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Kings of Inefficiency

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Sacramento’s shot selection is unacceptable.

Kimani Okearah

Prior to Sacramento’s loss to the Nuggets on Monday night, Kings’ sideline reporter Kayte Christensen spoke about Dave Joerger’s satisfaction with the types of shots his team has been getting. Simply put, according to our Head Coach, the Kings are taking good shots throughout the game, but they just aren’t falling. That little nugget struck me as either a coach trying to keep his team encouraged, or as a lack of willingness to structure an offense around efficient shots.

It’s no secret that the Kings offense flat-out stinks. We score the fewest points per game in the league; have failed to score more than 90 points in 7 out of 17 games, have only reached 100 points or more four times, and our depressingly obvious inability to put the ball in the bucket displays itself on a nightly basis.

Why can’t the team score? Is the roster chock-full of bad shooters? Is it purely a shortage of top-level talent? Can we assign the lack of success to a team full of young players and has-beens?

What’s causing the issue?

Outside of Sacramento over the past few years, “Morey-ball” has taken over the league. Through advanced analytics, teams realized that three-pointers, layups and dunks, as well as free throws, were the most efficient ways to score in basketball. For example, this season the Rockets are taking more shots from deep (44.4 per game) than two-pointers (38.8), while offensive juggernauts like the Warriors regularly pass up open layups to shoot 3s in transition. It’s a new age in the NBA.

Unfortunately, the Kings seem to be ignoring the obvious data, and are residing in a bygone era of basketball.

Good Shots

Shot Type Attempts Per Game League Rank
Shot Type Attempts Per Game League Rank
3 pointer 21.3 30th
0-5 feet 24.6 27th
Free Throws 17.4 29th

The Kings take the fewest of the most efficient shots in the league, and only manage to dominate the NBA when it comes to archaic attempts. Three-pointers, dunks, layups, and free throws are almost impossible to come by in the current offense, while midrange jumpshots rule the day.

Bad Shots

Shot Range Attempts Per Game Frequency
Shot Range Attempts Per Game Frequency
5-9 feet 12.6 1st
10-14 feet 8.3 9th
15-19 feet 12.8 2nd
Midrange 23.9 1st

Are they simply bad at good shots?

As a team, the Kings certainly aren’t the most accurate from deep, but they aren’t a batch of Tony Allen clones either. Sacramento has seven players on its roster who shoot better than the league average of 36% from beyond the arc.

Marksmen

Player 3P% 3PA
Player 3P% 3PA
George Hill 46% 2.5
Malachi Richardson 41% 1.7
Buddy Hield 40% 4.2
Zach Randolph 39% 1.5
Garrett Temple 39% 3.9
Skal Labissiere 38% 0.5

They rank 14th in the league in three-point percentage, making 36% of their attempts, which also lines up with the median. They’re also not terrible at the rim. They make 61% of shots from 0-5 feet, which is good for 15th overall. That’s about as average as you can get. The only good shot they’re really bad at is free throws. The Kings sit in 27th place, only making 73.2% of shots from the charity stripe.

Are they simply good at bad shots?

There are a few players in the league who can get away with an inefficient shot because they’re accurate from midrange. DeMar DeRozan has made a lot of money from 15-footers, and even recent Kings players such as Darren Collison and Rudy Gay have been reliable from those spots on the floor in the past.

Unfortunately, although they jack up a ton of inefficient shots, the Kings don’t actually hit many of them.

Bad Shots, Poor Shooting

Shot Range Attempts Per Game Frequency Percentage Made League Rank
Shot Range Attempts Per Game Frequency Percentage Made League Rank
5-9 feet 12.6 1st 28% 27th
10-14 feet 8.3 9th 35% 26th
15-19 feet 12.8 2nd 39% 14th
Midrange 23.9 1st 36% 24th

The 15-19 foot range isn’t actually terrible, but everything else is killing any hope of a stable offense for our young team. We take the most shots from 5-9 feet, yet make the third fewest. Why is the coaching staff satisfied with the types of shots the squad is getting if this is the result?

The Culprits

A lot of blame forSacramento’s scoring woes have been placed on the broad shoulders of Zach Randolph this season. And yes, the Kings rely on him too much down the stretch, his post game isn’t what it used to be, and his defense is laughably poor; but is he really the player dragging down the scoring output, or is this a team effort?

5-9 Feet

Player FGM FGA FG% +/- League Average
Player FGM FGA FG% +/- League Average
De'Aaron Fox 10 34 29% -8%
Skal Labissiere 11 33 33% -4%
Zach Randolph 11 28 39% 2%
Willie Cauley-Stein 8 26 31% -6%
Kosta Koufos 7 21 33% -4%
George Hill 5 18 28% -9%
Justin Jackson 1 11 9% -28%
Buddy Hield 2 11 18% -19%
Bogdan Bogdanovic 1 9 11% -26%

10-14 Feet

Player FGM FGA FG% +/- League Average
Player FGM FGA FG% +/- League Average
Skal Labissiere 9 19 47% 7%
De'Aaron Fox 3 18 17% -23%
George Hill 4 17 24% -16%
Zach Randolph 6 17 35% -5%
Buddy Hield 5 16 31% -9%
Justin Jackson 7 13 54% 14%
Willie Cauley-Stein 4 11 36% -4%

15-19 Feet

Player FGM FGA FG% +/- League Average
Player FGM FGA FG% +/- League Average
De'Aaron Fox 18 37 49% 9%
Zach Randolph 13 31 42% 2%
Willie Cauley-Stein 11 29 38% -2%
Skal Labissiere 9 27 33% -7%
Buddy Hield 8 20 40% --
Bogdan Bogdanovic 8 19 42% 2%
Garret Temple 7 17 41% 1%
George Hill 5 15 33% -7%
Justin Jackson 2 8 25% -15%
Frank Mason 2 8 25% -15%

Something that surprised me, and probably surprised you as well, is that Z-Bo has actually been fairly steady in the midrange. He’s shooting decently from 5-19 feet, and is usually right in line with the league median percentage.

On the flip side, the Kings’ guards and wings are hurting them all over the floor. George Hill is below average from every area in the midrange, De’Aaron Fox is either way above or way below the middle of the pack, and Justin Jackson, Buddy Hield, and Bogdan Bogdanovic have all been atrocious from 5-9 feet.

That up-close, but not quite at the rim area is the boogie man that keeps popping up. Basically, everyone sucks from that position, yet the Kings continue to throw up garbage from that spot night after night after night. Shooting a ton of shots from your worst area on the floor isn’t going to get you anywhere fast.

Sacramento isn’t good at bad shots, but they aren’t terrible at good shots either. The Kings are perfectly average at the rim and at the three-point line, and they need to concentrate on increasing attempts from those spots while eliminating that pesky 5-9 foot range.

If Dave Joerger forces his team to take better shots, and the players execute that game plan, the Kings will see their scoring output jump, offensive efficiency climb, and those notorious scoring droughts will slowly reduce throughout the year.

It’s just a matter of joining the modern age of NBA basketball.