Kings

Bogdan Bogdanovic continues to struggle, prompting questions about fit

Bogdan Bogdanovic continues to struggle, prompting questions about fit

Bogdan Bogdanovic is struggling. It’s not a new issue, but it’s something the Kings need to address.  

After missing the first 10 games of the season while recovering from knee surgery, Bogdanovic came out hot the first two months of the season and looked like the next Manu Ginobili coming off Sacramento's bench.

Kings coach Dave Joerger has used his jack-of-all-trades all over the court, both as a starter and a reserve and at multiple positions. Lately, he’s been asked to start at small forward, and it’s not going completely as planned for the Serbian-born wing.

Current lineup

The current starting lineup of Bogdanovic, De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes and Willie Cauley-Stein is averaging 14.8 minutes per game together on the floor. Over that stretch, they are running a minus-1.1 in the plus/minus category as a five-man rotation.

It’s a small sample size, but at least one red flag pops up. Sacramento is one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the NBA, but with this lineup, the team is shooting just 30.2 percent from behind the arc.

An alternative starting group that might get some traction looks slightly different in the stat logs. The grouping of Fox, Hield, Barnes, Bjelica and Cauley-Stein runs a plus-0.9 in 8.4 minutes over eight games.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison. The first group with Bogdanovic starting is guaranteed to go against the opposition’s starting unit for at least part of the game. That isn’t always the case for the five including Bjelica.

The quick glance says Barnes and Bogdanovic haven’t figured out how to play together yet. They run a minus-4.0 as a tandem in 21.5 minutes per game since Barnes joined the team last month at the NBA trade deadline.

With the Kings in the middle of a playoff chase, the easy answer is to try something different. Then again, the sample size isn’t large enough to truly tell anything definitively. One really good stint together easily could swing these numbers a different direction.

Starter or reserve

A look into Bogdanovic’s splits shows that he’s a more effective player coming off the bench. In 17 starts, he’s posting 13.6 points, 4.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 31.2 minutes per game. Playing with the first team, he’s shooting just 37.5 percent from the field and 35.5 percent from 3-point range.

As a first option leading the reserves, Bogdanovic sees a clear improvement as a scorer, although his assist and rebounding numbers dip. In 37 games off the bench, Bogdanovic averages 15 points, 3.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game.

While his overall shooting percentage improves to 43.4 percent as a reserve, his 3-point percentage dips to 33.5 percent.

Outside of the standard numbers, Bogdanovic is a plus-2.4 in the plus/minus category as a starter and a minus-8.4 as a reserve. His offensive rating increases with the second unit and his defensive rating drops.  

Sacramento is just 5-12 with Bogdanovic as a starter this season, including 2-4 since the team’s roster shakeup at the deadline. While it isn’t all on the second-year guard, it shows there might be an issue with fit in the first group.

Downturn

Regardless of starting or coming off the bench, Bogdanovic is struggling. The 26-year-old saw his shooting percentages plummet since the new calendar year.

After shooting well in November and December, Bogdanovic hit 41.6 percent from the field in January and 39.8 percent in February, and in five games so far in March, he’s shooting just 31.4 percent.

His 3-point shooting is a major culprit for the drop in percentage. Bogdanovic is shooting just 31.7 percent from deep since Jan. 1, although he’s bounced back so far in March, hitting 38.5 percent over the last five games.

[RELATED: Bagley's knee injury allowed two Kings to show their worth]

Conclusion

Maybe Bogdanovic needs a night off. Maybe he needs a change in roles. There is no question he is a valuable member of the team, and the Kings are better when he is playing to his potential.

With the Kings still fighting down the stretch, Joerger continues to shrink his rotation. Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, Bogdanovic is averaging a season-high 30.8 minutes per game in March.

Sacramento needs Bogdanovic to return to his early season form, regardless of roles. Giving him the chance to succeed might mean moving him to the bench.

How Kings' Cory Joseph stopped James Harden after quirky walk-through

How Kings' Cory Joseph stopped James Harden after quirky walk-through

The Texas two-step is turning into a nightmare for NBA opponents. Twenty-year-old phenom Luka Doncic is taking the NBA by storm, and he has transformed the Dallas Mavericks into one of the better teams in the Western Conference.

