones who commit too many fouls.
And, if this team is going to get turned in the right direction, that's also going to be because of the players.