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Why can't the Kings sustain a lead?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

With yesterday's loss to the Houston Rockets, the Kings are now 11-12 with five of their 12 losses coming despite the team leading by double digits at some point during those games.  Even some of Sacramento's wins (like the recent one against Indiana) came despite a big double-digit lead being erased.  While the loss of DeMarcus Cousins hasn't helped matters, this was a problem even before Cousins' absence.  So why does it keep happening?

The Bench

It's no secret that Sacramento falls off dramatically when the bench comes in, but it's easier to just show the numbers:

Name ORtg On Court ORtg Off Court DRtg On Court DRtg Off Court
DeMarcus Cousins 112.4 103.2 100.2 112.3
Jason Thompson 106.7 107.8 103.6 111.5
Rudy Gay 111.4 98.1 104.5 112.8
Ben McLemore 109.6 101.9 104.9 111.7
Darren Collison 112.4 103.2 100.2 112.3
Carl Landry 101.7 110.5 107 107.2
Omri Casspi 101.4 110 112.2 104.5
Derrick Williams 107.9 107 116.8 104.5
Ramon Sessions 100 110.6 110.4 105.5
Nik Stauskas 102.1 109.2 117.2 103.2
Ray McCallum 102.6 107.6 121.2 105.7
Reggie Evans 106.5 107.4 110.7 105.8
Ryan Hollins 96.5 108.6 114.9 106

Numbers courtesy of

For those that don't know, ORtg (Offensive Rating) and DRtg (Defensive Rating) are an estimate of a team's points per 100 possessions with a player on the floor.  You want a higher number for ORtg and a lower number for DRtg.  As you can see from these numbers, the Kings have a big positive net difference on both ends of the court with the starters, but just as big of a net negative difference with most of the bench players.  The only bench player on the team to make the offense better is surprisingly Derrick Williams, but Williams also has the second worst net defensive difference to rookie Nik Stauskas (McCallum is the worst but he has only seen garbage time minutes so his numbers are based on a very small sample size).

Game after game we've seen leads by the Kings given up as soon as the bench comes in.  What this tells me is that for now, we can't trust our bench, and it's probably best that going forward our rotations are staggered so that we avoid all bench units as much as possible.  I don't envy Malone's job, because this is much easier said than done.

Three Point Shooting

Another reason Sacramento has trouble sustaining leads is three point shooting, namely that they can't hit any and other teams can.  Against Houston for example, the Kings actually made more Field Goals than the Rockets but Houston hit 15 threes to 8 for Sacramento, and 8 is a lot for the Kings (their highest mark this season is 9 against Dallas).  7 of those triples came in the deciding fourth quarter.  Now, the Kings are actually pretty good at defending the three point line, allowing just 31.5%, the 5th best mark in the NBA, but they're going to be the inferior shooting team almost every night.  Sacramento's just 29th in three point makes, 28th in attempts and 24th in percentage.  It's hard to keep a lead when an opponent keeps answering your twos with threes.


The Kings also aren't helping matters themselves as they continue to be one of the most prolific teams at turning the ball over.  The Kings are the 4th worst team in the NBA in terms of turnover rate at 15.0% and they also aren't good at forcing teams into miscues of their own, with the worst (and by worst, I mean best for the opponent) opponent turnover percentage in the league at just 10.6%.  That means Sacramento opponents are getting more chances to score on any given night.


The Kings are obviously not a good team yet.  They have good, even great, pieces but they are also still very much a work in progress.  This team has already improved much more quickly than I think any of us thought it would after last season, and the one thing I think we can count on this front office to be is aggressive in searching for improvement.  There's bound to be growing pains in this process but at least we are moving in the right direction.