Nuggets (40-23) at Kings (13-49)
Scoring: Kings 14th (99.2), Nuggets seventh (102.7).
Shooting: Kings tied for 25th (44.6 percent), Nuggets sixth (46.7).
Scoring defense: Kings 29th (108.4), Nuggets 16th (100.1).
Shooting defense: Kings 30th (48.1 percent), Nuggets fourth (43.9).
Rebound differential: Kings 29th (minus-5.2), Nuggets 15th (plus-0.2).
The link: Nuggets coverage in the Denver Post.
The almanac: On this date in 1971, the Bucks increased their winning streak to 20 games, the second-best run in league history. On this date in 1994, Scott Pippen and Pete Myers of the Bulls became the first teammates with a four-point play (three-point basket plus a free throw) in the same game. On this date in 1996, Jerry Sloan of the Jazz recorded his 500th coaching victory.
But it's not close to the complete perspective of the Kings offense.
Twenty-fifth in shooting is the more-telling number. Coaches go by field-goal percentage as the true indicator of an offense, not scoring. Scoring is tied to style -- play up-tempo and squeeze off more attempts, play a deliberate style and put fewer points on the scoreboard but perhaps be much more efficient and migraine-inducing for opponents. Shooting is an indicator of everything else -- skill level of players, whether they have multiple threats necessary to stretch a defense, the ability to get high-percentage shots or having to rely on a perimeter game, the presence of point guards who get the ball to players at the right spot, the presence of a coach that will design a game plan and teach.
You know where the Kings fall. Such an imbalanced offense, lacking an inside game the entire season, as expected after the Ron Artest trade and the retirement of Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Two consistent weapons, Kevin Martin and John Salmons, both wings and both of whom will play less than 65 games here because of injury (Martin) and trade (Salmons). The whole point-guard thing.
The coaching aspect?
The Kings were at 97.7 points a game when Reggie Theus was fired Dec. 15. Kenny Natt, with the challenge of a roster unsettled by trades and a roster unsettled by its own apathy, has bumped that to 99.2. No training camp to put in his system, either.
But the Kings were shooting 45.8 percent, 11th in the league, when Theus was fired, despite No. 1 weapon Martin barely making one-third of the games, despite Miller's suspension, despite rookie Jason Thompson's quick elevation into part-time starter, and despite an unforgiving schedule that allowed very little practice time. Today, they're at 44.6 percent and 25th.
Twenty games to go and the historical context is that the 2008-09 roster is challenging the worst clubs of the Sacramento era for offensive ineptitude, which is saying something given the first 15 years or so.
The debate among the worst of the worst:
Why they rate the worst: What a one-dimensional offense. No inside game at all. No point guard. The 63 points against the Celtics and failing to break 80 four times in all. Martin, the best scorer, has missed 22 of 62 games. That's not anyone's fault, but a hit to the offense is a hit to the offense.
Why they don't: The scoring average may not even be among the five lowest of the Sac era.
Why they rate the worst: Well, there's the 93.1 points a game and the 44.2-percent shooting. Horrible from the line, a costly pattern. Two players broke 11 points a game, Corliss Williamson and Mitch Richmond.
Why they don't: Richmond not only averaged 23.2 points a game, he was a versatile scorer who made teams pay inside and out. Williamson had some versatility, and Billy Owens. Bad team (27-55), but not a predictable team.
Why they rate the worst: A one-man offense: Richmond at 25.9 points a game, and no one else better than the 13.7 of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. Turnover heavy. Brian Grant, a decent scorer after averaging 14.4 the season before in his second season, underwent shoulder surgery and played just 24 games, before leaving in the offseason with a free-agent deal from the Trail Blazers.
Why they don't: Pretty good on threes. That's as good an argument as a defense attorney has, though.
Why they rate the worst: Just 96.7 points a game. Five players averaged double figures. Scored 59 points against the Hornets, the lowest output in 36 years.
Why they don't: Three dangerous scorers at the top: Antoine Carr (20.1), Wayman Tisdale (20.0) and Lionel Simmons (18.0). Going three-deep at 18 points or better is enviable depth in this argument.
For now, let's say: