The evolution of the Milwaukee Bucks’ offense has been one of the NBA’s central storylines this season — driven both by the visual impact of the changes and by the effectiveness, going from a top-10 offense to best in the league for a large chunk of the season. However, by the stylistic traits measured for our Nylon Calculus offensive style charts, the Bucks are closer to the middle of the pack in terms of how much change their offense has undergone.
The Cavaliers rank first in aggregate change from last across all four stylistic categories but they are just a hair ahead of the Sacramento Kings, whose changes were obviously driven by a more interesting set of variables than just losing one of the most dominant offensive players in the league and replacing him with a rookie point guard.
A look at the style chart for the Kings over the past three seasons shows the dramatic changes they’ve undergone, changes that really began last season.
(If you’re curious about the specific stylistic traits and how they’re measured, you can find more information here.)
While the core of the Kings roster returned from last year, the supporting pieces are very different. Of the 11 Kings who have played the most minutes this season, five weren’t on the roster last season and a sixth, Harry Giles, was on the roster but didn’t play at all as he rehabbed from injury. This is a continuation of a pattern from the previous season, where only 44 percent of the team’s minutes were played by players who had been on the roster during the 2016-17 season.
The constant over this three-year run has been head coach Dave Joerger, who has taken a static, grinding offensive system and made it one of the most dynamic in the league. Compared to two seasons ago, the Kings’ average possession is more than two seconds shorter. Their average touch lasts about five percent shorter and, collectively, their players are running more than 200 feet further for every 24 seconds of offensive possession. Although their efficiency hasn’t changed much in two years, relative to the rest of the league, they’re actually scoring at a much better rate.
Right now, the Kings offensive style is similar to teams like the Warriors, Pelicans and Celtics — all of whom rely heavily on the individual talents of elite scorers to buoy their collective efficiency. The Kings don’t appear to have a Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving on the roster (depending on how optimistic you are about Marvin Bagley, I suppose) and so leveraging the most value from this offensive style would probably necessitate getting more deliberate about their shot selection.
It’s worth noting that when they play any five of their top six players together (Hield, Fox, Barnes, Bjelica, Cauley-Stein and Bogdanovic) their MoreyBall percentage is slighter higher, enough to push their Shot Selection ranking here from the 38th percentile to roughly the 55th. Buddy Hield’s tendency to pull-up inside the arc, and Fox’s tendency to pull up for floaters and push shots just short of the basket have helped each player put together fantastic seasons. But used more selectively, they could make the Kings even more dangerous.
Bagley and Harry Giles will likely be increasingly large parts of the Kings’ rotation heading into next season and right now, just 57 percent of Bagley’s shots are at the rim or behind the arc. That percentage is just 48 percent for Giles. If those players can develop 3-point shots or become more selective as rim-runners and finishers around the basket, we might see this team continue it’s transformation into one of the most effective and exciting offenses in the league.