Gameday: Will soul-searching pay off for Kings against Nuggets?


Gameday: Will soul-searching pay off for Kings against Nuggets?

SACRAMENTO -- After three days of practice and soul searching, the struggling Sacramento Kings return to their homecourt Saturday with the hopes of snapping their three-game skid. Standing in the Kings’ way are the Denver Nuggets, who find themselves in the thick of a Western Conference playoff chase 38 games into the 2017-18 season.

Sacramento hasn’t played since Tuesday’s 131-111 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Zach Randolph and Skal Labissiere both finished with double-doubles, but the Kings turned the ball over and allowed the Hornets to shoot 57.3 percent from the field.

Denver is coming off a big win Friday evening in Utah, but they’ll have to face a well rested Kings team on the second night of a back-to-back. Jamal Murray and Trey Liles each finished with 26 points in the Nuggets win victory over the Jazz to help the team improve to 21-17 on the season..

Nuggets by 4

Bogdan Bogdanovic vs. Gary Harris -- Bogdanovic is quickly adjusting to the NBA world. There is a versatility to his game that the Kings sorely need, especially on the defensive end. In his fourth season in the league, Harris is developing into a bigtime scorer. He can hit the three ball or break you down off the dribble. Whether Bogdanovic starts or comes off the bench, he’ll have his hands full with Haris.

Kings: 12-25, fourth place in Pacific

Nuggets: 21-17, third place in Northwest

Kings: PG Frank Mason (heel) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out, PF Zach Randolph (oral surgery) out, G George Hill (personal) out. Small forward Justin Jackson and big man Georgios Papagiannis are currently with the Reno Bighorns of the G-League. Two-way players JaKarr Sampson and Jack Cooley will suit up for Sacramento.

Nuggets: PF Paul Millsap (left wrist) out.

Guard the Arc -- The Nuggets love to shoot the 3-pointer, attempting 30.6 triples per game. They hit on 36.5 percent of those shots, which ranks 15th in the league. On the flip side, the Kings rank 29th in the league in 3-point attempts by an opponent and opponent 3-point percentage. Sacramento’s had three days of practice to sure up their defense and prepare for the Nuggets.

Guarding Wilson Chandler -- Chandler isn’t an NBA All-Star, but you would think so if you watch him play against Sacramento. The Kings typically don’t have a player to throw out against the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Chandler. If the veteran forward gets going, don’t be shocked to see JaKarr Sampson get a few minutes.

Do Right by the Home Crowd -- After starting the homestand with huge win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Kings haven’t been competitive over the last three games at Golden 1 Center. The boo birds have come out in all three lopsided losses. Fans understand the rebuild process, but they want to see energy and effort every game.

Denver leads the season series 2-0, with wins coming at both the Pepsi Center and Golden 1. The Nuggets hold a slim 90-88 lead the all-time series and the series is all tied up at 65-65 during the Sacramento-era 88-47.

“We’ve just been getting after it. The spirits been good here in practice and we’ve just been getting better, making each other better. It’s been fun, it’s been good.” -Skal Labissiere on the three day break in the Kings’ schedule.

Kawhi Leonard is not the answer for the Kings


Kawhi Leonard is not the answer for the Kings

The murmurs have already started. Teams are lining up for a potential run at one of the game’s best players. We aren’t talking about LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Paul George, who all have early termination clauses in their contracts this summer. That trio will dominate the news July 1 when the NBA’s free agency period begins. 

There is another player who has an ability to change the course of a franchise and the way things are heading, who might become one of the biggest trade targets in recent league history. 

No one really knows the entire story about what is going on with Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs have their side and Leonard’s team likely has a different version. What is known is that the 26-year-old small forward was cleared by San Antonio’s medical staff to resume game action a few months back. 

Leonard returned to the court for a nine-game stretch during December and early January. And then he shut it down again. 

The two-time All-Star and former NBA Defensive Players of the Year has been diagnosed with tendinopathy in his right quadricep. He’s bounced back and forth between San Antonio and New York City all season, having his injury evaluated and re-evaluated by both the Spurs and his own medical team.

Where the Spurs go from here is anyone’s guess. They have the best two-way player in the game and he has made the decision on his own not to play. 

A season ago, San Antonio rattled off a 61-win season before falling to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. They made additions in the summer to make another run, but without Leonard, they didn’t stand a chance.

To make matters worse, the Spurs roster is aging quickly. Manu Ginobili turns 41 in July. Pau Gasol is almost 38 and Tony Parker will be 36 soon and in the last year of his contract. Six players in their rotation are 30 or older and the clock is ticking.

Leonard’s decision wiped out any chance of winning a ring for the Spurs. It also threw away one of the few seasons left for a couple of his teammates.

