Four rotation battles to watch as Kings prepare for 2019 training camp


Four rotation battles to watch as Kings prepare for 2019 training camp

Training camp is almost upon us. Following Friday’s Media Day, the Sacramento Kings open their 35th season of basketball in the Capital City with an abbreviated camp at the team’s practice facility.
There are plenty of changes to the roster and an entirely new coaching staff, but the young core is intact. New head coach Luke Walton has plenty of players to work with. Maybe too many.
With just three days to evaluate the squad before the Kings head to India, training camp battles should be spirited.

Here is a look at some of the more intriguing positional fights as we approach the start of the 2019-20 season of Kings basketball.

Cory Joseph vs. Yogi Ferrell

Vlade Divac spent big money (3-year, $37 million) to bring Cory Joseph in to back up De’Aaron Fox. And in a surprise move, he retained Yogi Ferrell at the budget cost of $3 million for the season. Fox is going to play big minutes at the point, but what does that mean for Joseph and Ferrell?

Joseph is the defensive specialist and a steady hand off the bench. He has better size than Ferrell and plays a physical style. He’s also a nice fit next to shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic with the second unit.
Ferrell is the spark plug and a fan favorite. He can fill up the basket in a hurry and his speed fits Sacramento’s style of play.
The Kings added Tyler Ulis on the cheap for organizational depth and to help out with the G League team.
Prediction: Walton has plenty of tough decisions to start camp, but this isn’t likely one of them. Joseph will play the bulk of the backup minutes to start the season. Ferrell will be an emergency scorer off the bench. The late addition of Ulis gives Divac the flexibility to make a move during the season if another team is looking for point guard depth.

Bogdan Bogdanovic vs. Buddy Hield

Bogdanovic would have been the starter at the shooting guard position to open last season if a late summer knee injury didn’t slow him down. Buddy Hield seized the opportunity and posted a breakout 2018-19 season.

With a new coaching staff comes a renewed question about the position. Bogdanovic is the more versatile of the two players. He can play multiple positions, play on and off the ball and is one of the team’s best playmakers.
Hield is a flamethrower from the perimeter. He’s hit over 600 3-pointers in his first three seasons in the league and he led the Kings in scoring last season at 20.7 points per game.
Prediction: Both of these players figure heavily into the Kings’ plans, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Hield is a perfect complementary player next to Fox in the starting lineup. Bogdanovic can act as the primary scoring option with the second unit.
Hield is in line to play 32-34 minutes per game, but Bogdanovic won’t be far behind, especially after his breakout performance at the FIBA World Cup. Who starts is likely a foregone conclusion, but which one of these players Walton turns to in crunch time might still be up for debate. 

Trevor Ariza vs. Nemanja Bjelica

No, Trevor Ariza and Nemanja Bjelica don’t play the same position. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t fighting against each other for a spot in the Kings’ rotation.
With Harrison Barnes’ ability to play forward positions and Walton needing to steal time for Bogdanovic at the three, there might only be room for one of these veterans to see time on the court.
Ariza inked a 2-year, $25 million deal during the summer, although the second season isn’t guaranteed. He played big minutes last season for both the Suns and Wizards, but at 34-years-old, he’ll be asked to take a step back from the 34.1 minutes he averaged last year.
Bjelica started 70 games for the Kings last season and his ability to stretch the floor and do the little things helped the team win ball games. But Marvin Bagley is the future and the present at the four.
Prediction: You can’t play everyone. Walton will likely use a combination of both of these players early in the season. But with Barnes, Bogdanovic and Bagley all needing big minutes, something will have to give.
Ariza is the more versatile of the two and has a track record as a better defender. He’ll likely get the nod when the dust settles and Walton cuts his rotation down to a manageable 9-10 players in the first few weeks of the season.

Harry Giles vs. Richaun Holmes

The backup center position is an interesting clash. The Kings have been in love with Harry Giles from the moment they selected him with the 20th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Richaun Holmes was really good in his limited minutes last season with the Phoenix Suns.

