Sacramento Kings assistant coach John Welch was a guest on this week’s edition of the Kings Insider Podcast, and he gave us some interesting insight on the Kings’ offensive philosophy. Welch’s description of the offense more or less fit the style we’re seeing the Kings play on the court, but having an assistant coach back up the eyeball test was somewhat vindicating.
Kings Insider Podcast host James Ham asked Welch about pace, and if the Kings’ current offensive scheme is the best for this roster, and in response, Welch said –
I think DeMarcus is best early. His early post-ups are best. It’s not just our team, I mean; basically our philosophy is everything is better early. Every NBA action is better early. An early post-up is better than a slow post-up, a quick pick and roll is better than a slow pick and roll, a quick pin down in transition is better than a slow pin down. There is not an action that is better slower.
If you can get a good player the ball with space, they’re going to be hard to guard. We feel the easiest way to penetrate, to create space is early before, you know, basically, it takes the other teams game plan out of the game. It takes their assistant coach who’s calling every play out of the game. It makes it more of a unstructured, faster paced, attacking thing that where their guys have to guard us more one-on-one rather than with schemes, and I think most teams are better in their schemes than they are in their individual defense
How’s that for a quote?
I understand Welch’s larger point. If you can attack the defense before they are set, advantage goes to the offense, but there has to be a sweet spot between ‘fast’ and ‘rushed’ that the Kings continue to miss. I think it’s fair to criticize the coaching staff for instilling this ‘everything is better early’ philosophy, and also place at least some of blame for the Kings’ sloppy offense and turnovers on that philosophy. The Kings throw more full-court outlets than any team I’ve every seen. They miss more than they hit. It’s impossible to count the amount of times Ben McLemore, or Rudy Gay, or DeMarcus Cousins try to irresponsibly attack the rim in transition and end up driving right into the teeth of the defense in the spirit of ‘everything is better early’.
Welch made it clear; the Kings do not want to play offense in the half-court. It’s easy to connect the dots here. Should we be surprised that the Kings look completely lost in their half-court offense when that is a scenario the Kings’ coaching staff desperately wants them to avoid? I don’t think so.
Is it a reach to suggest that the reckless offensive pace the Kings play at has a negative impact on their team defense? I don’t think so. Transition offense that doesn’t result in a score gives the opposing team an even better transition opportunity. Not to mention that, despite the fact that NBA players are world class athletes, I don’t know how fair it is to expect some of these players bring 100% of their energy on the defensive end when they know that at the change of possession they have to sprint down the court. I don’t know if it’s possible. They are not above getting tired, and other teams aren't tasked with sprinting down the court on every break.
In response to Ham asking Welch about how the players are supposed to recognize when it’s time to break vs. maybe playing it a bit more conservative, Welch interrupted Ham, saying –
It’s always time to break. There is never not a time to break. It’s not getting them to recognize, it’s getting them in the habit.
The Kings want to break, every time, without question – in case you had any doubt.
Again, that is so physically taxing, and beyond the fact that the Kings’ coaching staff is asking the players to play at this break-neck offensive pace (which, by the way, the Kings are doing) it’s easy to see how and why defense has been such an issue for this team all season. It’s hard to do both, particularly with this roster. And don’t point me towards the Golden State Warriors – this roster is not remotely the same, and trying to mimic what the Warriors do for a team that should run everything through DeMarcus Cousins is dumb. It's so dumb.
Welch’s ‘everything is better early’ quote is going to be burned into my skull for the rest of the season. Everything is better early. Man.
The system has been a failure. You can’t even question that anymore. You can blame the players, if you’d like, in the sense that ‘these players cannot do what this coaching staff is asking them to do’ to which I’d suggest – change the system. Scale it back. You can play fast without brainwashing these guys to push at a pace they clearly, clearly cannot handle. The only two players I want handling the ball with speed in transition is Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison, and because everyone is trying to break, the Kings have a lot of players trying to do things they aren’t capable of. It's inefficient, it's close-minded, it's stubborn. The players have shown time and time again that they either don't understand the system, or aren't capable of doing it. Either scenario would be an acceptable reason to make a change.
I'm even willing to give Welch some benefit of the doubt here and say that, with time, the Kings can probably play in this system better than they are right now, but I'd also question this coaching staff's self-awareness. They weren't getting multiple seasons if this season wasn't a success, and to potentially throw the year away in the spirit of 'system growing pains' has been a mistake, clearly.