Sunday Musings: What “pace” means for the 2014-15 Sacramento Kings

Pete D'Alessandro and Michael Malone last week's GM press conference. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

A buzzword has developed for the 2014-15 Sacramento Kings season.  The term “pace” is being jammed down our throats like we are geese being primed for a fine foie gras.  The catchphrase has come from every angle, but what exactly does it mean?

According to Basketball-Reference.com:

Pace: Pace Factor; the formula is 48 * ((TmPoss +OppPoss) / (2 * (TmMP / 5))). Pace factor is an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team.

Last season, the Kings ranked 14th in the NBA at 94.4 points per 100 possessions.  From the general manager down to the head coach, 14th isn’t good enough.

Management’s approach was to make more changes to the evolving roster.  Gone is starting point guard Isaiah Thomas.  Despite averaging 20.3 points and leading the team in assists with 6.3, Thomas’ style of play more often than not led to a slower, isolation-based offense.

“We had 28 wins and that’s not blaming Isaiah (Thomas); we don’t blame Isaiah for anything,” general manager Pete D’Alessandro told Cowbell Kingdom during summer league.  “We just know that we need to change to get better.”

That change comes in the form of veteran point guard Darren Collison, who committed to a three-year, $15 million deal just days after free agency began on July 1.  He isn’t Chris Paul or the second coming of John Stockton, but his style of play will change the way the Sacramento Kings play basketball.

“This isn’t a perfect science, but we’re really, really happy with Darren Collison, because frankly, he does things that we haven’t had here in terms of the way he can push the ball,” D’Alessandro said.  “We keep talking about pace and the speed of the game and that’s what we’re really trying to do this year.”

“Darren Collison is ultra-quick,” Malone added of his new starting point guard last month on the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast.  “He’ll be able to push the ball with the dribble, but we are really going to encourage guys to use the ‘advance pass’ to beat teams up the floor – look to attack before teams are able to get set defensively.”

For Malone, a slower pace is another symptom in diagnosing what ails the Sacramento Kings.  Swapping out pieces might make a difference, but the cure is obvious to the second-year coach.

“The one thing that can really help our pace of play is our defense,” Malone said.  “The more stops you get and the more rebounds you get, the more opportunities you have to run.”

It always comes back to defense with Malone  And he’s right. The more stops you get, the faster you can change ends of the floor.  Good defense opens the door for good offense, or at least a faster-paced offense.

Defensive stops and rebounds lead to transition opportunities and easy buckets.  While Sacramento was a solid rebounding team last season, they were no. 20 in the league in field-goal percentage allowed, 29th in 3-point percentage against and 27th in the league in forcing turnovers.

Like previous seasons, the 2013-14 Sacramento Kings were a bad defensive team.  But that doesn’t mean that Malone is calling in Don Nelson or Mike D’Antoni to revamp his offense.

“I’m not a run and gun guy, I’m not a guy that would ever put pace over defense and rebounding and valuing and sharing the basketball,” Malone said.  “The big thing that sticks out to me from last season was we dribbled as a team too much, so there has to be a lot more ball movement.”

The fact is, an efficient offense has a positive effect on the defense as well.  Made baskets often buy you the time needed to set up on the defensive end.  The best teams are effective on both ends of the floor.

Last season, the Sacramento Kings ranked dead last in the NBA in assists, handing out just 18.9 assists per game as a team.  Passing was a team issue, not an individual problem and there are other factors to consider as well.

Sacramento ranked 27th in the league in 3-point percentage, which not only hurt assist numbers, but affected spacing on the floor.  The Kings typically used six or seven seconds of the allotted eight seconds to get across half court.  The ball movement was completely stagnant most nights and the team became completely reliant on Thomas, Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins.

Predictable.  That is the best word to describe the offense last season.  And if we are looking for a word to describe the defense, it would be porous.  But improvement on one end of the floor can lead to improvement on both ends of the floor.

Management and coaching may have different ideas about how that improvement can occur, but Collison is the catalyst for the team’s new directive.  He has the potential to balance this team on both ends of the floor, perhaps leading to a better brand of basketball and more wins.

Pace is the catch-all word for the 2014-15 Sacramento Kings.  It is “an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team”, but clearly the formula is more complex than ((TmPoss +OppPoss) / (2 * (TmMP / 5))).

 

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About: James Ham

James Ham is co-owner and senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary film "Small Market, Big Heart".