The Whiteboard: The Sacramento Kings are bringing back the fastbreak

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The Sacramento Kings have been scoring at an absurd rate, with an offense powered in large part by a historic fastbreak attack.

After dropping their first four games of the season, the Sacramento Kings have been on an absolute tear, winning nine of their last 11 games and scoring an obscene 121.5 points per 100 possessions over that stretch. It’s an even more remarkable run when you consider that the Kings have a legitimate argument that both of their losses in this stretch (which came by a combined six points) were caused by incorrect calls on last-second possessions.

Elite shooting has been one of the major factors in their offensive success — they rank first in the league effective field goal percentage, but it’s not just a fluke of unsustainably hot shooting. Their system has been creating a ton of open looks, particularly by relentlessly pushing the ball after opponents’ misses.

The Kings currently have the fastest average possession time in the league after a defensive rebound, at just 9.8 seconds. And both that speed and their effectiveness make them enormous historical outliers — if they sustained this across the entire season they would be the fastest and most effective offense of the last 15 years after an opponent’s miss.

What makes the Sacramento Kings’ fastbreak so effective?

The open-court speed of players like De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk has been a huge driver of their fastbreak success. but it’s not the only one. The Kings don’t really stand out in the number of unassisted made baskets early in the shot clock — the plays where Fox grabs a defensive rebound and just beats everyone up the court for a layup.

But the Kings have already recorded 73 assisted makes after a defensive rebound and within the first seven seconds of the shot clock, more than any team in the league except the Utah Jazz.

Domantas Sabonis is averaging 6.0 assists per game and he’s been very aggressive in not just hit-ahead passes after a defensive rebound, but actually bringing the ball up the floor himself and getting the team into early offensive opportunities, particularly from beyond the arc. In 15 games, he’s already logged 10 assists for a 3-pointer that have come within six seconds of a defensive rebound.

And then there is Kevin Huerter, hunting open 3-pointers in early offense situations. He’s shooting 49.5 percent from beyond the arc and has already made 18 3s in the first nine seconds of the shot clock in just 15 games. That scenario above — a quick dribble hand-off at the top of the key between Sabonis and Huerter — has become a common occurrence.

And Huerter is not the only one taking advantage of those opportunities. There are plenty of other examples of Terence Davis, Fox and Keegan Murray running the same action with Sabonis.

The Kings offense is incredibly difficult to guard in the halfcourt too but they’ve found a way to leverage the passing ability of the relatively plodding Sabonis and the shooting around him even in an uptempo environment.

Nearly two decades ago, a version of the Kings led by Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Jason Williams remade the fastbreak in their own freewheeling style and took the league by storm. What these Kings are doing might not be as aesthetically striking but it’s arguably been just as effective and generating the same kinds of results.

Time to watch, and watch out for, The Sacramento Kings.

— Ian Levy

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