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The Kings haven’t been playing like themselves in January

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The Kings pace has fallen off dramatically in January

Kimani Okearah

One of the bright spots of this season has been the identity the Sacramento Kings have established. The Kings are young, fast, and score a lot of points. They get a few defensive stops but aren’t the best defensive team, but they’re going to run you out of the building. For the year the Kings have the second highest pace in the NBA, behind only the Atlanta Hawks. But the Kings haven’t been playing like themselves in January, and the numbers are a little alarming.

Buddy Hield’s insane fourth quarter in Detroit can hide some flaws in that game, as it continued a trend that has plagued the Kings in 2019. The Kings have looked sluggish at times, and certainly not as in control as they were to start the year. And the Kings insane pace has dropped to a relative crawl.

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Month Pace
Month Pace
Oct 107.06
Nov 105.19
Dec 104.5
Jan 100.55

For reference, a pace of 100.55 would put the Kings at 15th in the NBA, just ahead of the Dallas Mavericks. No other team in the top 5 of pace has seen a similar dropoff, suggesting that this isn’t simply hitting a wall as the season goes on.

Overall, the Kings have still been playing well. In January their net rating is the best it’s been all year. Field goal attempts have remained steady, points per game remain solid, and the only number that’s dropped off noticeably has been free throw attempts.

A lower pace in itself isn’t an issue, but it has also felt like the Kings haven’t been pushing as much. Anecdotally it feels like the Kings have been passing up shots more in an effort to find someone an even better shot. But the Kings are 5-5 in January, at a time when the schedule was supposed to be getting easier.

I don’t have an answer to why the pace is lower, and maybe it’s just a blip that corrects itself as the season continues, but it’s certainly something worth keeping an eye on.