NBA Western Power Rankings Week 6: Clippers start rising

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Dec 10, 2015; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings players huddle between plays against the New York Knicks during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Sacramento Kings defeated the New York Knicks 99-97. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

13th: Sacramento Kings (9 points)

By Tom West

Record: 9-15

December record: 2-3

The Kings have so much talent on paper, Rajon Rondo is dropping dimes that barely any NBA players can make, DeMarcus Cousins is putting up 25.2 points per game, yet they can’t utilize their talent and put together any consistent wins. Recent losses to the slightly improved Rockets and surging Oklahoma City Thunder make sense, but this team should have the ability to contend with teams like the Celtics. After losing to them 114-97 on December 3, though, it’s clear that isn’t the case.

At least Rondo has been one major positive so far. His 6.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game help him create fast break opportunities for him to create some magic in the open court, while his league-best 11 assists per game and increased 45.3 percent shooting has helped him make a big difference to their offense.

Despite what Rondo can create at that end of the floor, the Kings still haven’t been able to play with much cohesiveness or structure. The problem is on defense, as they rank only 17th in rebounding rate and 28th in defensive efficiency. It stems from their inability to protect the paint, and their league-worst mark of allowing opponents to shoot 63.6 percent within five feet. If they don’t have any rim protection and their perimeter players don’t start covering drives to the basket, they won’t be getting many wins.

Next: Minnesota Timberwolves