After Saturday's loss to the Blazers, the Sacramento Kings now rank No. 30 in defensive rating. Dead last in the NBA. The Kings literally went from top-10 in defensive rebounding to No. 22 overnight -- giving up 19 offensive rebounds will do that this early in the season. Teams are shooting 42 percent on three-pointers against Sacramento; that's No. 29 in the league. It's not much better inside the arc: opponents are shooting .496 on twos, No. 21 in the league.
On Saturday, the Kings actually looked like they had figured out how to defend the three-point line. That lasted one half. In the first quarter, the Blazers didn't get off any open three-pointers; Dorell Wright finally hit a contested one over Ben McLemore at the end of the quarter. The second quarter continued similarly: the Kings persistently ran the Blazers off of the three-point line, forcing shooters to put the ball on the deck and look for another shot. That sometimes lead to an open shot for LaMarcus Aldridge or Robin Lopez as the help defense reacted. But it didn't kill the Kings. It was certainly better than the alternative. The Blazers did hit some in the second (3-7), but they were usually tough makes.
Everything fell apart after halftime. Portland ended up taking 12 threes in the second half vs. eight in the first; many of them were open due to poor transition defense, mindless switches and general inability to follow shooters off the ball. The switching seemed to be part of the team's strategy to prevent open threes. But more often than not, it resulted in bad mismatches or confusion. (The play in which McLemore and Greivis Vasquez both followed a wing cutting through and leaving Mo Williams -- who had the ball -- by himself stands out, obviously.) DeMarcus Cousins ended up having a stellar line of production, but he's guilty of failing to come out on open shooters. He's been doing a lot on defense. But that needs to be part of it, too. Force the shooter to put the ball down or make a pass. Even if he ends up getting his team an easy two, you've prevented an easy three.
The defensive problems aren't just there, of course. We all remember Jeff Teague carving up Vasquez last week. Aldridge went nuts on Saturday after Patrick Patterson held him in check most of Friday's game. Jason Thompson has been pretty brutal defensively, though he's rebounded well. Patterson has good moments and bad moments; more than anything, he lacks length and doesn't make up for it with quick hands or great quickness. (I tend to think Carl Landry makes up for his length deficiencies with strength and agility. Chuck Hayes: strength and smarts. Definitely not agility.)
The Kings would be better defensively, I think, if Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Hayes replaced Johnny Salmons and Patterson in the starting lineup. McLemore in place of Marcus Thornton might boost the team's chances of preventing backcourt outbursts, too. Mbah a Moute and Hayes are both offensive problems, though; Cousins and company aren't good enough to go 3-on-5 on one end. I think Hayes will remain deeper in the rotation for now, but it's time for Mbah a Moute to spring into action. I'm not convinced J.T. is playing well enough to deserve more minutes than Patterson, and I'm not sure he'd help much in a different role.
The offense needs work, too, and that's where Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette potentially come into play. There are a lot of moving parts Michael Malone needs to consider as he switches up his starting five and rotation. I'm not sure there's a great answer for any of it.
For the sake of conversation, I'd start Vasquez-McLemore-Mbah a Moute-Patterson-Cousins and play lots of Isaiah-Outlaw (primarily at PF)-Jimmer-Thompson and a little Thornton (three-guard lineups where you can try to hide him) and some situational Hayes and absolutely no Salmons. And I look at that and I know even that isn't going to come close to fixing things.
More from Sactown Royalty:
- Malone hints that Cousins is the only guaranteed starter now
- Kings vs. Blazers final score: Portland wins 96-85, Sacramento drops fifth straight
- Kings vs. Blazers Fan Predictions
- Shooting disparity is killing the Kings
- Kings 91, Portland 104: Cousins Dominates but gets little help on the offensive end