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Kings big men should get on a roll early

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Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes excelled as roll men last season.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings finished 2142 plays out of the pick-and-roll last season, which accounted for 22.6% of their total possessions. Along with transition (21%) and spot-up (15.9%) looks, the pick-and-roll was a major component of Sacramento’s offense in 2018-19.

It was also the weakest play type of the three for the Kings. The team finished 8th in points-per-possession when in transition and 11th in points-per-possession on spot-ups. But they were below league average by the same metric whether the roll man (19th) or the ball handler (22nd) finished the play.

However, that weakness could become a strength next season with the arrival of two new big men in Sacramento. Both Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes have better resumes as roll men than any players on last year’s Kings team.

Arriving Roll Men

Player PnR Frequency Possessions Points Per Possession Percentile
Player PnR Frequency Possessions Points Per Possession Percentile
Dewayne Dedmon 21.3% 139 1.281 83rd
Richaun Holmes 32.9% 161 1.255 82nd

In fact, Dedmon and Holmes were more efficient on a high volume than any player in Sacramento has been during their 13-year playoff drought. The Kings haven’t had a roll man who scored 1.2 points-per-possession on a minimum of 100 possessions since Brad Miller in 2004-05. Next year they’ll have two.

In order to understand the potential upgrade, lets take a look at the big men departing from the Kings roster. Both Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein were utilized frequently in the pick-and-roll, but will not be with the team next season.

Departing Roll Men

Player PnR Frequency Possessions Points Per Possession Percentile
Player PnR Frequency Possessions Points Per Possession Percentile
Willie Cauley-Stein 27.4% 256 1.148 63rd
Kosta Koufos 28.0% 53 0.736 9th

While Koufos was downright awful when diving to the basket last year, Willie was significantly above average. Cauley-Stein performed well at this aspect of the game, and ultimately it was other weaknesses that caused Sacramento to seek a replacement at the center position. But even in that area of relative strength, the Kings may have found a way to improve.

With Dedmon in particular, the pick-and-roll should be much easier to run. The paint would often get clogged when Willie was not running in transition or diving off a pick. Dedmon gives the Kings a real pick-and-pop threat, which they did not have last season, and his spot-up ability will also allow players like Marvin Bagley III or Harry Giles to be the roll man while Dedmon spaces out to the corner.

Speaking of last year’s rookies, another source of improvement in this area rests with them. Both of the young big men finished just below league average in efficiency.

Returning Rookies

Player PnR Frequency Possessions Points Per Possession Percentile
Player PnR Frequency Possessions Points Per Possession Percentile
Marvin Bagley 10.0% 93 1.043 45th
Harry Giles 20.4% 94 1.043 44th

Bagley and Giles will need to improve to solidify the pick-and-roll as a strength for the Kings, but at just 20 and 21 years-old, there is a good chance for that change to come naturally. Significant jumps in efficiency are common for bigs in their second season.

Just last year many sophomores showed improvement in the pick-and-roll. Lauri Markkanen jumped from 55th percentile to 74th. Zach Collins improved from 37th to 68th. Bam Adebayo went from 34th to 62nd. And John Collins jumped from 62nd all the way up to the 80th percentile.

Even if just one of the young bigs becomes an efficient roll man, that will give the Kings an impressive amount of options. With strong spot-up shooters like Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica and Bogdan Bogdanovic to space the floor, there will be a lot of room for Dedmon, Holmes, Bagley, or Giles to dive to the rim or for De’Aaron Fox to find a bucket for himself.

It might take some time for Sacramento to find the pairings that work best, but at least they aren’t in danger of getting stuck playing iso ball with two bigs working the paint anymore. Holmes should do well next to a shooter like Bjelica. Giles can mix and match at the 4 or the 5. And the projected starting frontcourt of Bagley and Dedmon will bring a ton of versatility, to the point where double pick-and-roll actions could quickly find their way into the playbook.

Whatever the lineups may be, it’s clear that Sacramento’s pick-and-roll personnel just got an upgrade. And that will bring efficiency to the starting five while breathing life into a once stagnant bench unit. The 2019-20 Sacramento Kings should get on a roll in no time.