James Ham

Kings takeaways: What we learned from 114-95 loss to Hornets

Kings takeaways: What we learned from 114-95 loss to Hornets

BOX SCORE

No flow, no go. The Sacramento Kings started out hot and then fizzled on the road in Charlotte. The Hornets found a way to muck up the Kings’ offensive flow and ground the scoring to a halt.

Kemba Walker led the way for Charlotte, but the Hornets received contributions up and down the lineup to come away with the 114-95 win.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings dropped their first game of their season-long six game road trip to fall to 23-22 on the season.

Second Quarter Collapse

In the first quarter, the Kings were active defensively and moved the ball all over the court. They started out playing the same in quarter number two, but then they lost their way.

They stopped deflections and started over dribbling. After leading 25-20 after the first 12 minutes, Sacramento was outscored 43-25 in the second quarter to trail 63-50 at the half.

The Kings turned the ball over and were a step slow in their rotations and the Hornets made them pay.

Charlotte set the tone of the game in the second quarter and never looked back. The Kings made a few runs, but the Hornets seemed to have an answer every time.

Bench Battle

Sacramento’s bench has impressed of late, but they couldn’t keep up against the Hornets. 

Bogdan Bogdanovic started out a perfect 5-of-5 and finished with 17 points. Marvin Bagley added 15 points and eight rebounds, but it wasn’t close to enough.

Miles Bridges and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 15 each to pace the Hornets second unit. Veteran Tony Parker, who sat out the last matchup between these two teams, added 14 points as Charlotte’s bench outscored Sacramento’s 60-44 on the night.

Bombing Buddy

Buddy Hield continues to put up big numbers for Sacramento. The third-year guard shot 6-of-11 from behind the arc and 9-for-18 from the field to finish the night with a team-high 24 points.
 

Kings vs. Hornets watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage

foxkembajan12ap.jpg
AP

Kings vs. Hornets watch guide: Lineups, injury report, player usage

After sweeping their three-game home stand, the Sacramento Kings hit the road for a season-long six game trip beginning Thursday in Charlotte. It's the second time in six days the Kings and Hornets matchup, with Sacramento coming away with a 104-97 victory Saturday at Golden 1 Center.

The Kings are coming off a solid win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday. Buddy Hield led a group of six Kings that scored in double figures as Sacramento held both C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic in check.

At 23-21, Sacramento is just outside of the Western Conference playoff picture with nearly half the season remaining. A good start to the road trip would go a long ways towards continuing momentum for the club. 

Charlotte currently sits at 20-23 on the season. They hold the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase coming into the evening.

Kings Pregame Live on NBC Sports California begins at 3:30 p.m., with tipoff scheduled for 4. All coverage can be seen on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.

Following the game in Charlotte, Sacramento continues extended trip away from home. They'll hit Detroit, Brooklyn, Toronto, Memphis and Los Angeles before finishing off their January schedule back at Golden 1 Center against the Hawks on the 30th.

Line

Hornets +2.5

Projected Lineups

Kings

PG De’Aaron Fox
SG Buddy Hield
SF Iman Shumpert
PF Nemanja Bjelica
C Willie Cauley-Stein

Hornets

PG Kemba Walker
SG Jeremy Lamb
SF Nicolas Batum
PF Marvin Williams
C Bismack Biyombo

Injury Report

Kings 

No Injuries to report.

Hornets

C Cody Zeller (hand) out.

Rotation Outlook

Kings: Coach Dave Joerger takes his young group out on the road for a brutal 12-day trip across the U.S. and into Canada, but he has a full arsenal at his disposal.

Sacramento's second unit it hitting their stride. In the team's win over Portland on Monday evening, the reserves scored 58 of the team's 115 points. Bogdan Bogdanovic continues to shine off the bench, but Justin Jackson and rookies Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles are showing major improvement as well. 

The Kings continue to post the second highest pace in the league and their 38.9 percent shooting from behind the arc ranks third in the NBA. They've shown signs of improvement on the defensive end and currently rank 19th in the league in defensive rating.

Hornets: An army of one, Charlotte relies heavily on Kemba Walker to provide the scoring punch. In his matchup against the Kings on Saturday, the All-Star guard 31 points on 11-of-24 shooting. Sacramento held Walker to 3-for-12 from long range and forced the guard into six turnovers in the win.

The Kings held the Hornets to just 40.9 percent shooting for the game. Nicolas Batum chipped in 13 points and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 11.

After visiting Sacramento, the Hornets finished off their six-game road trip with a win over the Spurs in San Antonio. Walker and Lamb combined to score 52 points in the victory.

NBA trade deadline: Kings have cap space, assets to be major players

vladeprimer.jpg
USATSI

NBA trade deadline: Kings have cap space, assets to be major players

The build up to the NBA’s Feb. 7 trade deadline has already begun. If fact, it started for the Kings coming into opening night, when they walked into the season as the only team in the league with any real cap space.

