Kings

Kings walk into chaos in Phoenix, leave with stinging loss

Kings walk into chaos in Phoenix, leave with stinging loss

Chaos, unpredictable, dangerous. The Sacramento Kings walked into someone else's mess Monday night in Phoenix. A Suns team on the rocks and in complete disarray after firing their head coach three games into the season. They were also a team without their best player in Eric Bledsoe, who either wanted to get out of a hair salon or publicly threw the franchise under the bus Sunday afternoon on social media.

It looked like the easiest W in the history of the league, but no game was ever won or lost on paper.

Phoenix came out like a team possessed. Whatever ailed the struggling franchise behind the scenes vanished once the ball was in the air. The Suns shot a blistering 70 percent in the first quarter as the Kings looked stunned and slow to react.

Matchups were part of the problem. Marquese Chriss has young legs and he ran circles around veteran Zach Randolph as the Suns pushed their lead to 22 points in the first quarter.

Sacramento responded in the second, riding the reserves to cut into Phoenix’s lead. Driven by a pair of rookie guards in De'Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Kings matched the Suns’ intensity, cutting the lead to 59-51 going to the intermission.

Dave Joerger turned to the same group of starters to open the second half and found identical results. Chriss continued his strong play against Randolph and George Hill couldn’t find a rhythm.

Looking at plus/minus is usually reserved for a much larger sample size, but the Kings’ starters were each in the negative. Rookie Justin Jackson posted a -20 for the game to lead the way and Randolph finished with a -19. Buddy Hield got things going in the third quarter, allowing his defense to lead to offense, but he still finished the night with a -18. Hill (-16) and Willie Cauley-Stein (-8) also finished on the wrong side of the ledger.

Small sample size or not, the numbers show one thing - the Sacramento Kings were a better team on Monday with Fox, Bogdanovic, Garrett Temple, Skal Labissiere and Kosta Koufos on the floor.

Making his NBA debut, Bogdanovic came out on fire, scoring all 12 of his points in the first half. The Serbian wing was drafted by the Suns in 2014, but stayed in Europe until this summer.

Bogdanovic and Fox paired up nicely, giving Kings fans a glimpse into what the future might hold. They battled to keep the team from getting blown out and down the stretch, they, along with bursts from Labissiere and the hot shooting of Temple, almost had enough to complete the comeback.

Despite trailing by nine going into the fourth, Sacramento kept attacking the shaky Suns. Temple hit 5-of-7 from long range in the fourth quarter alone, scoring 16 of his game-high 23 in the final 12 minutes.

The veteran wing missed a free throw and a chance to tie the game with 10.1 seconds remaining on the clock and his 26-foot buzzer beater was just off the mark.

Night in and night out, Joerger is going to have to make difficult decisions. Some nights Randolph and Hill will lead the team and be relied on to finish close games. Other nights it will be some amalgamation of veterans and youth that find synergy on the court.

For one evening, the Kings are the team that lost to an embattled Suns team on the ropes. The final score won’t matter. The fact that Sacramento is running out their own experimental roster won’t matter. A loss is a loss.

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

kings-trade-hill-usatsi.jpg
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.