For the last four decades, San Antonio has been the model NBA franchise. They don’t get into situations like this. And now they have to make one of the most difficult decisions a team has to make. 

To complicate matters, Leonard has two years left on his five-year, $94 million deal he signed in 2015. The final year is a player option worth $21.3 million and it’s very unlikely that Leonard will exercise that option.

Why is this of interest to the Sacramento Kings? It might not be, but that won’t stop fans from turning to the trade machine to find a way to land Leonard in purple and black.

Anytime a player of this ilk comes available, it’s within every team’s best interest to at least make a call. It’s possible the Spurs would turn the Kings down three seconds into the conversation. Then again, they might listen.

While San Antonio is going to want a star in return for Leonard, that isn’t the way these things usually work out. The question then becomes, do the Kings have the assets to acquire Leonard?

It’s very possible that the Spurs can get more than what the Kings would be willing to offer. Sacramento has a group of young players, two or three of which might draw interest. They also have a top seven pick in the upcoming draft.

Due to the Stepien Rule, the Kings can’t trade their draft pick prior to the 2018 NBA Draft. League rules prohibit teams from trading draft picks in back-to-back seasons and Sacramento has already given up their 2019 pick in a salary dump in the summer of 2015. 

The Kings can make a selection for another team and consummate a deal once the new season begins in July, so there is still an opportunity to include the pick in player form. 

San Antonio would likely ask for multiple young players, as well as the Kings’ 2018 selection. Sacramento also has cap space and a few veterans on expiring contracts to make the dollars and cents work. 

Whether the Kings could come up with the pieces to make a deal work is debatable. The real question is, should they try and chase Leonard if he becomes available? 

The simple answer is no. 

No, the Kings shouldn’t offer up a top 10 pick and two or three of their young core to acquire one of the game’s best players. 

Take all of the issues that Leonard has had this season and throw them out the window. At 100 percent health, the risk is still too much for a team like the Kings to take.

It’s about the contract and it’s about the talent that you would have to give up. The Los Angeles Lakers might be able to absorb the risk of trading for Leonard. They would likely have to give up Kyle Kuzma and plenty more to make something happen. But they would also have a fighting chance of retaining Leonard once he opts out of his current deal and becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Kings fans will reach deep on this, bringing up that Chris Webber made the decision to stick around in Sacramento back in 2001, inking a seven-year, $122 million deal. 

Not only were those different times, but the Kings’ franchise was on a roll. Webber was the best player on one of the best teams in the league. He was also surrounded by quality teammates, many of who remain extremely close more than a decade later.

Leonard would come to a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006. It is also a franchise that would have to give up plenty of assets to acquire him. He wouldn’t make the Kings an instant success and although the team would have plenty of money in the summer of 2019 to not only pay Leonard, but add a few more pieces, the risk would never be worth the reward.

If the team truly believes that Leonard is an option, they might as well draft a high quality player in 2018, develop the current talent base, make a move or two to improve the roster and then chase the All-Star wing a summer later when they have upwards of $70 million to throw around.

It’s a fun conversation, but one that can only lead to ruin for a team like the Kings. The best chance to turn things around for Sacramento is to stay the current course and continue to develop the players on the roster. 

If the team can begin to build something, landing the right player and then keeping them around will happen for the Kings.

Kings lose coin flip to Bulls, hold No. 7 overall pick heading into NBA Draft Lottery


Kings lose coin flip to Bulls, hold No. 7 overall pick heading into NBA Draft Lottery

The Sacramento Kings’ win over the Houston Rockets in the season finale has officially cost the team a spot in the NBA’s Draft Lottery. After posting identical 27-55 records, Sacramento and the Chicago Bulls were part of the NBA’s coin flip rule Friday afternoon at the Board of Governors meetings. 

Unfortunately for the Kings, the Bulls picked up a victory in the game of chance and now sit in the sixth spot in the pre-lottery standings. Sacramento holds the seventh position, but both teams have an equal opportunity to move up into the top three positions when the lottery is officially held on May 15. 

Once the top three selections are drawn, the draft goes in order of worst remaining record, taking coin flip results into consideration. If the Kings do not move into the top three and no one slated behind them in the draft move up, they will draft No. 7 overall. 

There is also a small chance that Sacramento doesn’t move up and one or more lottery teams behind them in the standings jump up. In this scenario, the Kings could draft as low as 10, but the statistical probability of them falling that far is astronomical. 

Here are the odds for the potential draft positions for the Kings this season. Both the Kings and Bulls have an 18.3% chance of moving into the top three picks.

No. 1 overall selection: 5.3%
No. 2 overall selection: 6.0%
No. 3 overall selection: 7.0%
No. 7 overall selection: 57.3%
No. 8 overall selection: 22.6%
No. 9 overall selection: 1.8%
No. 10 overall selection: less than 0.0%