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Luke Walton says he wants Kings to have top-15 defense this season

The Kings ranked fifth in the NBA in defensive rating in the preseason.

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Sacramento Kings are a bad defensive team. Or should I say, the Kings have been a bad defensive team in recent seasons.

This season, they’ve played their way into a top-five defensive rating (97.6). Granted, it’s only been four games, and all of them have been preseason exhibitions, but it’s a trend that Kings head coach Luke Walton is hoping his team can carry into the regular season.

“15 is our goal,” Walton said of the team’s defensive rank at practice on Monday. “We’d love to be higher than that but we know we’re coming from 30, so anywhere above 15 is us reaching our goal, but we want to be higher than that.”

The last time the Kings ranked in the top half of the league in defensive rating was the 2005-06 season, which was also the last time they qualified for the postseason. Coincidence? Probably not.

That doesn’t mean that a top-15 defensive rating would automatically get them back into the postseason — last season, there were three teams with top-15 defensive ratings that didn’t make the playoffs — but a respectable defensive rating combined with their offensive rating from last season would almost certainly put them in the conversation.

The question is: is that a reasonable expectation for this team? That all depends on how much you buy into De’Aaron Fox’s willingness to buy into that end of the floor, whether or not you believe Davion Mitchell’s defense will immediately translate to the NBA and your opinion of Tristan Thompson and Alex Len as paint protectors.

If I had to guess, the Kings will be better on the defensive end, but I’m curious to see how much results dictate their effort. Like, they’re all in coming off of an undefeated preseason, but will they be that committed to the defensive end in the midst of a three-game losing streak? We’ll just have to wait and see.