Scouting the Kings: Lessons in Futility

By Quixem Ramirez

Offensive rating: Spurs – 109.7 (2nd), Kings – 103.1 (23rd)Defensive rating: Spurs – 103.2 (11th), Kings – 109.6 (29th)Pace: Spurs – 92.6 (7th), Kings – 94.7 (1st)Time: 9 p.m.TV: FSSWRadio: WOAI-AM 1200, KCOR-AM 1350.

March 28, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas (22) shoots the ball against San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9), forward DeJuan Blair (45), and center Tim Duncan (21) during the third quarter at Power Balance Pavilion. The Spurs defeated the Kings 117-112. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

Three things to watch

Defending the rim. Although the Kings rank 27th in TS% (an all encompassing metric that weights the value of free throws, 3-pointers and 2-pointers to provide a better judgement of shooting efficiency), they have done so despite their proficiency at getting to the rim. The Kings take 28.7 shots from the rim (league average is 24.8) and they convert these shots at a 62.3 percent clip. The Kings’, partly because of their athletic ability and partly because of their poor ball movement, offense predicates on crashing towards the rim, sometimes recklessly, with the hope that something good happens. They are able to get away, even though that’s probably an understatement given their 29th ranked offense, with this poor philosophy because of DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans. Cousins and Evans take about 14 shots per game at the rim which accounts for about half of the entire teams attempts. For context, the Kings’ duo takes more shots at the rim than the more established duos in Miami and Oklahoma City. The reason why, despite the proximity of the shots they attempt, they fail? Less than half (47.9 percent) of their attempts come from an assist, indicating that these attempts are of the difficult, contact seeking variety.

Isaiah Thomas. The diminutive point guard — standing at 5’9″ — out of the University of Washington has vastly outplayed his draft status (60th overall). In 60 games (32 starts), Thomas is averaging 11.4 points, 3.9 assists, 2.6 rebounds while shooting 44.8 percent from the field, 82.6 percent from the line and 37.4 percent from behind the arc. His 17.6 PER is the second highest mark on the entire team, only behind the perennial anomaly Cousins. Thomas, while not an elite passer by any stretch of the imagination, compensates with carefully ball handling and impressive shooting efficiency. Judging by his 57.1 TS%, Thomas already ranks in the top five among point guards that have played 40+ games and logged 20+ minutes. The only point guards that best Thomas are Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Mario Chalmers. That’s not bad company for a score first junior that didn’t seem to project well at the NBA level.

Spurs rotation. Now that the Spurs have won the first two games of a back-to-back-to-back, in a relatively easy fashion, the Spurs rotation will probably be shortened in anticipation for the Spurs-Lakes finale on Friday. And, thankfully, the Spurs are playing the Kings, a team notorious for their blistering pace and inefficient one-on-five offense. If Pop were to rest the Big Three tonight, the Spurs might still pull out a victory. The Spurs’ (hypothetical) victory is a testament to our depth and the Kings inability to play good basketball.

Final verdict. Spurs by nine. Don’t feel like I need to explain any further.