Are the Sacramento Kings a Playoff Team?
If playoffs were determined by player recognition and how popular of a name each player had, the Sacramento Kings would be near the top of the NBA.
Unfortunately for them, basketball doesn't work like that.
Popular names such as DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, and Rajon Rondo have lead the Kings to an 18-23 record so far this season, which is good enough to cling to the 8 seed for now. While that is nowhere near elite company, they are taking a step in the right direction considering the Kings' 2014-15 season ended with a 29-53 record.
When you watch Sacramento play or look at their statistics, it is obvious what they are good and bad at. To oversimplify it intentionally, the Sacramento Kings are good at offense and the Sacramento Kings are bad at defense.
When it comes to scoring, the Kings are near the top of the league. They have an above average Offensive Rating of 106.0, which ranks them ninth among all NBA teams.
That Offensive Rating helps them achieve their high rank of third in the league with 106.4 points per game.
A benefit to the Kings is that their points are pretty spread out among their team. Cousins leads the team with 26.2 points per game, Gay adds 17.9, and four other players average at least 11.1 points per game.
As a team, they are also shooting relatively well. The Kings have a 51.2 percent Effective Field Goal Percentage, which ranks sixth. On top of shooting a high percentage, they also shoot often with their league-leading Pace of 99.6 possessions per 48 minutes.
The Kings play the volume game, they are able to get more possessions in a game than any other team. The downside to their quick pace is that their opponents are also able to get more possessions than any other team.
Mix that with their below average defense, and it leads to a problem for Sacramento.
When it comes to stopping the other team from scoring, the Kings are near the bottom of the league. As I stated above, their fast pace leads to a lot of possessions for opponents. While this strategy can definitely work (see: Golden State Warriors), it isn't for Sacramento.
A major reason why, is the fact that opponents own a 51.6 percent Effective Field Goal percentage against the Kings, the fifth highest mark in the league.
The Kings are 22nd in Defensive Rating (107.5), and they are allowing a league-worst 107.9 points per game. This is by far the biggest weakness to their game.
Sacramento can score with teams, but they can't stop teams from scoring on them. Until that is addressed, the Kings will not be a true contender for a championship or even a deep playoff run. They may be able to sneak into the playoffs, but don't expect anything crazy from them.
Our power rankings have them ranked 21st -- and 9th in the Western Conference. A big reason our projections don't like them, aside from everything listed above, is the personnel on the team.
According to our in-house nERD metric, which indicates how many wins above or below .500 a player would make a league-average team over a full season as a starter, Cousisn (3.5) is the team's best player. No surprise there.
But the only other player with a positive nERD and at least 20 minutes per game is Kosta Koufos (1.2 nERD, 20.8 minutes). Both Willie Cauley-Stein (1.9 nERD, 18.1 minutes per game) and Quincy Acy (1.3 nERD, 11 minutes per game) are positive, but each have played fewer than 28 games.
If you are a fan of Player Efficiency Rating, Cousins makes a decent showing as he ranks ninth with a 24.15 PER. It quickly goes downhill from there, as Rondo is second on the Kings, ranking 84th in the league. Rudy Gay comes in at 97th among all NBA players. To put that in context, the two surrounding players around him are Marcus Thornton and Jae Crowder.
There have been some rumors about Gay potentially being traded. This may not be a terrible move for Sacramento. He is in the first year of a three-year contract extension costing the Kings on average of $13.3 million per year. Losing Gay would definitely hurt the offense a bit, but they may be able to improve on the defensive end, which is the Achilles' heal of this team.
Our algorithms currently give the Kings a 38.1 percent chance to make the playoffs, the ninth highest odds in the Western Conference.