Kings’ new bench looks much improved on paper

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The Sacramento Kings bench was absolutely atrocious last season.  There isn’t really any way to mince words here.  When the starters came out of the game, the Kings went to hell in a handbasket.  

There are a lot of different stats to look at to evaluate a basketball team, but it doesn’t take a degree in advanced mathematics to break down just how bad not only the bench as a whole was, but individual players as well.

Is it a surprise that the Kings ran a plus/minus of -262 when Derrick Williams was on the floor?  Or how about a plus/minus of -157 in just 36 games for Ramon Sessions?  With Williams on the floor, the Kings were outscored in 50 of 72 games and for Sessions, that number was a staggering 26 of 32 games.

These two weren’t the only two players to hurt their team.  Ray McCallum threw up a plus/minus of -237, Carl Landry tossed in a -217, Omri Casspi a -181 and Nik Stauskas a -128.  If you can’t get consistent bench play in the NBA, it’s hard to win.

For those out there that don’t believe that the Kings use advanced analytics when creating their roster, seven of the Kings’ eight lowest plus/minus players are gone from the roster.  Vlade Divac cleared the deck and is starting fresh with a new bench.

Casspi is the lone holdover, but for good reason.  Early in the season, he was the only player coming off the Kings bench that supplied anything positive.  And when you added Casspi to the standard starting lineup in place of Jason Thompson, he, alongside DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Darren Collison and Ben McLemore ran a +23.  This group also gave the Kings 1.27 points per possession, the highest mark for any five-man combination on the season.

There is no way for us to predict what kind of season rookie Willie Cauley-Stein will have, but the Kings’ other additions have a common theme.  Kosta Koufos added a +98 in the plus/minus category for the Memphis Grizzlies.  The defensive-minded big held opponents to just .98 points per possession on the defensive and the Grizzlies averaged +3.5 points per 48 minutes when he was on the floor.  The Kings couldn’t even find a way to hide reserve big man Ryan Hollins and despite starting 63 games for a very successful starting unit last season, Jason Thompson sported a -189 on the season.  The stats say that Koufos is an above-average third big.

Marco Belinelli’s stats won’t blow you away, but in comparison to what Stauskas brought to the team last season, he’s a juggernaut.  The Italian-born shooter posted a -2 in the plus/minus game for San Antonio, but the Spurs went 32-30 with him on the floor.  San Antonio’s offensive/defensive splits with Belinelli were an even 1.08 per possession versus a 1.06 offensive and 1.12 defensive rating for Stauskas.

Could the rookie have performed better in year two and made up the difference?  Only time will tell.  The Kings chased a proven player to supply support off the bench over another question mark in Stauskas.  What we do know is that Belinelli played an integral role in a very good Spurs team.  He shows up in three of the team’s top seven lineups on the season and he has the experience knocking down perimeter shots that the Kings were absolutely desperate for.

At 34-years-old and playing for a less-than-stellar Detroit Pistons team, Caron Butler finished the season almost even like Belinelli.  He posted a plus/minus of -20, but still managed an even 36-36 record when he was on the floor.  Butler is another reliable 3-point shooter and a high-character addition to the locker room.

We aren’t talking about world beaters here, but what the Kings have this year that they lacked a season ago is a second squad that won’t drop the ball on a nightly basis.

There is one more player that should be added in this analysis.  Rajon Rondo is either the Kings’ starting point guard or the first man off the bench.  He has taken a beating for his time in Dallas and he likely should.  He ran the second-lowest plus/minus on the team at -44 points and a -25 with the starting unit of Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler and Monta Ellis.  He was productive in other sets, but he certainly didn’t make the team a contender like most thought when he came over from Boston.

Rondo may not be the game changer that many hoped he would be in Sacramento, but he still hovered around the .500 mark in wins and losses while he was on the floor in both Dallas and Boston.  He may be broken and unfixable.  He ran a horrible plus/minus in 2013-14, but he was returning from an ACL tear.  But the fact is he is still a exponentially times better than Sessions or McCallum in his ability to effect a game.  We are talking about a plus/minus of -61 against two players that dropped in a -394. In limited action, even Andre Miller dropped in a -22 for the Kings last season.

You can’t ignore that the Kings bench is improved.  The dead weight of Landry, Sessions, Williams and even young players like McCallum and Stauskas have been replaced with NBA-level talent.

Plus/minus over an entire season isn’t a great sample size, but when added to on-court wins and losses and offensive and defensive points per possession, it paints a decent picture of how the Kings chose to improve their club this season.

Will it work?  Who knows.  It’s a lot easier to drop in quality stats when you are playing for 50-win teams like the Spurs, Grizzlies and Mavericks.  On paper the Kings are improved, especially their bench.  The regular season will separate fact from fantasy.

Statical support proved by 82games.com

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