One of the great early stories of this young NBA season is the Sacramento Kings, who stand at 5-1 as of this writing, with a game against the depleted Oklahoma City Thunder coming tonight.
Looking over the teams’ stats this year, they don’t have the profile of an elite team. Their point differential is 9th in the league, and they have an offense that ranks 12th in efficiency and a defense that ranks 9th. They don’t shoot a ton of 3s (29th in the league in attempts) and they give up the second most attempts from deep in the league. Generally, these aren’t the types of stats that you’d like to see from an elite team.
So what has made them so good so far? Well, they do one thing on a level that far eclipses the rest of the league and, while it doesn’t explain all their success so far, it is obviously a big component. The Kings get to the line a ton, almost 40 times per game, and more than the prolific Houston Rockets (at the time of this writing) despite playing in one less game than Houston. They are also 2nd in FT%, so they’re converting those opportunities, as well.
The bulk of these attempts and makes come from a player who is an early candidate for both Most Improved and Most Valuable Player this year: DeMarcus Cousins. “Boogie,” as he’s affectionately known around the league, has an absurd 30.3 PER (3rd in the league) and is shooting 50% from the floor and 81% from the free throw line on 10.5 attempts per game. Add in his typically-prolific rebounding and you have a player who is suddenly near the top of just about anyone’s MVP rankings.
While we’ll get to how to best use the Kings in NBA 2K15, it’s useful to figure out how the Kings have been successful so far in real life, as well.
One, they’re using Demarcus Cousins in a variety of situations:
Here, they give him the ball in the high post and let him use his physical gifts to drive past Miles Plumlee (22) for the layup. Note how the offense clears out after the pass is made, maximizing Cousins’ room to operate.
Again, Cousins gets the ball way out (almost to the 3 point line) on the left wing to let him get his defender on his hip and drive right to the basket:
Here, Cousins’ speed forces the crash down from Eric Bledsoe, who fouls Cousins to prevent the layup. These are similar plays, and it’s impressive to see a man Cousins’ size get a clear out for a drive and be successful with it.
The Kings also get Boogie the ball down low:
This is just 1-on-1 bully play in the post, and Cousins has the gifts to finish this amongst 3 defenders.
If you want to use the Kings similarly to how they operate in real life, you’ll have to spend a lot of time practicing post moves and up-and-unders in NBA 2K15, because this is the bulk of Cousins’ game.
The other key contributor for the Kings is perpetual advanced stats-whipping boy, Rudy Gay.
Gay is an interesting player physically. He’s a huge, agile guy with an enormous wingspan and good skills as a ball-handler. For his career, he’s a mediocre shooter, and the biggest problem with him has been his willingness to shoot terrible shots outside of the flow of the offense.
In Sacramento, he’s had a good run overall. Through 61 games with the Kings, his PER has been around 20 (20.8 so far this year), up from his below-average number with the Raptors and from his career with Memphis where he was at 16.1.
One of the key differences in his game this year has to do with his shooting from the midrange. His long 2’s (categorized as shots that are longer than 16 feet but not 3 pointers) are currently at a career low, while his attempts from 3 are creeping up to some of his career highs. He (and the Kings) should probably be taking more 3s, as noted earlier, but they’re not taking the long 2s that are the hallmark of inefficient offenses.
Gay’s size and length make him an ideal wing post player in real life and NBA 2K15, and the Kings are using him smartly:
The smaller Wes Matthews has no chance in this matchup, but at least forces Gay into a tough jumper that Rudy is able to hit, thanks to his length.
Gay is probably a prototypical Pick and Pop/Fade guy, as shown here:
He’s so wide and agile that he’s able to screen for Darren Collison and pop out for the open midrange jumper. These types of shots, not contested ones, are the ideal shots for Rudy.
Now that we’ve seen how the Kings operate in real life, let’s take a look at what you can do with them in NBA 2K15.