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Sacramento's "Only 3" needs some support

DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas were fantastic this season, but they also had to carry a huge load because of the lack of a supporting cast.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven't yet read Blake's excellent breakdown of the Pete D'Alessandro media Q&A from earlier today, you should rectify that immediately.  One of the things that Pete stressed to the media was the need to improve both the ball movement and the shooting of this team.

Now, you don't have to be an assist heavy team to have a good offense.  While the Kings weren't a good offense (they finished the year 20th in Offensive Rating), a lot of that had to do with the fact that besides DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas, there wasn't anybody that could reliably make a shot, hence me dubbing them "the Only 3" rather than "the Big 3".

Cousins, Thomas and Gay combined for 3,131 of Sacramento's 6,766 Field Goal Attempts.  That's 46.3% of Sacramento's total shots going to three players.  They also combined for 50.8% of the team's total points.  Those are insane numbers.  Yet, given the makeup of the team this past year it's not completely unreasonable.  Just take a look at the shooting numbers of the top 15 shot takers on the team:

Name FGA FG%
DeMarcus Cousins 1191 .496
Isaiah Thomas 1096 .453
Rudy Gay 844 .482
Ben McLemore 679 .376
Jason Thompson 496 .506
Derrick Williams 428 .437
Marcus Thornton 373 .381
Travis Outlaw 326 .399
Ray McCallum 300 .377
Jimmer Fredette 198 .475
Greivis Vasquez 150 .433
Quincy Acy 127 .472
Patrick Patterson 122 .410
John Salmons 117 .350
Reggie Evans 91 .527

Once you get past the trio at the top, you get a whole lot of bad shooting.  Ben McLemore was 4th in shots on the Kings and shot an abysmal 37.6%.  Jason Thompson's 50.6% was good, but players like him, Acy and Evans are not players you're looking for offense from.  Jimmer Fredette however was, and he was the only player among the rest that shot even acceptably well (he shot very well).   4 of our top 9 shooters shot less than 40% from the field.  You aren't going to get many assists if you're passing to guys who can't hit a shot.

This isn't the only reason the Kings offense was so inefficient.  From Pete's interview:

"I need to find players that can [pass] more consistently and I think players that are more into kind of moving the ball up the floor as opposed to players coming back to the ball, and we do that a lot. We kind of fall back and come back to the ball as opposed to just looking up-court right away."

Take a look at the team with the 29th most assists and it might surprise you.  It's the Phoenix Suns, who had the 8th best offense in the league and won 48 games, just barely missing out on the playoffs.  How did the Suns do it?  By doing exactly what Pete said and getting the ball up the floor on fastbreaks.  The Suns led the league this year in fastbreak points at 18.7 a game.  The Kings were 16th at 13.1.  Getting fastbreak opportunities tends to lead to higher efficiency shots and more free throw attempts.  Now, that definitely wasn't the case for anybody watching the Kings play this year.  I don't think I've seen a team run as many bad fastbreaks as this year's Kings team.  Too often they would try to go for a highlight play rather than a simple one, and it often led to a turnover or a missed opportunity.

Another thing the Suns were good at was hitting the three ball, making 37.2% of their attempts as a team.  The Kings were 27th at 33.3%, and even that's skewed by the fact that the Kings traded their best three point shooters this season.  By the end of the year, their best three point shooter was Ray McCallum at 37.9%, and he only shot 59 attempts this season.  Isaiah Thomas was well above 40% before he trended downward (his wrist injury certainly affected him) to finish at 34.9%.  Travis Outlaw was at 35%.  Then you have Ben McLemore at 32% on almost 300 attempts.

Now, some of the Kings' problems in these areas came in part due to their inexperience.  Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum in particular should see their shooting percentages rise with a year under their belts (if they don't, that's going to be a big cause for concern).  We saw both players improve as the season went along, a good sign for the future.

The other part of course is getting better personnel.  Travis Outlaw, bless his heart, should not be the go-to option off the bench, and yet that's what happened as the season went on, mostly because he wasn't afraid to shoot and guys like Derrick Williams were.  I'm glad to see the team is going to have Williams play in the Summer League because he needs to learn how to stay consistently aggressive and play to his strengths (he's excellent at attacking the basket and drawing fouls).   Then there's Carl Landry.  A healthy Carl Landry should theoretically be a big boon to our bench next year, as we're lacking a reliable post option when Cousins goes to the bench.

I will be very interested to see how D'Alessandro addresses these issues this summer.  There are some interesting options on the Free Agent market (Jodie Meeks or C.J. Miles anyone?).  Of course, a lot of it depends on what happens with Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas, but even should both stay, moves will still need to be made.  This team can't just be 3 guys if it ever wants to be good.  We need a reliable supporting cast too.