This week's 10 Things celebrates the end of an epic drought, a heap of Western Conference centers doing fun things, good and bad signs in New York City and much more.
1. Everyone on the Sacramento Kings moves without the ball
When the Kings exploded early with a turbo-charged offense, skeptics wondered if they could sustain it. The pace was taxing. The Kings are not overflowing with supernova talent. To produce something greater than the sum of their parts, they had to run every action with screaming urgency. Fatigue would take a toll ... right?
Opponents would scout the basics: full-court assaults, the De'Aaron Fox-Domantas Sabonis pick-and-roll, and the Sabonis-Kevin Huerter hand-off dance.
Sacramento's urgency and speed never waned. Its offense got better with time, surging to No. 1 and then opening distance over the field. It added layers to every subset of actions -- and then piled layers atop those layers. The Kings are a nightmare to defend. Bodies zoom around you, and you have no real idea where they will go and when.
Huerter is the headline cutter, but everyone moves without the ball.
Sabonis has been on Keegan Murray all season to mix up the way he uses screens -- to do more than skulk behind handoffs in search of 3s, sources said. Murray is doing that now. He should land on first-team All-Rookie.
The Kings run 37 handoffs per 100 possessions, per Second Spectrum -- No. 1 by a mile. Over the past decade, only three teams have topped that number. One of them -- the 2020-21 Indiana Pacers -- orbited Sabonis.
The Kings have scored 1.09 points per possession when one of those handoffs leads directly to a shot, and a gargantuan 1.2 points per possession on all trips featuring a handoff. Both marks are No. 2 this season, and No. 3 among all teams in the past decade, per Second Spectrum.
As with Ja Morant, Fox's blinding speed makes him a threatening cutter. He tapped into that part of his game now and then before this season, but never had the co-star to make it sing. Alongside Sabonis, Fox is sneaking extra buckets:
Fox nails Devin Booker with a back screen in hopes of freeing Harrison Barnes for a layup. The Suns switch to snuff that, but the switch leaves Booker on the top side of Fox. Fox shoves Booker toward the sideline, cuts backdoor, and plops in that short jumper.
If Fox catches his guy gawking at Sabonis with the ball, poof -- he's gone:
The Kings' leaky defense makes them vulnerable to a first-round upset. They are 21-24 against opponents with .500-plus records. There's no shame in that. The Kings have never profiled as a juggernaut, or even a strong No. 2 or 3 seed. The West is muddled.
But this is a good, solid team capable of winning multiple rounds -- a nice place from which to build.