The Sacramento Kings had an identity last season as a fast team. Led by De’Aaron Fox, the Kings played at a breakneck pace and it was fun even if it wasn’t always effective. This season Luke Walton has slowed the Kings back down. Way down. The Kings are currently last in the league in pace, a stunning fall from being one of the league’s fastest teams last year. Multiple media outlets have explained that Walton slowed things down because he needed to teach the team better defense and a better half-court offense. And to his credit, we’ve seen the team improve in these areas. The learning is happening, which is good, but I can’t help but wonder if Walton is going to take off the reins at some point this season.
It’s not that the Kings don’t have opportunities to run more than they have. The Kings are 5th in NBA in opponent turnover percentage, but just 14th in points off turnovers. For all the Kings’ struggles with turnovers, they’re forcing opponents to cough the ball up plenty as well. That comes back to the improved team defense. What would it look like if the Kings were converting those turnovers into fast break points?
We might expect the Kings to naturally pick up the pace a little with the return of De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III, even if it just comes in the form of opportunistic baskets like Fox’s brilliant outlet to Bagley against the Hornets.
That play didn’t come from a turnover, but it’s still the type of play that reminds us why Fox and Bagley were so good last season.
The Kings have found some level of success playing slow. And I think Walton was wise to slow the team down. We saw how bad the Kings were in half court sets and how bad the defense was last year. Now imagine how good the Kings could be if they were running, but still had a good defense and the ability to play in the half court when the break didn’t work. That’s the team I want to see.