Kings

Cauley-Stein shows what Sacramento's been waiting for in big win over Denver

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USATSI

Cauley-Stein shows what Sacramento's been waiting for in big win over Denver

SACRAMENTO -- It wasn’t perfect, but the Sacramento Kings looked like a team Saturday evening at Golden 1 Center. They were active and lively on both ends of the floor. They moved the ball and seven players finished in double-figure scoring. 

Playing without veterans George Hill and Zach Randolph, Dave Joerger turned to five young players to start the game and the energy on the floor was noticeably different. Denver struggled to complete passes and almost every shot they took was contested. 

“As a team we had 34 deflections, we were very active - forced 25 turnovers,” Joerger said in his opening statement following the team’s 106-98 win over the Nuggets. “Charlotte the other night had four turnovers. So our level of activity and aggressiveness was much better tonight and that’s a step forward for us.”

Sacramento finished with a season-high 16 steals, including a career-best seven from Willie Cauley-Stein. Eight of the nine players that saw the court notched at least one steal as the Kings forced the Nuggets into countless mistakes. 

Taken with the sixth overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Kings have been waiting for moments like this from Cauley-Stein. His offensive numbers have steadily increased, but the 7-footer out of Kentucky has more to give on the defensive side of the ball. 

Following the win, Garrett Temple, who had sounded off on the Kings’ defensive intensity earlier in the week, sang the praises of Cauley-Stein.

“I was counting them as he was getting them,” Temple said. “He’s probably the best defender on our team, man. His ability to guard five positions, not only the steals, but being able to change shots and being help side, he was just all over the floor tonight.”

Cauley-Stein is never bashful, but when told of the compliment from Temple, he was almost at a loss for words.

“That’s a lot coming from Garrett,” Cauley-Stein said with a smile. “I’m going to have to let him know about that, because Garrett’s one of the best in the league at defending, so that’s a big up to me, so I appreciate him.”

In his third year in the league, it all seems to be falling into place for Cauley-Stein. He’s hitting his jumper on a regular basis and his teammates are using him as an alley-oop machine. He has an ability to catch and finish at the rim that is helping to open up the Kings’ offense.

Late in game, Joerger reinserted him into the lineup and ran multiple offensive plays for his young center. Cauley-Stein abused Nikola Jokic on two consecutive possessions to push Sacramento’s lead from three, back up to seven.

“He’s starting to get a lot of trust in me in making plays,” Cauley-Stein said of Joerger. “It feels really good to be involved. Spending so many years of, ‘go to the corner and watch everyone else have fun,’ I’m finally in the mix and get to show my worth and it’s been a blast.” 

Cauley-Stein finished the night with 17 points, four rebounds and two assists to compliment the seven steals. Over his last eight games, he’s averaging 15.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for Sacramento, showing the team he’s ready for more responsibilities moving forward. 

With the win, the Kings snapped their three-game skid and moved to 13-25 on the season. They’ll finish their six-game homestand Monday night against San Antonio before hopping a plane to Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Tuesday.

Hill to the Cavs? The best and biggest deal for the Kings is...

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USATSI

Hill to the Cavs? The best and biggest deal for the Kings is...

Is the George Hill era in Sacramento coming to and end? According to Shams Charania, the Kings might have an interested party in the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Hill signed a massive three-year, $57 million deal with Sacramento over the summer, but has yet to live up to the contract. Through 37 games, Hill is posting 10.5 points and 2.7 assists per game for Sacramento. Those numbers are down from 16.9 points and 4.2 assists he averaged last season as a member of the Utah Jazz.

If a deal between the two teams is going to happen, it might be more complex than just shipping the 31-year-old to Cleveland on the next flight. Here is a look at a couple of possibilities without going into potential 3-way deals.

BEST DEAL FOR KINGS

Kings receive: Jae Crowder (3-years, $22 million), Iman Shumpert (2-year, $21.4 million - year-two a player option at $11 million)

Cavs receive: George Hill (3-year, $57 million), Malachi Richardson (2-year, $3 million with team option for third year)

Why Kings make deal: They land a very serviceable forward that instantly fills the team’s biggest need. At 27-years-old, Crowder is affordable and under contract for another two seasons, although he’s really struggled in his first season in Cleveland. Shumpert is coming off an injury and would likely opt out of his final year.

