Rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic draws rave reviews, looks like keeper for Kings


Rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic draws rave reviews, looks like keeper for Kings

SACRAMENTO -- The 2017-18 Sacramento Kings season is about development over wins and losses. Maybe more importantly, it’s about finding keepers amongst the team’s 10 young players on rookie deals.

Any time the Phoenix Suns roll through Sacramento, it is a reminder of the draft day deal from 2016 that sent Sacramento native Marquese Chriss to Phoenix for the draft rights to Georgios Papagiannis, Skal Labissiere and European prospect Bogdan Bogdanovic.

The jury is still out on the transaction. Chriss, like Labissiere has struggled in year two. He is starting and playing 20 minutes a night for Phoenix, but he’s putting up less than spectacular numbers. 

Labissiere has been in and out of the Kings rotation as of late. Both his standard and per 36 minute performances dominate those of Chriss, although his minutes have been limited this season. 

Papagiannis is an unknown for Sacramento. The 20-year-old 7-footer has played in just 54 minutes with the Kings, but he’s showing improvement with the Reno Bighorns and still considered a project.

While both teams wait for young players to develop, the Kings may have already won the deal. Bogdanovic, is a legitimate NBA player. He might be a lot more than that. 

Over his last six games, the 25-year-old Serbian is averaging 12.7 points per game on 58.8 percent shooting from the field and 45.8 percent from long range. 

“He’s very confident in his game, he’s very comfortable out here on the court,” Vince Carter told NBC Sports California. “One thing I really enjoy and like about him, is what he doesn’t know, he asks questions, because he wants to be good, he wants to get better.”

One of the more versatile players on the Kings roster, Bogdanovic has started 13 of 31 games in his first season in the NBA. He’s played considerable time at both the shooting guard and small forward positions, 

With De’Aaron Fox on the shelf, he’s seen time running the point as well. Against the Cavs, he posted a career-best eight assists and he’s just getting started. 

“You can put him out there with anybody and he makes plays,” Carter added. “He works on his game and he really loves the game. For guys that love the game, they tend to put in a lot of work on their craft and he’s done that and reaping the benefits of it.”

That love for the game is rubbing off on others. Fellow wing Buddy Hield has raved about Bogdanovic as a mentor. Despite competing for minutes, Bogdanovic has worked with Hield on film study and approach to the game.

“It’s a selfish game,” Buddy Hield said on The Kings Insider Podcast. “It’s a selfish game - (the mentality is) I’m trying to get my own. But he’s been one of the few that really helped me to expand my game.”

From the moment he stepped on the floor during training camp, Bogdanovic has turned heads. Early word out of camp was that he might be the best player on the team coming into the season. 

Zach Randolph has held down the fort while Bogdanovic learned the NBA game. Now he’s quietly carving out a niche as a jack-of-all-trades player for the Kings. 

“It always takes a period of adjustment and for each guy it’s a little different who comes over from overseas,” Dave Joerger told NBC Sports California following shootaround on Friday. “The speed and the length is different in our league. I’ve been impressed. He’s picking it up, but he works at it.”

This isn’t Joerger’s first experience with a foreign-born player making an adjustment to the NBA game. While the transition can be painful at times, the European approach to the game can make a huge impact on a team.

“Impressed, but not surprised,” Dave Joerger said of Bogdanovic’ development. “I’ve been a big fan of his his for a long time. Having had a chance to work with Marc Gasol, they see the game the same way - from a purehearted, team-first approach all the time.”

Be it for the Serbian national team or suiting up for his club team, Bogi has had to fit in and take on new roles from a young age. He is adapting to the Kings roster and becoming one of Joerger’s go-to players in crunch time. 

The Kings would like to see Bogdanovic shoot more. But he’s one of the better defenders on the club and he’s making his teammates better. 

Sacramento invested heavily in the rookie, giving him a three-year, $27 million contract to lure him away from Fenerbahce of the Euroleague league. So far, it’s paying off. There’s no doubt, Bogdanovic is a keeper. 

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%