SACRAMENTO KINGS

Three-point defense is an X-Factor for the Sacramento Kings

Feb 24, 2024, 3:23 PM | Updated: 3:33 pm

Devin Vassell #24 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots a three-point shot over De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sa...

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 22: Devin Vassell #24 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots a three-point shot over De'Aaron Fox #5 of the Sacramento Kings in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game at Golden 1 Center on February 22, 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)

After finishing last season 24th in defensive rating (116.0), Sacramento Kings head coach Mike Brown and his staff came into this year with a clear emphasis on improving that side of the ball.

With 27 games remaining in 2023-24, they currently rank 19th (116.2). While the number is nearly identical, NBA offenses have spiked this season, ranking them higher than the previous year relative to the rest of the league.

Ups and downs have occurred, but Brown has been primarily encouraged by his team’s recent defensive efforts. Encouraged, but he’s never satisfied, constantly searching for continued improvement.

Coming out of the All-Star break, the emphasis is on improving their three-point defense. Opponents are shooting 39.8 percent from three against the Sacramento Kings this season, the highest mark in the association.

After practice earlier this week, Brown shared that if the team were ‘average or slighty above’ at defending the three, they would rank around eight defensively.

“That’s pretty good at this point in the season,” he said. “That’s a huge jump. So, there are areas that we have to improve upon when it comes to closing out.”

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Those mentioned closeouts seem to be the primary focus in limiting the opposition’s long-distance conversions. Coming into every matchup, the Sacramento Kings label opposing players as ‘hot guys’ or ‘non-hot guys’ based on their ability to shoot the ball, which dictates what type of closeout is warranted.

“Teams aren’t feeling us as much as they should, so we really have to concentrate on our closeout defense,” Brown continued. “And it’s evident because what we call ‘hot guys’ are shooting about 40 percent against us, and ‘non-hot guys’ are shooting about 40 percent against us. Our closeouts have to be a lot better, and our sense of urgency on our closeouts – and when I say our closeouts, that means the proximity to where we closeout, how we contest, and the sense of urgency to get there.”

While it’s far from the first time this season that three-point defense has been discussed, specifically relating to closeouts, it’s crucial they clean that up moving forward.

One tricky factor in the equation is luck. Of course, the coaching staff and roster have plenty of areas they can clean up — and that should be their primary focus — but the rate at which open threes go down on any given night does have significant variance.

When Indiana was warming up in Golden 1 Center prior to their matchup earlier this season, their players were talking about how much they enjoy shooting in that building. Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards has shared a similar sentiment, calling G1C his favorite arena. Maybe it’s the slight lines, rims, court, who knows, but the Kings can’t worry about those variables and must focus on what is controllable.

They concede an average of 33.9 three-point attempts (10th most), yet just 17.8 per night are considered ‘wide-open’ by NBA.com’s tracking data.  That’s the 11th fewest ‘wide-open’ triples allowed by a team; 52.5 percent of opponents attempted triples against the Kings.

Yet, opponents are converting more of said looks against Sacramento (42.9 percent) than any other squad. The subsequent highest rates allowed have come against Brooklyn (21st in defensive rating), New York (9th), Chicago (16th), Atlanta (30th), Utah (25th), Charlotte (27th), and Miami (7th) — the varying caliber of defenses is apparent.

“That’s something that we need to get better at, and that’s something that we’ve been working on,” Chris Duarte said after Saturday’s practice. “We’ve got to get better at guarding outside the perimeter.”

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In their first showing post-All-Star break, the Sacramento Kings faced the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA, San Antonio. The Spurs came into the night shooting 33.9 percent from three on 36.5 attempts per night.

Throughout their Thursday night matchup in Golden 1 Center, they converted 11/25 from three (44.0 percent), with Devin Vassell going 3/4 from deep himself.

“Coach said we did a good job (against San Antonio),” Domantas Sabonis said. “We held them to 25 three-pointers, but they scored eleven. So, we held them to lower three-pointers, but we’ve got to contest and do a better job of not letting them make them.”

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Their upcoming Saturday night matchup on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers presents another opportunity for continued improvement. The Clippers rank second in three-point percentage (39.4 percent), heightening the importance of providing consistent engagement and multiple efforts when closing out.

Coach Brown and his staff are implementing slight variations to their closeout defense and tips regarding technique, but most of it comes down to the players’ awareness and execution.

If Sacramento can continue to clean up there and build offensively, they could build some positive momentum as the playoffs approach nearer and nearer.

What’s next for the Sacramento Kings?

Sacramento will board a short flight to Los Angeles this weekend as they will play the first game of a road home-back-to-back against the Clippers at crypto.com Arena.

The Clippers have had the Kings’ number this season, as Los Angeles has secured the first two regular-season matchups by an average of 17 points per contest.

Be sure to tune in right here on Sactown Sports 1140 for all of your Kings vs. Clippers coverage, beginning at 5:00 PM PST on Game Night before a 6:30 PM PST tip-off from downtown Los Angeles.

Upcoming Sacramento Kings Schedule

  • Sunday, February 25th – Kings @ Los Angeles Clippers – 6:30 PM PST
  • Monday, February 26th – Kings vs. Miami Heat – 7:00 PM PST
  • Wednesday, February 28th – Kings @ Denver Nuggets – 6:00 PM PST
  • Friday, March 1st – Kings @ Minnesota Timberwolves – 5:00 PM PST
  • Monday, March 4th – Kings vs. Chicago Bulls – 7:00 PM PST

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Three-point defense is an X-Factor for the Sacramento Kings