Exploring the Sacramento Kings’ early struggles on 3-point defense

Sacramento Kings leave Jared Dudley wide open for 3. (Photo: Kimani David)

In his first season as head coach of the Sacramento Kings, Michael Malone has made defense his main point of emphasis. Unfortunately, the early returns on the Kings’ defense have been mixed. After spending much of training camp installing and teaching defensive principles, Malone still clearly has a long way to go when it comes to breaking the Kings’ bad habits on that side of the floor.

The Kings have been especially porous when it comes to defending the perimeter. Sacramento has allowed their opposition to shoot 42.4 percent from 3-point land through three games. They’re currently ranked 27th in opponent 3-point percentage and are one of seven teams that are allowing their opposition to shoot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc.

I decided to look through all the 3-pointers opponents have made against the Kings so far and analyze what’s gone wrong defensively. There were three things I took away from this very unscientific analysis.

1. The Kings have had issues defending the 3-point line in the half court.

Through three games, the Kings have allowed their opponents (the Nuggets, Clippers and Warriors) to make a combined 28 three-pointers. Of those 28 made 3’s, 18 of them have come against the Kings’ half-court defense. I came to this conclusion after taking note of which 3’s were made in transition and which were made in the half court while watching game film via NBA.com.

2. In transition, the Kings’ concern with penetration has caused them to leave shooters wide open.

On half of the 10-made 3’s made against their transition defense, the Kings were caught leaving trailers wide open from beyond the arc. From watching the tape, the reason appears to stem from their concern of protecting the basket. That’s not a bad thing, but it has led to over-protection of the paint, which has allowed opposing shooters more than enough space to beat them from deep. See the screenshot below of one play in particular against the Clippers Friday as an example.


3. Kings are getting beat primarily by their opponent’s 3-point shooting on the wings.

Sacramento has allowed opponents to attempt 66 three-pointers against them so far this season. Of those 66 attempts, close to 60 percent of those shots have been launched from either the left or right wings. See the chart below.

Opponents 3-point shooting distribution against the Kings through first three games (NBA.com)

To make matters worse, opponents have shot their best against the Kings from those two regions on the floor. Another chart from NBA.com illustrates that point.

Opponents 3-point shooting performance against the Kings through first three games (NBA.com)

The Kings still have to plenty of work to do when it comes to breaking bad habits on defense.  Fortunately, they have 79 more games to accomplish that task.

Statistical support provided NBA.com/stats.


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.

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