Brian Goorjian returns home to Sydney, where he won four championships as coach. (Image: @SydneyKings / X)

After winning back-to-back championships, the Sydney Kings failed to make the post-season in NBL24, losing in the play-in to the New Zealand Breakers.


Final ladder position: Fifth (13 wins, 15 losses)

The Sydney Kings heading into NBL24 had massive expectations.

After losing their core group that was part of the championship success, including head coach Chase Buford, the Kings understood what they needed to do to accomplish a third consecutive title.

With the signings of Jaylen Adams, Jonah Bolden, and Denzel Valentine, along with signing G-League championship coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah, it looked like a great off-season for the organisation with championship aspirations.

In their first ten games, the Kings were 7-3, only losing to the Tasmania JackJumpers twice and the Cairns Taipans.

Without their full roster with DJ Hogg injured for a significant portion of the season and Jaylin Galloway on the sidelines for multiple weeks, the Kings looked ready to compete for another title and were second, only having a worse record than Melbourne United.

From Round 8 onwards, the Kings struggled to win games, giving up 100 points on nine occasions, and struggled in effort areas, especially on the defensive end.

What worked

When the Kings were on a roll they were one of the best transition offences in the game, being able to play at a fast pace, creating open looks and shooting at a high clip.

When the game shifted away from being in transition, the pick and roll between Jaylen Adams and Jordan Hunter worked wonders when the offence centred around Adams as the main ball handler and initiator.

Almost all of their wins saw a correlation between an efficient shooting percentage from the field and three-point range. In contrast, some saw the Kings play a grit-and-grind battle that landed them at the foul line often, being able to shoot over 80 per cent at the foul line in those games.

Defensively to start their season in their 7-3 stretch, the Kings conceded 90.4 points per game, while scoring 95.8 points per game. They were in tune on both sides of the ball.

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What didn’t

The tactics and strategies the Kings implemented throughout the season, especially rotations, defensive matchups and coverages hurt their momentum during games and created more problems than needed.

With the zone defensive coverage, wanting switches on pick and pops or rolls, it allowed teams to exploit matchups created from the switches and also attack the Kings, getting into the mid-range and top of the paint area to create kick outs for the open three-or cutback door plays, which would allow players to fly around and get easier shots around the rim.

Unforced turnovers, injuries to key players and playing a lot of two-for-one possessions forced the Kings to try and find a rhythm quickly when they needed to find flow and execute the basics more often.

Being so reliant on the three-point shot, the Kings struggled to run half-court sets and even put their best ball handlers in the corners and swing them to the wings and play with limited spacing, despite the four-out offence the Kings ran most of the time when Hunter was the five-man.

Club’s MVP

Despite the chaotic season, Jaylin Galloway had an incredible season for the Kings. The 21-year-old was one of the team’s best defenders and contributed as a role player, hitting the three-ball and attacking the rim off the catch. His play this season saw him earn a two-way contract with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Jaylen Adams was also one of the most valuable for the organisation as he was one of the league’s best scorers and a huge reason why the Kings won the games they did.

Looking ahead

Expect the Kings to rise back to the top after signing Australian Boomers coach Brian Goorjian on a three-year deal as the organisation let go of head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah.

Alongside Goorjian, one-time MVP Xavier Cooks is returning to the Kings on a three-year deal in what is reported as the richest contract in NBL history, after being a two-time champion for the Kings, coming off NBA experience with the Washington Wizards and winning the East Asia Super League playing with the Chiba Jets in Japan (B.League).

In addition to Cooks, Sydney has resigned Shaun Bruce and Kout Noi to new two and three-year deals respectively, while also picking up Makuach Maluach‘s team option to solidify its bench.

Sydney is pulling all the stops to surround Cooks with as much talent to launch itself back into title contenders next season. Its reported marquee Cairns wing Bul Kuol, feisty New Zealand guard Izayah Le’Afa, and Aussie youngster Keli Leaupepe who spent the past five years at Loyola Marymount University are all set to join Sydney upon the opening of free agency on April 15.

Star import DJ Hogg won’t return to the Kings next season as it has been reported the Kings have agreed on a release from his mutual option.

Another player the Kings would like to keep is Jordan Hunter. The 27-year-old showed a lot of promise this season as a starting centre who could play valuable minutes off the bench, having playoff success and experience.

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