James Harden is averaging 38 points per game for the Houston Rockets and he has Russell Westbrook riding shotgun in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense.

For the beat-up Kings, Sunday and Monday’s back-to-back against the Mavs and Rockets looked like a pair losses before they even hopped on the team bus. But that’s not the way it worked out.

Cory Joseph got away with a touch foul on Doncic in the final seconds and the Kings escaped Dallas with a 110-106 win. There was no time to celebrate. Sacramento boarded a flight for Houston to face Harden fewer than 24 hours later without even a shootaround to prepare for the league’s leading scorer.

In a stroke of genius, coach Luke Walton and his staff created a game plan and then used a roll of tape and the team’s hotel ballroom in Houston to walk through an idea.

“When you can’t get to a gym because you’re trying to get the guys more rest, we grabbed some tape, put a little key down on the floor and walked through sets that we need,” Walton told media following the 119-118 win over the Rockets.

Like the previous game against Doncic, Walton used Joseph, his best perimeter defender, on Harden and ran a box-and-one defense for much of the game. The plan worked to perfection.

Not only did Joseph help limit Harden to 8-of-19 shooting from the field and eight turnovers, but he also played defense without fouling.

Harden came into the night averaging 12.8 free throw makes on 14.8 attempts per game. If he continued at that pace, he would finish second all-time in free throw attempts per game.

Joseph didn’t bite on the up fakes or let Harden tangle him up when he sprawled out for 3-point attempts Monday. He didn’t reach and get his hand caught in the cookie jar and when he did make a play at the ball, he came away with two steals and just one personal foul in 38 minutes of action.

“It was a good win for us, back-to-back," Joseph said Monday. "It’s never easy, but we kept the mentality and we were strong. We turned it up mentality wise from the start to the finish of the game. We felt like these last two games, we competed at a high level and that’s what we’re going to need to do night in and night out to give ourselves a good chance.”

Sacramento paid Joseph handsomely in the offseason to back up De’Aaron Fox. An unlucky accident in practice has cost Fox major time, but Joseph has stepped in and kept the Kings afloat over the last 14 games as a starter.

Joseph isn’t the dynamic scorer that Fox is, but Walton has played to the strengths of his team without his starting point guard. He has taken the ball out of Joseph’s hands on most offensive possessions to save him for the defensive end and improve the flow.

Things will change when Fox returns, but like Nemanja Bjelica, Joseph has proven his worth to the team.

It should be noted that Joseph tweaked his lower back against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday and was questionable against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday and the Mavs on Sunday.

“You go into what Cory did, we had him on Luka last night, we had him on Harden tonight,” Walton said. “Three days ago he couldn’t even walk, we didn’t even think he was going to play. As we talk about culture and what we’re trying to build, the example that he sets with that type of effort every single night is pretty good for our group.”

Over the last three games, he has fought through the injury and averaged nearly 35 minutes per game against some of the best scorers the league has to offer.

At 10-13, the Kings continue to stick around the .500 mark in the standings despite their slow start to the season. Joseph is a big reason why.

[RELATED: Watch Westbrook say game over, then Kings hit game-winner]

The Kings flew home after the win, and they’ll face another tough guard in Chris Paul on Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center.

There is a chance that Marvin Bagley will return to the court against the Oklahoma City Thunder after missing the last 22 games with a broken thumb. Fox stayed behind on the four-game road trip to rehab his ankle, and he is getting closer to a return as well.

Watch Russell Westbrook say 'game over' just before Kings' game-winner

Watch Russell Westbrook say 'game over' just before Kings' game-winner

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

That message might need to be relayed to Rockets guard Russell Westbrook, as he assumed he had just won his team the game after driving and finishing over Kings center Richaun Holmes with only one second remaining Monday night in Houston.

Buddy Hield had just hit a miraculous 3-pointer on the previous possession to tie the score, and Westbrook assumed there was nothing the Kings could do to win the game in one second after his layup.

Suffice it to say, the former NBA MVP was incorrect.

Nemanja Bjelica sent the Kings home with another road win, and stunned the Rockets with this DEEP buzzer-beater.

[RELATED: What we learned as Bjelica, Kings stun Westbrook, Rockets]

So much for Clutch City.