Stat Guides: Breaking Down the Kings

What do the numbers tell us about the Kings’ struggles? The first in a series of Cleaning the Glass Stats guides, from contributor Rohit Naimpally.

By Rohit Naimpally

This is one in a series of guides that will hopefully be helpful in demonstrating how to use Cleaning the Glass data to analyze players and teams. Whenever a specific stat is referenced, a video will demonstrate how to locate and parse out that number on Unless specified otherwise, all data is from Cleaning the Glass, and all stats were current through the end of the 2020-21 regular season.

In his sixteenth season in the league, Chris Paul helped end the Phoenix Suns’ playoff drought. Paul was a rookie the last time another beleaguered franchise, the Sacramento Kings, were in the playoffs. Heading into the 2021-22 season, what do the Kings need to focus on in order to finally make the postseason?

The Kings don’t seem to struggle on offense. The Kings scored over 114 points per 100 possessions in the 2020-21 season, the best their offense has ever been. Even accounting for the league-wide explosion in offense, the Kings ranked in the top half of the league for the first time in over a decade.

The Kings cut somewhat against the analytic grain, with a full third of their field goal attempts coming from the mid-range. Getting more granular, the majority of these mid-rangers were of the short mid-range variety (think floaters and push shots). Only the Memphis Grizzlies and Washington Wizards attempted a larger percentage of their shots from short mid-range. The Kings largely avoided long mid-rangers.

In so far as they attempt a lot of those short mid-rangers, the Kings may be leaning into a strength of theirs. They shot over 45% from that distance in the 2020-21 season, ranking sixth in the league. Of the six Kings players that led the team in minutes played, only Buddy Hield ranked below the 58th percentile for his position. 



So set aside the offense; looking back at the Kings’ four factors above, the defensive numbers jump out. The Kings surrendered 118 points per 100 possessions, last in the league by a sizable margin. Opponents scored in every which way, whether in transition or in the half court. Sacramento gave up nearly 101 points per 100 possessions in the half court; only the best half court offenses league-wide mustered that.

That poor defense was evident on miscues like this one that allowed Joe Ingles to walk into a wide open three:

The Kings did a reasonable job taking care of the ball; however, when they did turn the ball over, it proved costly. Teams scored 146 points per 100 possessions off of live ball Kings turnovers.


Teams shot 38% from 3 against the Kings, a bottom ten mark. Some of that can be chalked up to bad luck even as the Kings had their share of good fortune; opponents shot under 38% on corner 3s, placing the Kings eighth in the league in defending those shots.

Stepping away from the random fluctuations of opponent three point shooting, the Kings offered very little resistance at the rim. Opponents made 67% of their attempts at the rim, one of the worst marks in the league1. Moreover, Sacramento also placed near the bottom of the league in opponent offensive rebound rate. Teams grabbed 28% of their missed shots against Sacramento and coupled with the Kings’ leaky rim defense, it is little surprise that the Kings also ranked near the bottom of the league in points yielded on putbacks.

With De’Aaron Fox already knocking on the door of an All Star berth and the promising play of rookie Tyrese Haliburton, the Kings have a core around which to build a team capable of making the postseason. To make that next step though, they will have to clean up some of the blue in their defensive metrics and consistently get defensive stops.

Rohit Naimpally is the Innovation Team Lead at The People Lab, where he works on research to strengthen the public sector and the communities it serves. You can find his basketball writing at From The Logo, and can follow him on Twitter @rohitnaimpally.

  1. Interestingly, the Kings have ranked near the bottom of the league in rim defense for as long as we have tracked this stat, so some of this may be due to scorekeeping effects. 
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