The Kings often played offense last season as if they were five players in a phone booth trying to pry the ball from each other.
They were congested on the court, with every player trying to get the ball from a teammate so he could have his turn to shoot. And even when the Kings tried to spread things out, odds were the opposing defense wasn’t too concerned.
The ball didn’t move enough, players didn’t move enough and the Kings didn’t shoot well from the perimeter. They finished tied for 27th in three-point shooting at 33.3 percent. Their best three-point shooter was Isaiah Thomas at 34.9 percent, tied for 105th in the league.
While the Kings have several areas they’d like to address during today’s NBA draft, either with their No. 8 pick or via a trade, improving their outside shooting is the priority.
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To give center DeMarcus Cousins more room in the post and forward Rudy Gay more lanes to attack the basket, the Kings need to stretch defenses by adding perimeter shooters.
“I think it’s a very important factor for the draft,” general manager Pete D’Alessandro said. “I think it’s something we have to take seriously and take a strong look at, for sure.”
Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Michigan’s Nik Stauskas, considered the best perimeter shooters in the draft, are options if the Kings do not trade the pick.
While the Kings remain hopeful that guard Ben McLemore will become a more consistent shooter in his second season, they need as many good shooters as possible to open space on the floor and create driving and passing opportunities.
As the San Antonio Spurs showed while beating the Miami Heat to win the NBA championship, good three-point shooting and ball movement are tough to defend, especially with zone defenses. The Spurs shot 39.7 percent from three-point range during the regular season to lead the NBA, and they shot 46.6 percent in the Finals.
“For Tony Parker and the Spurs, they’ve created such a legacy on spacing and shooters in the corners,” former All-Star guard and NBA TV analyst Steve Smith said. “If you look at a basketball court, if you have two shooters in the corners, it opens so much room for everyone else. Under the new rules, you’ve got to be able to shoot the basketball. They can take away your athleticism, your one-on-one ability with the new rules on the defensive end.”
Smith, who shot a career-high 47.2 percent on three-pointers during the 2001-02 season with the Spurs, said the new zone defenses hurt the Kings.
With Cousins, Gay and Thomas playing isolation basketball last season, the Kings finished last in assists. And the lack of passing and spacing meant they often found themselves trying to score in a crowd.
“The ball can’t stick anymore because teams can load up on you and it makes you so much easier to guard – like Sacramento, which has some really talented guys,” Smith said. “But with no movement and no spacing, it’s an easy cover.”
The Kings are intrigued by power forwards who can proficiently shoot the three-pointer. That’s why they started Patrick Patterson to begin last season before he became part of the trade to Toronto that landed Gay.
And it’s a reason the Kings will look for players who can move the ball and make shots when they get open.
“I think we saw that this year with San Antonio, but we talked about that all year,” D’Alessandro said. “I think shooting is a big thing. It’s not just shooting, though, because if you look at most of those players, they’re versatile players. They do more than just shoot. So we always talk about shooting at every position and also having another skill you add to it. It’s certainly a skill that’s needed in this NBA.”