We have yet to see a regular season Sacramento Kings game under the new regime, so this is all speculation, but hey, that's what the 30Q series is all about. At this point though, I say yes, the focus on defense will come to fruition for the simple fact that we have no reason to doubt Malone's ability to turn things around on the defensive side of the ball.
His track record at boosting defenses in all of his last three coaching stops (Golden State, New Orleans and Cleveland) speaks for itself.
While with the Cavs (2005-2010), Malone had a guy by the name of Lebron James on his team, so that probably played into the fact that they won 66 percent of their games while he was Mike Brown's top assistant there. The same season (2008-09) the Cavs won 66 games, however, was the same season they allowed only 91.4 points per game, the low for the year in the NBA. And while Lebron is a tremendous defender in his own right, coaching certainly had something to do with the Cavs' success on the defensive side of the ball.
Malone brought similar statistics to New Orleans. In 2011, for example, the Hornets (now the Pelicans) were the NBA's most improved defense - they allowed 8.7 fewer points per game than they did in 2009-10 (94 points per game v. 102.7 points per game). The Hornets' opponents also saw a decrease in field goal percentage over those same two seasons - from 48.3 percent to 45.7 percent.
Then, with the 2011-12 Golden State Warriors, Malone helped improve the team's points allowed per game (105.7 points to 101.2 points per game). In 2012-13, the Warriors saw statistical jumps in several categories: rebounding (from 28th to 3rd), defensive rebounding (24th to 1st), opponent field goal percentage (20th to 3rd) and opponent three-point field goal percentage (28th to 7th). In fact, it was the first time in more than a decade that the Warriors finished near the top half of the league in opponent field goal percentage.
This is Malone's first go-around as a head coach so we have to factor that in, but he now has 12 years of coaching experience total, and with such a defensive pedigree one has to assume the Kings will see increased production on that side of the ball. Especially considering scoring hasn't been an issue as of late for the Kings, which will allow the new coaching staff to key in on defense.
Malone also has Luc Richard Mbah a Moute at his disposal at small forward to assist him in this effort. Mbah a Moute was once referred to by former teammate Andrew Bogut as a "fire blanket because when guys get on fire in the game, we put Luc on them and he usually shuts them down." The Kings have been trying to fill the small forward spot for years and while Mbah a Moute probably won't bring a lot in terms of scoring, he will provide a much-needed defensive anchor. Not to mention the Kings still have
John Johnny Salmons, who will likely see a lesser role this season but is a good defender as well.
The other aspect to consider in this is Vivek Ranadive's desire to make things "bigger and better." We have heard this from many of the folks in and around the Kings organization - the guy hates to lose.
Ranadive bought the Kings to build an international brand, so he has a lot riding on a turnaround next season; not necessarily a turnaround in terms of wins and losses, but a turnaround in the way the Kings play and the effort the players put forth. The new ownership group is expecting a certain amount of intensity on the floor and Ranadive doesn't seem like a guy who is going to accept the status quo. He's seen tremendous success in the tech industry with TIBCO, has played his cards right so far in the NBA and up until this point has shown little indication of a lack of desire to improve things in Sacramento with the Kings.
So if you simply go off of the track records of Malone and Ranadive, it is my opinion that there is little reason to doubt that the Kings will improve defensively next season.