Kings Head Coach Dave Joerger: Defensive History and Expectations

May 10, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger smiles during a press conference at the Sacramento Kings XC (Experience Center). Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

May 10, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger smiles during a press conference at the Sacramento Kings XC (Experience Center). Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento Kings Head Coach Dave Joerger’s defensive statistical history is examined in an attempt to uncover how the Kings defense will fare this season.

The Sacramento Kings struggled mightily on the defensive end of the floor last season.  In their offseason coaching search, they were not only looking for a great coach but one that could help fix their defensive woes.

Enter Dave Joerger.  At 42 years young, Joerger comes over after 3 seasons as head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies.  The Grizzlies are known for their grit and grind mentality of slowing the game down and being stoppers on the defensive end.  Before being promoted to head coach, he was the assistant coach for the Grizzlies for 6 years.  In his time as an assistant, he was known for being a defensive coach and helping the team develop their mentality.  Below is the video from Coach Joerger’s introductory news conference with the Kings if you care to check it.

Now let us examine the statistics of both Joerger’s Grizzlies and the Kings defenses and attempt to figure out where the Kings defense ends up this season.

Dec 27, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger smiles after a play in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 27, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger smiles after a play in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent’s Points

The Sacramento Kings allowed a league-high 109.1 points per game last season.  Yes, you read that correctly, 109.1 points or at least 1.5 more points per game than any other team in the league.  They just couldn’t seem to keep the opposition from scoring, so let us see how Coach Joerger’s teams have ranked.

Coach Joerger’s defensive reputation shines through in the opponent’s points category.  Last season, the Grizzlies ranked 20th (a lower ranking is better) in the NBA at 101.3 points per game.  In his first two seasons, the Grizzlies ranked 28th at 94.6 points per game and 29th at 95.1 points per game.  Stats courtesy of NBA.com/stats.  It is important to remember that the Grizzlies were wrecked by injuries last season and his team still rated better than 19 NBA teams in opponent’s points.  It may have something to do with personnel, but to finish that high in an injury-plagued season gives me hope that the Kings will play improved defense this season.

Apr 5, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger during the second quarter against the Chicago Bulls at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 5, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger during the second quarter against the Chicago Bulls at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent’s 3 Point Production

The Kings could not guard the 3 point line last season.  Sacramento gave up the most 3 pointers made and 3 pointers attempted last season.  Opponents sank 10.2 3’s per game against the Kings on 28.0 attempts.  If you look at 3 point percentage, the Kings were the 7th worst team in the NBA allowing opponents to shoot 36.6%.  Those numbers are just plain ugly, but let us see how Coach Joerger’s teams fared to see if he brings hope for this season.

Unfortunately, Coach Joerger’s Grizzlies did not fare well last season either.  Only the Kings and the Houston Rockets gave up more 3 point attempts than Memphis and only Sacramento allowed more 3 point makes.  If you view opponent 3 point percentage, the Grizzlies ranked just below the Kings as the 9th worst team in the NBA.  It was an injury-ravaged team, so let us view his first 2 seasons as coach to see if this is a trend or more of an outlier season.

The Grizzlies were better, but not spectacular guarding 3’s in those seasons either.  In 3 pointers attempted against they ranked 19th and 12th in the NBA.  If you view 3 pointers made against, they ranked 18th and 13th.  For the 3 point percentage against, they ranked 19th and 13th.  He proved that he can get his teams to settle in around league average against 3’s for the season and even that would be a big improvement for the Kings.

Feb 6, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger during the second quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 6, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger during the second quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Rating

Let us now view defensive rating to get a different perspective.  Defensive rating is the number of points allowed per 100 possessions for a team.  Therefore, it adjusts out things like pace and just looks at 100 possessions for every team.

Sacramento rated as the 8th worst team in defensive rating last year, giving up 106.3 points per 100 possessions.  Just behind them as the 11th worst team at 105.4 points were Coach Joerger’s Grizzlies.  Last season, probably doesn’t tell the tale for the Grizzlies because in the two previous season they ranked 27th at 99.9 points and 23rd at 102.1 points.  All stats can be found here courtesy of NBA.com/stats.

The defensive rating numbers dispell the myth you hear about the Grizzlies.  It is often said that because they play at a slow pace that improves their defensive stats.  They still rate very highly even with the pace taken out of the equation.  This is a feather in Coach Joerger’s cap and should bring some excitement to Sacramento.

Summary

First, let us review what we uncovered so far.  Coach Joerger’s Grizzlies were one of the best team in the NBA in holding down opponents points, around league average at limiting 3 point production, and rated highly in defensive rating.  The Kings in those 3 seasons were near the worst in the league in all those categories.

So what can we expect moving forward?

Improvement!  Some people will surmise that the Grizzlies have great personnel that fit a defensive culture and allowed them to be a top defensive team in those 3 seasons.  I will grant you that they have the personnel to fit that strategy, but they needed a game plan and coaching to be that good defensively.  Coach Joerger was supplying at least part of that piece.

I suspect the Kings will be around the middle of the pack in opponent’s points per game.  The new coaching emphasis, new players, and the team playing at a slower pace than last season will help them settle in around mid-pack.  In limiting 3 point production, I expect improvement, but the Kings will probably finish closer to the bottom third than mid-pack by the season’s end.  In defensive rating, I suspect a rating between 15th and 10th worst in the NBA.  All those finishes would be improvements on last season and it is important to remember that those would be a step in the right direction.

Allow Coach Joerger time to build up the defensive end of the floor because I suspect things only continue to improve until the Kings are one of the league’s top 10 defensive teams.  Patience and belief Kings fans, the defense is about to improve.

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