Charting the Sacramento Kings’ regression on defense

Al Horford versus the Sacramento Kings' defense. (Photo: Steven Chea)

The Sacramento Kings’ offensive struggles have been well-chronicled this season.  But after a training camp where defense was the primary focus, their falloff on that end of the floor has been just as disappointing.

Keith Smart made it his mission to improve the Kings’ defense this year.  Entering training camp, he set offense aside and focused the majority of his coaching efforts to the defensive side of the ball.

“Emphasis on this camp here is getting us better concept-wise on what we’re going to do defensively,” the Kings head coach said right before the team boarded a plane for training camp in Colorado Springs.

In preseason and early in the regular season, there appeared to be returns on the investment.  The Kings were playing much better team defense than we had seen in years past.  Communication and help on the weakside were showing signs of improvement.  But then the offense crashed, which led to frustration and a deterioration of focus on defensive principles.

Chart of the Sacramento Kings' defensive through 21 games.

As you can see in  the chart above, the Kings’ defense was on point to start the season.  During the three-game road trip to open the year, the Kings maintained a defensive rating of 94.4 points per 100 possessions.  At the time, that was good enough to rank them ninth in the league.

Since then, their defensive prowess has dropped dramatically.  Through 21 games, the Kings are ranked 24th in defensive rating, allowing 104.4 points per 100 possessions  Recently, it has stabilized to a certain extent, but it’s not anywhere near the level it was at the start of the season.

Distractions have deterred the Kings reaching their potential this year.  But for a team that ardently worked to get their defense on track, it’s a little discouraging to see the wheels fall off so soon.

Statistical support provided by NBA.com.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.