Why Cavs make deal: Hill instantly improves their backcourt. He can play the one of the two either as a starter or off the bench. Giving up tow wings might not be the best option, but Sacramento is going to want something of value back. Richardson is thrown into the deal to make salaries match.

BEST DEAL FOR CAVS

Kings receive: Channing Frye (1-year, $7.4 million) Iman Shumpert (2-year, $21.4 million - 2018-19 contract a player option at $11 million)

Cavs Receive: George Hill (3-year, $57 million), Malachi Richardson (2-year, $3 million with team option for third year)

Why Kings make deal: Kings give up an asset in Richardson, but they shed Hill’s $19 million owed for 2018-19 season. If Shumpert opts in, the Kings still save $8 million off the books for next season.

Why Cavs make deal: Basically, they land Hill for a couple of spare parts. Richardson is

BIG DEAL

Kings receive: Jae Crowder (3-years, $22 million), Channing Frye (1-year, $7.4 million) Iman Shumpert (2-year, $21.4 million - 2018-19 contract a player option at $11 million)

Cavs receive: George Hill (3-year, $57 million), Kosta Koufos (2-year, $17 million with player option for second year), Malachi Richardson (2-year, $3 million with team option for third year)

Why Kings make deal: They land Crowder and a get out of jail free card on Hill’s contract. Koufos can opt out of his deal at the end of the season and the Kings get nothing. Throwing in Richardson isn’t ideal, but the Kings are deep at the two and they have to match roster spots.

Why Cavs make deal: They get an upgrade in the backcourt in Hill. They are also rumored to be in the market for a big and Koufos is a much more affordable option than DeAndre Jordan.

Bogdan Bogdanovic breaks his shell early in 2018, 'he’s able to do everything'

Bogdan Bogdanovic breaks his shell early in 2018, 'he’s able to do everything'

He’s not really a rookie. After playing for years overseas, Bogdan Bogdanovic has proven very quickly that he is an NBA player. Midway through his first season in the league, the 25-year-old Serb is finding his stride. 

From the moment he stepped on the floor in Sacramento, Bogdanovic showed flashes of something special. You could see early on that he was trying to fit in and make nice with his teammates, but the honeymoon phase is over. Bogdanovic is no longer holding back.

For the third time in the new calendar year, Bogdanovic set a career-high in scoring on Wednesday evening. He dropped in 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including a perfect 6-of-6 from long range. 

“I’ve said it all year, he’s not really a rookie, he’s been playing pro ball for so many years,” De’Aaron Fox said of his backcourt mate. “He definitely doesn’t play like a rookie. He brings the intelligence, the savvy, the shooting - defensively, he gets after it. He’s able to do everything for us.” 

He’s pushed his season numbers up to 11.5 points, 2.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 26.6 minutes per game. Bogdanovic has also raised his shooting percentages drastically as the season has progressed, knocking down 48.8 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from behind the 3-point line. 

In eight games in January, Bogdanovic has taken his game to another level. He’s hit the opposition for 16.3 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 30.6 minutes a game. Dave Joerger has come to rely on the former Fenerbahce star, even giving him starts in the last two games since the youth movement was officially put into motion.

“I’m working every single day as hard as I can, I’m trying to be the best version of (myself).” Bogdanovic said following the team’s loss to Utah on Wednesday.

It’s a small sample size, but Bogdanovic’s shooting numbers in 2018 are off the charts. He’s hitting 54.8 percent from the floor, a stunning 58.3 percent on the 3-ball and 92.3 percent from the line.

With All-Star weekend on the horizon, Bogdanovic has likely earned his way into an invitation for the Rising Stars Challenge. Amongst rookies, he’s currently seventh in scoring, fourth in 3-point percentage, eighth in field goal percentage and sixth in steals. 

Sacramento’s 2017-18 season is about sifting through the young players and figuring out what they have. It appears the Kings have found a keeper in Bogdanovic.