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Sorting out Sacramento’s statistical start

We’ve seen some wild swings in numbers over the first dozen games.

Kimani Okearah

It’s been a wild season in Sacramento so far. With a new head coach and a new crop of free agents, it was hard to know what the Sacramento Kings would look like early in the season. We’ve seen a full month of Kings basketball now, and it’s still difficult to be sure about what is and isn’t real. Multiple injuries to key players hasn’t made anything easier to parse.

What we do know is that we’ve seen some wild statistical trends — both good and bad. Let’s take a look at some of the more surprising numbers to help get a picture of what’s happening in Sacramento.

FIBA Bogi could soon be 6MOY Bogi

Bogdan Bogdanovic has been absolutely stunning since the Kings lost their floor general and offensive keystone in De’Aaron Fox. Bogi has averaged 21.5 points, 8.0 assists, and 2.8 steals across the four games since Fox’s injury. He’s also shooting with incredible efficiency at 51.7% from the field, 51.7% from three, and 90% from the free throw line.

Since November 12th, only three other players in the league are averaging 20 and 8 or better — LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and Trae Young — and none of them can match Bogi’s steal numbers. Bogdanovic also leads that group in FG%, 3PT%, and FT%.

It’s also important to note that Bogi is doing it all while coming off the bench. Bogdanovic was a dark horse candidate for the 6th Man of the Year award heading into the season, and it appears that he could indeed have a chance to take home the silverware if he keeps up his recent play. Among players that would currently qualify for the award, Bogdanovic is 6th in points, 4th in assists, 3rd in steals, and 2nd in three-pointers made on the year.

Richaun Holmes doesn’t miss

Richaun Holmes is shooting 63.9% on his 97 field goal attempts this season. That is a ferociously efficient clip, and one that only the finest play-finishers in the game can even approach. Only Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert are hitting at a better rate on an equal or greater volume.

That field goal percentage is certainly helped by the fact that 76% of Holmes’ shots are coming from within five feet of the basket, and that he’s only launched one attempt from 20 feet out or further. But scoring inside is what most centers do best, and you won’t hear any complaints from Kings fans about how they have a center that is good at doing center things.

It’s still staggering how well the Phoenix Suns’ cast-off has done filling in for an injured Marvin Bagley and a slumping Dewayne Dedmon. But hey, Phoenix has made plenty of personnel mistakes in the past — and haven’t we all? Phoenix’s loss is clearly Sacramento’s gain, and Holmes got to put an exclamation point on his departure from his old team on Tuesday night, dropping a tidy 20 and 15 against the Suns.

Their worst scorer might be a starter

When starting this year, Cory Joseph is averaging 3.7 points per-36 minutes. 260 players have recorded at least 60 minutes of playing time since November 12th. Of that group, Cory Joseph is dead last in points per-36. At first glance, it’s surprising that a team could play winning basketball with so little firepower from their number one point guard.

However, those numbers don’t appear to affect the Kings ability to win games. Joseph is initiating the offense that head coach Luke Walton wants and is playing strong defense at the point of attack. While scoring matters, so do the many other aspects of his game. Perhaps it’s best that Joseph continue to simply be a low usage, pass-first point guard who can be trusted to make the right decisions on both sides of the ball.

His passing and defending numbers have been impressive indeed. Joseph posted a career-high 14 assists against the Suns on Tuesday and is giving up a measly 31.1% on field goal attempts defended since moving into the starter role. Admittedly, that would all be a lot more impressive if he weren’t shooting only 20% himself. Joseph is easily having his worst scoring and shooting year since he was a rookie, but that could and should improve.

Spot on in spot ups

As a team, Sacramento ranks fourth in the league in points-per-possession on spot up attempts. Even that impressive rank doesn’t give proper due to the three Kings that are all putting up elite numbers. In spot up efficiency, Bogdanovic ranks in the 91st percentile, Nemanja Bjelica in the 90th, and Buddy Hield in the 86th. Each of the three are doing it with a hefty volume as well, averaging at least 3.5 spot up attempts per game.

No other team has three players that efficient in spot ups on an equal or greater volume of attempts. In fact, no other team has even two players in that range — though the Houston Rockets are close with PJ Tucker and Danuel House Jr. In total, seven teams have one player that hits that mark, but Sacramento’s spot up triumvirate is completely unmatched so far this season.

On the flip side, the rest of the Kings are performing rather poorly as a group in spot up possessions. If you take Buddy, Bogi, and Bjelly out of the equation, the rest of the Kings would grade out to the 37th percentile. However, if Harrison Barnes and Trevor Ariza pick it up a bit — and if Dedmon remembers how to shoot again — the Kings could have the potential to finish the season as the best spot up team in the league.

Wake me up when October ends

The Kings were 0-5 in October — the only winless team in the NBA. They ranked 27th in offensive rating, 26th in defensive rating, and were dead last at 30th in overall net rating. They also ranked 29th in true shooting percentage, 27th in rebounding percentage, and were 26th in assist-to-turnover ratio. Put it all together and you had the undisputed worst team in the NBA.

In November the Kings are 6-2. They rank 3rd in offensive rating and 12th in defensive rating, which is good for the 11th best overall net rating in the league. Their true shooting percentage has skyrocketed to 2nd best, while their rebounding percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio have both recovered nicely to 11th and 15th place in the league, respectively.

So what’s real and what isn’t? Which version of the Kings is more representative of how the team will play going forward? It’s too soon to say for sure. Kings fans would certainly like to think that these November trends will keep up, but chances are that the team evens out somewhere into the middle of their highest highs and their lowest lows. Regardless, Sacramento has shown impressive signs of growth despite missing key players.

The new philosophies from coach Walton seem to be more positive than negative, and the Kings know they made at least a couple of quality free agent signings. Kings fans don’t have to turn their attention to next year’s draft prospects, but it’s also probably too early to start dreaming of a playoff berth. On the year the Kings are hovering around .500, and considering how October went, that’s not too shabby at all. What a change one month can make.