The rumor mill is churning, but NBC Sports California continues to hear that the Kings have no intention of taking on any long-term deals, unless it helps the team win today and down the road. They also aren't in the mood to help another franchise save money, unless assets are attached.

Sacramento’s front office has worked hard to create the financial freedom they currently possess. They understand the power of their position in the market and they have a list of needs.

According to sources, high on the Kings’ priority list is adding more length and size at the small forward position, as well as a veteran point guard to bring off the bench.

The team is high on their young core, and would like to find a piece or two that fits with the style of play and direction the franchise is heading.

[RELATED: Marvin Bagley, Harry Giles give Kings fans glimpse into bright future]

Cap

The NBA’s cap is set at $101.869 million for this season, with the luxury tax threshold of  $123.733 million. Sacramento has $90.844 million on the books, including $10.8 million in dead money from Matt Barnes, Georgios Papagiannis, Deyonta Davis and Caron Butler.

Outside of the Kings and their $11 million in available cap space, no other team in the league is under the cap.

With available space, the Kings can act as a conduit to reduce other clubs’ cap space, potentially saving them millions in luxury tax. They can also accept more incoming money than they send out in a potential trade.

Expiring Contracts

In addition to $11 million in cap space, the Kings also have a bevy of expiring contracts to work with. Veteran big man Zach Randolph has yet to play a minute this season in Sacramento, and is in the final year of a deal that pays him $11.7 million this season.

Kosta Koufos is a valuable big on an affordable $8.7 million deal. At 29 years old, he is a veteran defensive presence and keeps himself in spectacular shape. With the Kings going young up front over the last two weeks, Koufos gets in a full workout following games to make sure he’s ready to play, either for Sacramento or elsewhere.

Ben McLemore, 25, is owed $5.5 million this season before becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s found it difficult to get on the court with the Kings loaded at the wing, but he’s had a few moments when given an opportunity.

Iman Shumpert is in the final year of a long term contract he signed back in 2015 with the Cavs that pays him $11 million this season. Shumpert has started 32 games at the small forward position for the Kings and has provided a nice bump both on and off the court. He’s a defensive-minded wing and he’s shooting 38.6 percent from long range this season.

Lastly, starting center Willie Cauley-Stein is in the final year of his rookie-scale deal. He makes $4.7 million this season, and will enter the summer as a restricted free agent if the Kings extend a qualifying offer. Cauley-Stein has reached the NBA’s “starter criteria,” which means his qualifying offer has jumped from $4.5 million to $6.3 million this summer.

Not including Cauley-Stein, the Kings have roughly $37 million in expiring contracts. Shumpert is playing rotational minutes, and Koufos is a nice insurance policy for the team.

If the right deal were to come along, the Kings would have no problem taking back long-term money in exchange for a combination of expiring deals. Again, any deal would need to check the right boxes of improving the team in the short-term as well as down the road.

Picks

One of Vlade Divac’s first moves was to trade his 2019 first-round pick. That move really comes into play right now. Due to the Stepien Rule, Divac cannot trade back-to-back picks, so his first round selection in 2020 is off the table.

Sacramento can trade a first round pick further off in the future, like in 2021 or 2022.

Without a first-rounder to work with, the Kings have loaded up on second-rounders. The team doesn’t have their own second-rounder in 2019, but they have two incoming picks (second-most favorable from the Orlando Magic, Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets, plus the most favorable between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers).

The Kings also have their own second-round selection in 2020, as well as the Detroit Pistons' and Miami Heat's. In 2021, they have Miami’s second round pick again, as well as their own selection and the Memphis Grizzlies' pick.

Values of second-round picks vary, but the Kings have a total six second-rounders over the next three seasons. They have no restrictions, and can be used as sweeteners in a larger deal if necessary.

[RELATED: What went right, what went wrong in Kings' win over Blazers]

Assets

Sacramento has a lot of young and talented players, but they aren’t going to move any of them unless it means the team is making a massive long-term investment in a star-level player. Even then, there is a core group that is close to untouchable.

It’s an interesting roster. The Kings have nine players on rookie scale-contracts. Nemanja Bjelica is the only veteran with a guaranteed deal that extends beyond the 2018-19 season. They have plenty of expiring contracts, and a few young players that are out of the rotation.

What to Expect

Divac and Co. should be incredibly active. They’ve worked hard to be a player in the trade market, and they are the only team with available space. They can also change the look of the roster using open money and expiring contracts from players that aren’t part of the rotation.

The Kings have the ability to pull off multiple trades that could yield not only players to help with a playoff push, but add future assets as well.

Sacramento should be weary of taking on long-term salary that bites into their available cap space this summer, unless the player fits the age and salary trajectory of the team.

It would be shocking if they stand pat at the deadline.There will likely be a deal or two that could help change the course of the franchise for the better. At 23-21, this team has done their job on the court, but they could use a few reinforcements.