Kings

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

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AP

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. 

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. 

Gameday: Memphis homecoming for plenty of Kings

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USATSI

Gameday: Memphis homecoming for plenty of Kings

Want to get away? After dropping six straight games, the Sacramento Kings hit the road for a season long six-game trip beginning Friday in Memphis. 

It’s a homecoming game for plenty of Kings coaches and players, including Zach Randolph, who is playing in front of a Memphis crowd wearing an opposing jersey for the first time in eight years. Dave Joerger and most of his staff came over from the Grizzlies in the summer of 2016 and Vince Carter and Kosta Koufos spent time in Memphis as well.

Memphis has had a rough season, but two-time former King, Tyreke Evans, has made a tremendous impact in his first season with the team. He’s posting big numbers and looks as healthy as he’s been in years.

BETTING LINE 

Grizzlies by 5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Willie Cauley-Stein vs. Marc Gasol -- Cauley-Stein is blossoming in his third NBA season. He’s become a reliable scoring and rebounding option for the Kings. He’s improved on the defensive end as well, but guard Gasol is as tough as it gets. The 7-foot-1 Spaniard has an old school game. He can pass, hit you from the outside and work you over in the post. Cauley-Stein will have his hands full with the three-time All-Star big.

WHERE THEY STAND 

Kings: 13-31, fifth place in Pacific

Grizzlies: 15-28, fourth place in Southwest

INJURY REPORT 

Kings: PF Skal Labissiere (left shoulder strain) questionable, PG Frank Mason III (heel) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) is out for the season.

Grizzlies: C Marc Gasol (illness) questionable, PG Mike Conley (Achilles) out, SG Andrew Harrison (shoulder) questionable, SF Chandler Parsons (knee) out, SF James Ennis (calf) out, .

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Homecoming -- This should be an emotional night for plenty around the Kings team, especially Randolph. The Grizzlies retired the 36-year-old’s No. 50 jersey, making him the first in franchise history to receive the honor. 

Show Improvement -- The Kings are in a funk, but we are seeing steady improvement from plenty of the team’s young players. Bogdan Bogdanovic continues to post up big numbers, including a career-best 25 against the Jazz on Wednesday.

Break the Streak -- A six-game trip is daunting, especially after a rough stretch. If Sacramento can get out of Memphis with a win, it would take plenty of stress off a young team. 

SERIES HISTORY 

These two teams split their season series 2-2 last season, but Memphis went up 1-0 for the 2017-18 campaign with a win at Golden 1 on New Year’s Eve. The Kings hold a 45-39 advantage over the Grizzlies all-time.