Are the Kings built to suit offensive analytics?
Since Vivek Ranadive purchased majority ownership of the Sacramento Kings in 2013, the front office has made an emphasis of embracing basketball sabermetrics. The lastest move came on Saturday, when ESPN reported the Kings hired ex-Dallas Mavericks stats guru Roland Beech to be Vice President of Analytics.
Beech’s value will stem from determining optimal lineups among other things, but the Kings felt strongly enough of their own analytical prowess to rebuild the roster without his input.
Sacramento’s dribble drive offense calls for players who can penetrate from the perimeter, efficient scorers in the key and accurate shooters from behind the arc. Ideally those shooters are consistent from the corners and steer away from mid-range looks whenever possible.
The Kings roster is much more form-fitting than last February when George Karl and Vance Walberg installed the offense, but the group remains unshapely. A quick look at players’ fits judging by established offensive analytics are listed below.
While Collison relies on the mid-range shot more than Kings coaches like to admit, he’s demonstrated in past seasons a commitment to finding driving lanes. Converting an absurd 46.6 percent of his corner 3’s for his NBA career, the natural point guard is Sacramento’s best weapon in the pockets.
Due to his pedestrian speed, the third-year pro won’t contribute much in the form of slashing to the hoop. But in 81 career D-League games, nearly 45 percent of his of shot attempts were 3’s, converting 42.5 percent.
Look no further than his dominance with the Reno Bighorns for proof. In a system which avoided mid-range shots like the plague, Stockton diced perimeter defenses, facilitated the rock and filled buckets inside and out. His lack of size at the point is a concern in the NBA, but the foundation is promising.
In his sophomore campaign, McLemore reduced his long-2 attempts and raised his accuracy in the key from 60.4 to 71.1 percent. The guard increased his 3-point attempts and accuracy simultaneously, and there’s no reason to doubt another jump in year three.
Belinelli rarely gets to the rack, which is fine for this team. The Kings signed the off-guard for his long-range stroke, which he put on display more often than ever in 2014-15. Belinelli is particularly lethal from the corners, having made 42.1 percent of those tries in his eight-year NBA career.
If Casspi still hoisted 16-footers like his rookie year, the sixth-year veteran would never leave the bench. Since his evolution, the swingman has dumped the mid-range game for close looks and 3’s, while noticeably improving his playmaking.
Butler’s rebirth as a 3-point shooter at age 30 has rewarded him greatly. Last season, the then-34-year-old made 37.9 percent of his 3’s which accounted for 55.3 percent of his shots. With his days as an aggressive driver in the past, the Kings will set him up to succeed from deep.
The talk in pre-draft workouts was that Cauley-Stein possessed a sleek 15-footer which was held back at Kentucky. If the Kings have their way, it will remain a secret weapon as the rookie big man should wait for feeds around the rim.
Koufos was ahead of his time since the pivot abandoned his jumper almost immediately after entering the NBA in 2008. His efficiency and creativity down low is a welcome addition after seven years of Jason Thompson. Plus Koufos is already familiar with Karl’s style from their time in Denver.
Cousins can bulldoze through the key and draws free throws without abandon, a joy for any statistician to see. However his turnovers and shots outside the paint will need to decrease to round out his efficiency numbers.
Rondo’s signing was questioned from the start, as the notoriously hot-and-cold outside shooter and turnover-prone guard seemed like a poor fit sharing the floor with Cousins. The 29-year-old showed signs of life from corner 3 last season, hitting 35.7 percent, but the expectation is that the point guard’s willingness to drive and high IQ will make up for his long-range shortcomings.
Anderson can put the ball on the floor but he isn’t much of a passer. The journeyman wing is a career 33 percent maker from downtown, despite the fact 3’s account for 47.8 percent of his NBA field goal attempts. Fortunately Anderson is a career 36.4 percent shooter from the corners.
Like Anderson, Dukan needs to show more outside consistency if he hopes to find his niche as a spot-up threat. The undrafted rookie forward was a 32.8 percent downtown shooter in four years at Wisconsin before lighting up Las Vegas Summer League with a 41.7 percent clip.
The dribble drive offense and Gay’s jumper-oriented attack are not a perfect marriage. Gay took a career-low 19.8 percent of his total field goal attempts within the key last season, while upping his total between three and 10 feet to a career-most 27.2 percent. It’s a troubling sign since the forward shoots nearly 20 percent better in the restricted area as opposed to the rest of the paint, so the 29-year-old will have to reverse the trend or continue building on his free throw rate, 3-pointer and assists.
Along with his work inside, Acy is a decent shooter from 16 feet out, but demand for the skill has dried up in today’s market. Last season Acy launched a career-high 60 3-pointers and converted 30 percent, which doesn’t hint to him becoming a reliable deep option.
The roster isn’t perfect but a majority of the Kings’ pegs seem right in place. The fun begins in training camp, when Karl, Beech and the staff can assort roles and get a sense of how to maximize their players’ abilities.