Giles is a feisty big with a high basketball IQ and an ability to control the offense. He’s still a work in progress after missing major time in high school and college due to knee injuries, but he remained relatively healthy last season and he showed major signs of growth throughout his rookie campaign.
Holmes is a pick-and-roll specialist and a rim runner in the Kings’ uptempo offense. His advanced stats for last season were stunning, especially on the defensive end.
Prediction: Both of these young bigs play with a chip on their shoulder and it would be fun to watch them battle alongside each other for short stints. That’s unlikely to happen because neither can space the floor at this point in their careers.
Sacramento has invested plenty of time in Giles, but it’s a new coaching staff in Sacramento. He’ll likely get the first look, but Holmes is hungry. With starter Dewayne Dedmon’s injury history, Walton will need both of these players at some point.

How Kings' Nemanja Bjelica has filled gaps, according to Zach Lowe

How Kings' Nemanja Bjelica has filled gaps, according to Zach Lowe

Ever since the Kings signed forward Nemanja Bjelica to a three-year, $20.5 million contract in the 2018 offseason, it quietly has been a great deal for Sacramento. 

Bjelica averaged career highs in points (9.6) and rebounds (5.8) for the Kings last season, and he has been ever better in Year 2 with the Kings. 

The 31-year-old is averaging 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game over 54 games this season. He also is shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 44.9 percent from 3-point range, both career-bests. 

For his ability to give the Kings quality minutes at center, Bjelica landed on Zach Lowe of ESPN's latest "Ten things I like and don't like." 

"The Kings needed something to fill the void after injuries to Marvin Bagley III and Richaun Holmes -- who had been killing it as their starter -- and whatever the hell happened with Dewayne Dedmon," Lowe wrote. "Credit Bjelica for stepping up.

Lowe notes that per Cleaning The Glass, the Kings have outscored opponents by almost 10 points per 100 possessions with Bjelica as a small-ball center. 

Holmes has missed 17 straight contests with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He attempted to return to the court last week but had a setback after one practice. Bagley, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, has only played 13 games this season and isn't sure if he will suit up again this year after aggravating his sprained left foot

[RELATED: Kings' Holmes 'definitely ready to get back' after setback]

The Kings traded Dedmon back to the Atlanta Hawks months after signing him to a three-year, $40 million contract this past offseason. 

In what feels like yet another lost season in Sacramento, Bjelica has been a bright spot the Kings can count on.

Kings' Buddy Hield admits he went out night before 3-Point Contest win

Kings' Buddy Hield admits he went out night before 3-Point Contest win

Buddy Hield played a different kind of "flu game" in his NBA 3-Point Contest win Saturday night. 

The Kings sharpshooter admitted to reporters in Chicago for All-Star Saturday Night that he enjoyed all the Windy City had to offer the night before his victory. 

"I had no routine this morning. I went out last night," Hield said after his down-to-the-wire win over Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker on Saturday. "So I was just chilling. It was All-Star Weekend. You got to have fun, too. So it was cool. I was just relaxing. I came in, and I just locked in."

Hield diligently reported to his 9:15 a.m. CT media availability Saturday morning "clearly hurting," according to The Athletic's Joe Vardon. 

Whatever Hield did to recover between then and the 3-Point Contest worked. Hield posted back-to-back 27-point rounds, nailing each of his last six shots in the first and seven of his last eight as he tried to surpass Booker. 

The 27-year-old needed to make his final shot -- worth two points from his "money ball" rack -- to beat Booker, and he was ice-cold from the left corner. 

"I think I heard the guy on the PA, the announcer, and I had [25 or] something like that," Hield told reporters in Chicago. "I know Devin had 26, so I knew I had to make one more to top him. I was focused. I was locked in on that part."

[RELATED: Hield's dramatic 3-point contest win had fellow Kings hyped]

Hield enjoyed the win Saturday night and what it would mean to people in his hometown, using his press conference to dedicate his win to those affected by Hurricane Dorian. The storm struck his native Bahamas over the summer with sustained winds of over 185 mph, officially killing 70. Over 600 others might have drowned and been washed out to sea, officials said. 

"I dedicate it to them because, like I say, I represent my country to the fullest," Hield said. "When I say that, I really mean it because without my upbringing, I'm nothing. I know what it's like to be in a hurricane. I haven't been in a Category 5, but, no, this goes to them for sure.