The importance of ‘spray threes’ in Sacramento’s free flowing offense

Mar 11, 2024, 7:45 PM | Updated: 7:46 pm

De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings shoots over Jabari Smith Jr. #10 of the Houston Rockets dur...

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 10: De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings shoots over Jabari Smith Jr. #10 of the Houston Rockets during the second half of an NBA basketball game at Golden 1 Center on March 10, 2024 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Despite head coach Mike Brown’s efforts to improve this Sacramento Kings’ squad defensively, the 2023-24 roster’s strength still revolves around their offense. Spray threes are an essential part of their production, and a few of their recent opponents have found ways to limit those looks as of late.

The Miami Heat and Houston Rockets specifically excelled by packing the paint defensively, forcing Sacramento’s stars into turnovers. De’Aaron Fox recorded a season-high seven turnovers in their 121-110 loss to the Heat, while Domantas Sabonis had nine in Sunday’s 112-104 loss to Houston.

From the Kings’ perspective, the game plan involved getting rid of the ball early when penetrating and playing off two feet, but their execution was flawed. Both instances led to a lack of spray threes for the surrounding shooters, and the turnovers mentioned above often led to easy transition points for their opposition on the other end.

At Monday’s practice, Coach Brown shared the various types of spray threes they seek and how they’re generated within the offensive flow.

His explanation started with “anytime you touch the paint,” which is vital to shrinking the defense and bringing in perimeter help defenders attempting to contain the dribble penetration.

Hitting the paint and spraying (passing) the ball out to shooters is one example. But that does not have to come solely from pick-and-roll, dribble-handoff, or isolation possessions.

“When that ball comes to me and I got a guy closing out to me, now that’s when the snap drive is available,” Brown said. “The snap drive is not always just available for me to score it because they may still be there from collapsing the first time, but the snap drive may now be I take one, two (dribbles), get in that paint, and now I spray it, and now that guy maybe kicks it.”

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Third is short-roll situations. With Sabonis’s high-caliber playmaking ability, the Kings often find him in the short roll after dribble-handoffs or in the pick-and-roll — meaning before he fully rolls to the basket, typically in the form of a pocket pass from the ball handler after one or two dribbles.

And the fourth and final example of a spray threes comes after offensive rebounds, which Sacramento has previously referred to as “dagger threes” as well.

When a player secures an offensive rebound, defenses are often left out of position while chasing the board or simply ball-watching in anticipation of an offensive opportunity in transition. That leaves a good opportunity to spray out to shooters on the perimitier.

“Those are the different ways you can spray the basketball, and we’re not doing a good job of that,” Brown continued. “We have to be better at than what we have been the last three games.”

Only the Memphis Grizzlies attempt more catch-and-shoot triples per night than Sacramento’s 28.0 per game. But the Kings have converted just 37.3 percent (20th in the NBA) on said attempts. When shots are falling, the Kings are a tough team to beat, but the opposite has rung true.

Sacramento is 28-8 in games where they tallied upwards of 35 percent from beyond the arc, and 12-28 when they fail to reach that mark — including 4-10 in games where they shot less than 30 percent from three.

“We have a lot of guys who can finish, make spectacular plays, things like that, but really just making the extra pass,” Harrison Barnes said after Monday’s practice. “I think that’s one of our biggest things and/or not playing into crowds and turning the ball over. I think that’s probably the two biggest areas where we can improve.”

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They are 31-4 when scoring 120 points or more, but 5-23 when tallying less. Again, this is a team that is heavily reliant on their offensive, ranking 13th (116.8) in offensive rating on the season and 5th (118.0) post-All-Star break.

That, in large part, is due to their defensive deficiences where they sit 20th (116.5) in defensive rating on the season, including 26th (118.5) in their nine games played after the All-Star break.

As Barnes mentioned, turnovers can be achillies heel for this team at times. Due to the aforementioned defensive struggles, the Kings need to not make life more difficuly on that end of the floor by giving transition opportunites to their opposition.

Taking care of the ball and spraying out to shooters is crucial, whether the shots are going down or not. It’s the nature of the NBA — some nights shots are simply going to miss, but Brown believes in sticking to their offensive identity and aiming to clean up the defensive side of the ball to allow for more leeway.

“Those are the areas that high level teams win most nights; defensively and then the possession game,” he said. “Because I’ve been with high level teams and the ball’s not always going to go in, even if you are playing the right way. It’s just the nature of the game.”

With just 19 games remaining in the 2023-24 regular season, the team in California’s capital will need to maintiain their offensive identity and playstyle by finding spray threes, providing consistent and purposeful player and ball movement, and limiting turnovers. In the meantime, any way they can improve defensively is a plus.

When is the next Sacramento Kings game?

Sacramento will continue its six-game homestand on Tuesday night when they face off against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Kings nearly defeated the Bucks on their home floor during an overtime thriller on January 14th that ended with Damian Lillard’s heart-breaking triple at the buzzer. Sacramento held a four-point lead with less than 20 seconds to go, but couldn’t hold off a late charge from Milwaukee.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Bucks coverage, beginning at 5:30 PM PST on Game Night before a 7:00 PM PST tip-off from downtown Sacramento.

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Upcoming Schedule

  • Tuesday, March 12th – Sacramento Kings vs. Milwaukee Bucks – 7:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, March 13th – Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers – 7:00 PM PST
  • Saturday, March 16th – Sacramento Kings vs. New York Knicks – 7:00 PM PST
  • Monday, March 18th – Sacramento Kings vs. Memphis Grizzlies – 7:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, March 20th – Sacramento Kings @ Toronto Raptors – 4:00 PM PST

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