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Three best five-man lineups for Kings with a look towards the playoffs

Who will get the minutes come playoff time.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sacramento Kings are competing at a high level and look as though they will be playing some postseason basketball in 2023. Though they are exceeding all expectations so far, there are still some questions regarding their sub-par defense.

One question I have, is how would their defense look in a playoff series?

The Kings have been a bottom-10 defense in the league all year and are currently seventh-worst going into the game against the Philadelphia 76ers with a defensive rating of 115.1. They are also the third-worst interior defense in the league, allowing 54.7 points in the paint each night. Not the stats you expect to see from a team currently in position to have home-court advantage in the playoffs... I love saying that.

But is the Kings’ defense truly as bad as the overall stats say? On a recent episode of JJ Redick’s podcast, The Old Man and the Three, Redick breaks down some very interesting defense stats that may surprise Kings’ fan. He broke down the offensive and defensive ratings of the three lineups with the most minutes for this seasons Kings.

Lineup 1

To no surprise, the starting lineup of De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison barnes, Keegan Murray and Domantas Sabonis has by far the most minutes for the Sacramento Kings. This unit has an offensive Rating of 119.0, which would be a league best by any team, and a defensive rating of 110.5 which would be fourth-best in the league. They have a net rating of +8.5.

Obviously this lineup is the most talented in every aspect of the game. Every player is productive in multiple ways and all five are trusted in clutch time. However, they do not have the best offensive rating nor the best defensive rating of these three lineups.

Lineup 2

The unit with the second-most minutes is when Fox gets subbed out. The group of Davion Mitchell, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray and Domantas Sabonis has an offensive rating of of 123.5 and a defensive rating of 108.2. Better on both sides of the ball and a net rating of +15.3.

Not much is different between this group and the first group. The biggest change is taking away what Fox provides on offense for what Mitchell provides on defense. What’s interesting though is that this unit not only has the best defensive rating of any Kings’ lineup, but they improve on offense as well.

Lineup 3

The Kings’ third-most used group is when Murray gets subbed out and Hurter moves to the three. When De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes and Domantas Sabonis are on the court together, they have an offensive rating of 128.0 — a historically good rating — and a defensive rating of 118.0. With a net rating of +10, this group’s offense is good enough to cover for points they’ll allow.

This unit is the worst of the bunch defensively by a mile. However, they are also the best offensively by a solid margin as well. With the swap of Murray for Monk, the Kings lose rebounding and a little bit of three-point shooting depending on what kind of night Monk is having. But they gain another skilled facilitator with enormous offensive potential and a few more years of experience.

So to answer my question from earlier, the Kings are actually not as bad on defense as the overall numbers say. Their two most-used lineups are actually quite good on both sides of the ball. Even when they do have a bad defensive lineup, the offense is so good that it makes up for it.

Going back to my earlier question about playoff defense. I think the Kings defense would actually look a lot better than people think in a series. With Mike Brown being the defensive guru he is, when the first two lineups are on the floor the Kings should continue to play very well on both sides of the ball. Even when their top defensive units are not out there, their offensive output should be able to hold the opposition at bay.

Another aspect that analysts can not measure, is the amount of heart and will power a team or player can muster in a big moment. As the saying goes, “big time players make big time plays in big time games.” With a motivator and true player’s coach like Brown, I’m willing to bet we’ll see another gear from the Kings on defense when the moment arises. A lot of the guys on this roster haven’t gotten the sort of postseason experience they’ve dreamed of since they were kids. You better believe they’re going to leave it all out there on the court.