What the Sacramento Kings really need to do
DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo have figured one thing out, the only thing better than winning, is winning consistently. The self-proclaimed ‘Best Big Man’ in the NBA and the more than temperamental floor general are starting to put a show together.
Statistically speaking, this duo draws huge similarities to two all-time greats: the second-highest point scorer in the history of the game and the leading assist provider ever. However, the Kings are still not winning enough. After dropping the double-OT thriller to the Hornets, even more questions are going to be raised over the Kings’ defense. An offensive juggernaut when rolling, the Kings boast of an awful defense at best.
To draw the similarities and the missing link, let’s go back a decade and a half, to the late 80s and early 90s and about 600 miles from Sacramento to Salt Lake City, Utah, to the home of the Utah Jazz. The Jazz franchise of that era is widely remembered for two Hall-of-Famers, Karl Malone and John Stockton, who played for the Jazz for a remarkable 19 seasons, albeit without an NBA Championship. The similarities first:
The Malone-Cousins syndrome
While it is way too premature to compare Cousins to one of the best Power Forwards to step on to the court, numbers don’t lie. For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to take the 1988-89 season numbers and rack them up against the ongoing 2015-16 per game numbers:
Malone: 29.1 points (2nd in the league), 10.7 rebounds (5th in the league), 2.7 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.8 steals
Cousins: 27.6 points (3rd in the league), 11.4 rebounds (4th in the league), 2.7 assist, 1.3 blocks, 1.3 steals
The Stockton-Rondo way of facilitating
Rondo is one of the best floor generals and assist providers of this era, and he has proven that enough times. Stockton is probably the best in that category, EVER, and he has proven that over and over again, more precisely, for a staggering 9 consecutive seasons as the assist-leader in the league. While Stockton was also one of the best at stealing the ball, Rondo brings in a rebounding element to the game as well. Here’s a look at their 1988-89 v/s 2015-16 per game stats:
Stockton: 17.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, 13.6 assists (League leader), 0.2 blocks, 3.2 steals (League leader)
Rondo: 11.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 11.8 assists (League leader), 0.2 blocks, 1.8 steals
The real difference
While the Jazz of 1988-89 were a championship caliber team seeded 2nd in the West, the Kings are just about in the playoff race currently sitting in 8th position in the Western Conference. The difference, an often underrated phenomenon in today’s game, a Center who can control the D. The 1989 Utah Jazz had Mark Eaton, who was voted Defensive Player of the Year that season.
While Eaton alone averaged 3.8 blocks (Utah was 3rd in the league in shots blocked), the Kings of this season average a meager 4.2 blocks (good or let’s say bad enough for 23rd in the league). The Jazz allowed a league-lowest 99.7 points per game that season, the Kings are allowing a league-highest 107.2 points per game this season. No secret sauce here, what the Kings really need is pretty much an open secret!
The Jazz seeded 2nd in the West were upset by the Warriors seeded 7th in the first round of the Playoffs that year. If the playoffs were to happen today, the Warriors would be seeded 1st in the West and would play the Kings, who would be seeded 8th. Any uncannily similar upsets brewing this time?