The Sacramento Kings are officially a problem for the NBA
— A$AP Cowbell (@CarmichaelDave) November 13, 2018
Tanking No More
Say what you want about the alleged rift between the Dave Joerger and Vlade Divac, but the truth is Joerger is closer to Coach of the Year and not the hot seat. With the start that the Kings have posted, and with no incentive to tank, one of the youngest squads in the NBA is playing very good ball.
One of the biggest reasons for the Kings’ start outside of their young talent and the play of De’Aaron Fox is they have no incentive to be bad this year. Either the Sixers or Celtics will get the Kings’ first round pick, so without any stake in the upcoming stacked draft, the Kings have gone from a tanking mindset to one where they are trying to produce a good product for their fans.
This and Joerger’s coaching has led to the Kings posting some impressive metrics outside of their win column. Fox is having a career season and has placed this franchise firmly on his back. Fox will almost surely make the All Star Team this season, and it’s quickly looking like the 2017 NBA Draft is being defined by how badly the Sixers and Lakers messed up by drafting Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball over Fox.
Led by Fox’s scoring, the Kings are averaging better than 108 points per 100 possessions this year. While that may not be that impressive, it’s the efficiency of the Kings that has been most impressive.
They are posting a top 10 effective field goal percentage on offense and while their defense isn’t that great, their pace makes them very tough to guard. Sacramento is playing at a pace of more than 105 possessions per game, and with their deep bench and average age of just 24.4 years old, the Kings’ young legs can out-run a lot of older and shallower teams.
Fourth Quarter and Stretch Dominance
These young legs and deep bench has the Kings playing some of the best ball of any team in the fourth quarter. They are averaging nearly 110 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter, which also ranks in the top 10.
Not only that, but those fresh legs leads to better fourth quarter defense as well. They currently rank inside the top five in the league in fourth quarter defensive rating.
This shallow rotation should also lead to them playing better down the stretch of the season too. While other teams will be tired or tanking, the Kings will still be out there with their 12-man rotation running up and down the court getting layups, dunks, and open transition three-pointers.
The final piece to the Kings’ playoff run is the rest of the West isn’t as good as we originally thought going into this season. Teams like the Jazz, Mavs, Wolves, and Spurs aren’t as good as they were projected to start the season, and it’s very possible teams like the Clippers and Grizzlies regress some as the season goes on.
If you can still find the Kings well above even money to make the playoffs, they could end up paying off at the end of the season. It’s still a big longshot bet with the West very talented, but the Kings have a rotation with 10 first round picks. If all these guys are blossoming at the same time, the Kings are a buy candidate in the NBA Future odds for the playoffs this season.