Last night, I saw something beautiful: I saw the Sacramento Kings’ offense give up 21 turnovers, the first time they surpassed the 20-turnover mark since October 29, 2022. No, I’m not being sarcastic. I really mean it. I was happy to see that. Of course, after back-to-back blowouts at the hands of the Houston Rockets, I was thrilled to see the Kings win against the Portland Trailblazers, regardless of how. But the uncharacteristically high turnover count was especially pleasing to see. It was the product of a willingness and ability to experiment with a new style of Kings offense that could bear fruit for many games or even seasons to come.
Fast-Paced Kings Offense
In their back-to-back games against the Rockets on Saturday and Monday, the Sacramento Kings lost by 18 and then 25 points, with their offense failing to reach the 100-point mark in either game. And as bad as those numbers look, the eye test made the games feel even uglier than the numbers would indicate. A downtrodden but composed Head Coach Mike Brown answered for his team’s disappointing performances in Monday’s post-game interview, acknowledging that something had to change but confident that his group would indeed respond constructively to the losses.
Specifically, Mike Brown referenced the need for the group to commit more to their identity as a fast-paced team on the court, something that hasn’t come easy for the Kings since October 29, when De’Aaron Fox went down with an ankle injury in the 4th quarter, punctuating a heroic 37-point performance that paved the way for an overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Fox is arguably the fastest player in the league and the main reason why the current coaching staff is trying to mold the Sacramento Kings’ offense into a unit of speed demons. Actually, it’s the same drum that the Kings’ coaches have been beating since De’Aaron came into the league—Dave Joerger used to harp on it, then Luke Walton, and now Mike Brown.
Kings’ Offensive Struggles
They took a good step in the right direction last year, with a visibly more fast-paced play style that made the 2022-23 Sacramento Kings’ offense the greatest offense in NBA history. As a result, they clinched the 3rd seed in the Western Conference, ending a 16-year playoff drought. But with Kevin Huerter and Keegan Murray shooting 40%+ from 3, and Malik Monk having stretches of dominance from beyond the arc, it was easy at times to just get the ball into the half-court, whip it around the perimeter, or wait for Domantas Sabonis to set a screen and hand off the ball to one of their sharpshooters.
To be sure, this was oftentimes an effective strategy last season, but it wasn’t always conducive toward speeding up their pace. And this season, with Huerter, Murray, Monk, and even Sabonis struggling with their shots, they just can’t rely on that style of play, especially without the gravity of De’Aaron Fox spacing the floor.
High Turnover Count, High Hopes
So why was I happy about the Sacramento Kings’ 21 turnovers last night, when they usually average just 13? Because they were the result of a demonstrably faster style of play that saw the Kings pushing the basketball and looking for passes into the paint. Sure, many of the passes were ill-advised, some of the full-court lobs were downright cringy, and the sheer volume of turnovers at key moments in the 4th quarter was especially taxing on my cardiovascular system. But all of that is normal for a team that’s not used to playing that brand of basketball.
The other side of the coin of the Sacramento Kings’ offense from last night is that they also had 32 assists on 41 baskets—and that was without their All-Star point guard. Before last night, they were averaging just 25 on the season and it was pretty rare to see them surpass the 30-mark last season. On top of that, playing more aggressively earned them 38 free throw attempts—19 for Malik Monk alone, who was otherwise having a poor shooting night. They were even able to foul out the Blazers’ rising star Shaedon Sharpe, which gave them an important edge going into overtime. Another hugely significant bright spot was the fact that Domantas Sabonis finally had a monster game, coming up one assist shy of a 27-point triple-double.
Remember I mentioned that 20-turnover game the Kings had in October 2022? Well, that was their first win of the 2022-23 season, after an 0-4 start. So, despite a somewhat disappointing start to this season, I like what I saw out of the Sacramento Kings last night and I’m looking forward to seeing more of it, even (and especially) when De’Aaron Fox returns.