Before new head coach George Karl stepped in and implemented some of his own offensive ideas with the Sacramento Kings, the team was becoming used to playing at a slower pace and relying more on center DeMarcus Cousins to be the primary and sometimes only option on that end of the floor.
Cousins was getting the ball on almost every single possession and more often than not, taking the shot. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad strategy because Cousins is one of the better scoring centers in the NBA, as he’s averaged 23.6 points on 17.6 shot attempts per game. However, he’s not the only potent option the team has on offense.
Forward Rudy Gay and guards Ben McLemore and Darren Collison are all able to score the basketball with consistency in the right situations. Gay is a midrange shooter with the ability to finish at the rim, Collison excels at getting the ball in transition and getting to the rim off the fast break, and McLemore is a deadly outside shooter with plenty of range on his shot.
What Karl has done for this team has made a difference in terms of offensive execution because the ball is no longer sticking in one particular player’s hands for an extended period of time.
When watching the Kings since Karl’s arrival, the team has been moving the ball much more effectively in the halfcourt, looking for the open man instead of a particular shot. Sacramento has also been playing at an even faster pace, not worrying too much about slowing the game down to get Cousins the ball in the post.
In turn, Cousins has been running the floor now more than ever, something that he is fully capable of doing given his incredible athleticism and ball-handling skills for a big man.
One thing that really plagued the Kings before Karl became the head coach was shot selection. Too often, the ball would stop in one player’s hands for an extended period of time, leaving plenty of opportunity for the defense to key in and force a bad shot by the offense. Now, the number one priority is to get turnovers on defense and force missed shots in order to get the ball out on the break and move it until it’s in the hands of someone who can get a quick and effective look at the basket.
This kind of offense that is focused on sharing the basketball versus a lot of isolation sets has been taking the league by storm once again, with teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Atlanta Hawks really embracing a team-oriented philosophy instead of just leaning on one or two players to carry the team.
It’s not like teams haven’t played the game the right way for a number of years. Rather, it’s more that star players have become more unselfish of late, and have really bought into making their teammates around them better and getting them better looks more often versus only going out there and worrying about getting theirs every night and thinking they can win games on their own.
The coaching around the league has also improved, as there are a lot of young and gifted basketball minds running teams today, with plenty of veteran coaches still employing all of their systems that have reaped success over the years.
Karl is one of those experienced coaches that has succeeded by having his teams share the ball and play as fast as possible. The balance between slow and fast still hasn’t been found yet as there have still been a few consistency issues, but there’s no denying that Karl has this team heading in the right direction moving forward.
Cousins will always be the most important cog in the Kings’ offense, but that doesn’t mean the other players can’t get involved either. Karl is making sure everyone touches the ball and gets looks at the basket, and so far, the players seem to have begun to buy in. Now it’ll all be about developing the system and continuing to look for the best players that fit that particular system.
Karl is changing the culture and playing style in Sacramento one call at a time, which is what the Kings have really needed all along.
*Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.