After defeating the Mavericks on Sunday, the Kings have won six straight games and catapulted themselves up to fourth place in the Western Conference with an 8-4 record. They’re rolling, and they look better than last season’s team.
Defensively, they’ve clearly improved and there’s a lot to be said about that, but another area Sacramento has seen growth in is their work on the glass, particularly on the offensive end.
“We can’t just rely on Domas (Sabonis) to get 20 or 18 rebounds every night,” head coach Mike Brown said after applauding the “collective effort” on the boards in the win over the Thunder a week-plus back. “We all got to make sure we hit bodies and go get it.”
So far, they’re definitely going after it.
To start, the Kings were pretty good at limiting opponents’ offensive boards and second chance points. They allowed an average of 9.7 for 12.2 points with one of the better defensive rebounding percentages a year ago.
Through 12 games this season, they’ve actually bolstered those figures, allowing 8.6 offensive rebounds for 11.3 points.
One of the players that has really helped in this regard has been Kevin Huerter, who sat out Sunday with a sprained finger. He’s averaging 4.6 total rebounds per game, up from 3.3 last year. In fact, just before Huerter emerged from his early season struggles, it was his rebounding efforts that made an impact and gave him some room to regain a rhythm.
“The coaching staff has really challenged a lot of us this year to do more of the little things, defensively, on the boards,” Huerter explained after a practice at the beginning of the month. “And for me, (they) challenged me every game to go in and help us on the glass more than I did last year, so that’s definitely a focus of mine going in each game.”
It’s a team-wide challenge, the results to which have also shown up on the offensive glass.
The Kings were near the bottom of the league last year in offensive rebounds (9.5 per game) and second chance points (13.3), but they’ve ticked those numbers up. They’re averaging 11.1 offensive rebounds for 15.8 points, placing themselves in the top half of the NBA.
In these previous six games, Sacramento’s averaged 11.3 offensive rebounds with a little more success converting second chance opportunities at 17.5 second points per game. In four of those six, the Kings have had at least 11 offensive boards and 16 second points (three contests featured 20-plus).
Regarding those offensive rebounds, on the season, Sabonis is averaging 3.6, up from 3.2 a year ago; 1.7 for Keegan Murray, up from 1.3; 1.2 for De’Aaron Fox, up from 0.5; 0.8 for Malik Monk, up from 0.4; and JaVale McGee is averaging 1.3, up from 0.7 a year ago with Dallas and also up from Chimezie Metu’s 0.7 last season.
Against the Mavs, the Kings didn’t have any offensive rebounds or second points, but they ended the game with 14 for 22 points, snagging 6 and 5 offensive rebounds in the second and fourth quarters respectively.
Brown described Sunday’s positive differential as “high level.” In addition, he said it’s an area of the game that they frequently “preach” as coaches, particularly assistant Jay Triano, who runs the offense and is a “big believer” in generating extra opportunities to score, according to the head coach.
The team’s recent work on the glass illustrates a strong loyalty to embracing their collective effort to do the little things, which is what it takes to get where they want to go.
“We talked about this during our opening night team dinner, that the details matter,” coach Brown recounted after last week’s win over the Lakers. “For us to go from good to great, there’s not a lot of room. And so you have to look at the small things and magnify them, focus on them, lock in on them.”
Not doing or embracing the little things is a sign of complacency. As Brown said on media day, “the enemy of the great is the good,” which means, in order to be great, it takes a ceaseless hunger.
The rebounding may be the biggest indicator of how the Kings are collectively bought into what it takes to be a true contender. It can’t stop, and if anything, it has to be revved up as the season goes on.
They’re capable of it, and it’ll be intriguing to see if their growth in this area, and overall, continues to ascend.
It looks promising at this point. The Kings look like a major player in the West, which isn’t surprising, but the emphasis on the little things is really aiding that quest.