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The Kings are winning through...defense?

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Sacramento’s streak has originated on the defensive end of the floor.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the 2019 season, expectations for the Sacramento Kings weren’t particularly high. Most national media members had them ranked in the bottom three or four teams, while the fanbase simply wanted to throw their support behind a young, fun team that would likely accrue many more losses than wins. The theme of the team was centered around pace and scoring, and defense was left mostly out of the conversation to no one’s surprise. Rebuilding teams typically struggle on that end of the floor, and the Kings also failed to acquire any reputable defenders over the summer.

The first two games of the season reflected those expectations. Sacramento scored a ton of points, 130 per game, and gave up even more, allowing opponents to average 134.5. The offensive numbers were impressive and the defensive results were abysmal:

Good Offense, Awful Defense

Category Result League Rank
Category Result League Rank
Offensive Rating 118.8 11th
Defensive Rating 112.5 29th
Net Rating -10.7 27th
Points Per Game 130 5th
Opponent Points Per Game 134.5 29th
Pace 110.5 2nd

To no one’s surprise, the Kings lost both of those contests and seemed headed toward the path everyone expected: score a bunch and give up even more points. However, Sacramento’s performance over the last five games, in which they’ve gone 4-1, has started to change that perspective. Offensively, their numbers have stayed high, as they are scoring 110.8 points per game, good for 13th best in the league, and are still operating at the 5th highest pace in the NBA (106.5), but they’ve sharpened their intensity on the defensive end of the floor. Unlike their first pair of games, the Kings have not only focused on flying up and down the court with abandon, they’ve begun to ensure their opponents aren’t doing the same to them:

Good Offense, Impressive Defense

Category Result League Rank
Category Result League Rank
Offensive Rating 109 12th
Defensive Rating 105.4 8th
Net Rating 3.6 9th
Points Per Game 112 14th
Opponent Points Per Game 110.8 13th
Pace 106.5 5th

As opposed to being content with residing in the upper echelon of scoring teams, while sitting amongst the dredges of the NBA on the defensive end, Sacramento has sacrificed a bit of offense to concentrate on stopping opponents. Over the first two games of the season, the Kings ranked anywhere from 2nd to 29th in different categories; a wildly inconsistent showing that resulted in losses. Their league placement has adjusted between 5th and 14th in those same areas – a much safer place to try and unearth a few unexpected wins.

Over the few months of summer and throughout the preseason, Kings fans were promised a fast-paced, exciting roster that was projected to score in bunches. The team has certainly met those expectations, but their ability to turn up the heat on defense has been both a pleasant surprise and the catalyst to their surprising start. If our young squad wants to continue battling teams into the fourth quarter each and every night, their ferocity on the defensive end needs to match their insatiable appetite for easy buckets on offense.