A Tale of Two Improving NBA Defenses/ Sacramento and New Orleans

by Team Del Genio

Sunday, Oct 31, 2021
Two of the worst defenses in the NBA last season belonged to the Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans. Both have seen immediate improvements this season, although both teams had nowhere to go but up. Yet both teams may offer some intriguing betting value with either unders or as a point spread underdog early in the NBA season. 

The Kings posted a historically bad defensive rating of 116.5 last season. They allowed their opponents to make 48.8% of their shots. which was also the worst mark in the NBA. Opponents scored 117.4 points per game against them, ranking 28th in the league. Rookie Davion Mitchell has made an immediate impact on the play of the Kings' defense already this season. The former Baylor star is establishing himself as a clampdown ball defender. He held Damian Lillard to 1 of 7 shooting, Donovan Mitchell to 2 of 6 shooting, and Jordan Clarkson to 2 of 6 shooting in his first two games in the league after earning rave reviews with his defense in the Summer League. Sacramento had limited their three most recent opponents to no better than 45.2% shooting before playing in New Orleans on Thursday. They held the Pelicans to 42.9% shooting in a 113-109 victory. They close out the month with an improved defensive rating of 110.2, good for 25th in the league. While not great, things are moving in the right direction. Opponents are scoring 111.8 points per game, an improvement of almost 6 ppg earning them a ranking of 22nd. Their opponent’s field goal percentage of 44.4% is 16th in the NBA.

New Orleans was another team that had the directive to improve their play on defense this season. The Pelicans never took to head coach Stan Van Gundy. They allowed 114.9 points per game with opponents hitting 46.9% of their shots, ranking 24th and 19th in the league. Their defensive rating of 113.3 was 23rd. Management brought in Willie Green after his successful stint as an assistant coach with Phoenix, and he has made an instant impact on the team’s play on defense. New Orleans may have lost to Atlanta on Wednesday (10/28) 102-99, yet the play of the defense was quite good as they held the Hawks to 41.7% shooting. The Pelicans had held their last three opponents to 98.7 points per game on 39% shooting with none of those three teams topping 102 points. New Orleans' defense faltered against the Kings who made 50% of their shots against them. Yet their defensive numbers to end the month show improvement from last year. While their defensive rating ranks 26th, it has improved to 110.2. Opponents are making 45.9% of their shots, 22nd in the NBA. They are allowing 110.0 points per game, 20th in the league, in an improvement of almost 4 points per game.

These trends may not hold, although the additions of Mitchell and Green suggest that they just might. There may be more valuable opportunities with these teams in November before the market catches up. 

Good luck - Team Del Genio.

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