Kings

How Kings' Luke Walton could use Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield this year

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How Kings' Luke Walton could use Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield this year

Two players vying for contract extensions. Two players fighting for minutes. Two players attached at the hip.

Kings shooting guards guards Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic have a friendly rivalry on the court and a close friendship off of it. They play completely different styles, but they also compliment each other well.

New coach Luke Walton has major decisions to make at multiple positions this season. The Kings’ depth is a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem.

Hield had a breakout season last year, posting a team-high 20.7 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 42.7 percent from behind the arc. He made an astounding 278 3-pointers, giving him an NBA-record 602 triples through the first three years of his career.

The 26-year-old played 31.9 minutes per game, up from the 25.3 minutes he played the prior season. Hield became not only a bonafide starter, but a lethal weapon in the Kings’ offense.

Slowed by a late offseason knee surgery, Bogdanovic missed 11 of the Kings' first 12 games while rehabbing. He had some high points and some struggles during the long season, but Bogdanovic still managed to average 14.1 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 36 percent from distance.

Hield is the shooter. Bogdanovic is the playmaker. They complement each other on the court, but they are also in a fight for minutes this season with so many other alternatives in the rotation.

The Other Guys

Hield and Bogdanovic are the two main shooting guards, but Walton has other options as well. De’Aaron Fox and Cory Joseph can both move over from point guard and steal minutes, while rookie Justin James is an interesting player as well.

There is a chance that Walton steals a handful of minutes in a dual point-guard set with both Fox and Joseph on the court together. It’s possible that move would come at the expense of Hield and Bogdanovic, but they will likely spill over at small forward as well.

James is lost in a numbers game. He might play some spot duty in blowouts, but it’s more likely he spends the majority of the season either on the bench or sitting in Stockton with the team’s G League affiliate.

Stealing minutes at the three

It’s not a perfect solution, but Walton is going to need to find an additional 12 to 14 minutes for his shooting-guard tandem. Both players can move over to the wing in a three-guard small ball lineup, although it’s not a perfect solution. Bogdanovic spent more time at small forward last year than Hield, including 17 starts.

There is also the issue that Harrison Barnes is a big-minute player at the three, and Trevor Ariza can be a contributor in his 15th NBA season. Barnes will take minutes at power forward, although it’s a crowded field with five bigs vying for time.

Walton can only steal minutes from so many positions before he runs out of time. Pairing the rotation down to nine or 10 players is going to be very difficult.

[RELATED: Can Bogdanovic avoid FIBA hangover ahead of Kings camp?]

Prediction

In a perfect world, Hield would play 32 to 34 minutes a game for the Kings as either their first or second option on offense. In addition, Bogdanovic would also play 27 to 30 minutes per game as the team’s super-sub.

This might be the plan of attack coming into the season, but there are so many mouths to feed on this roster.

Each of these players brings an intangible that can’t be replaced. Hield is an elite NBA shooter and a very good scorer. Bogdanovic is one of the team’s best playmakers and a solid scorer in his own right.

Walton will quickly realize that Hield and Bogdanovic are two of the team’s top five players. He’ll make adjustments to get them time, especially down the stretch of games when they both flourish.

Kings' De'Aaron Fox battles through nagging injuries in win vs. Warriors

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Kings' De'Aaron Fox battles through nagging injuries in win vs. Warriors

SAN FRANCISCO -- No team needed the All-Star break more than Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox. An early-season ankle injury was getting heavy. Bumps and bruises were adding up and the time away was an opportunity to both heal up and mentally reset.

That worked for all of one game. 

Fox woke up on Friday morning with a sore left shoulder. He’s had it taped up the last two games, but he’s playing through the issue.

In the team’s 112-94 win over the Warriors on Tuesday, Fox disappeared to the locker room due to tightness in his right groin. He returned to the game and looked no worse for wear.

Fox is fighting through the pain because his team needs him on the court if they have any hope of continuing what has become a hot streak. 

“It’s motivating,” veteran wing Kent Bazemore said of Fox playing through pain. “You can see him wincing out there, but he’s pushing through. It means a lot that he’s bought in. We have his back and he is still demanding a lot of attention, dominating the game.”

Against the Warriors, Fox stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 21 points, five assists, two rebounds, a steal and a block in 32 minutes of play. He shot just 4-of-9 from the free-throw stripe, but that has nothing to do with the nagging issues he’s currently struggling with.

“I don’t know,” Fox said when asked about shooting freebies. “I think we just gotta get there and get better. I don’t really know what else to say about it.”

Is there concern that the injuries will take Fox off the court or decrease his effectiveness? Absolutely, but in the NBA, injuries always are part of the game.

“They tell me he’s good to go, I asked him at halftime and he said, ‘play me’,” Luke Walton said. “Between our medical staff and talking to him, I feel confident. He came out and made some big-time in that second half and seemed to be alright.”

The team will be cautious with the 22-year-old budding star, but they also are going to forge ahead. 

[RELATED: Bazemore is ingredient Kings missed during early struggles]

“We’ll go about it smartly and we’ll give him off days where he needs it and rehab and treatment and all that,” Walton added.

Fox is averaging 19.9 points and 6.9 assists for the Kings this season. He’s taking another leap forward in his production and growth, but Sacramento needs him at full strength if they are going to continue to stay in the hunt for the postseason. 

Kings takeaways: What we learned in satisfying 112-94 win vs. Warriors

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Kings takeaways: What we learned in satisfying 112-94 win vs. Warriors

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- These aren’t your championship Warriors. 

The Kings walked into Chase Center Tuesday night and while it wasn’t always pretty, they put the smackdown on the team from the Bay Area.

Golden State struggled from the perimeter, hitting just 4-of-28 shots from long range. Sacramento countered by knocking down just 19-of-34 from the free-throw line to let the Warriors stick around. 

In the end, it was too much Buddy Hield in the fourth for Golden State (12-46), and the Kings came away with the 112-92 win.

Here are three takeaways as Sacramento (24-33) picked up their third straight victory to improve to 24-33 on the season.

Better late than never

Hield had a quiet game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, scoring just seven points in 15 minutes of action. 

The Kings’ leading scorer got off to a slow start at Chase, but then let it fly to open the fourth. Hield hit the Warriors with three straight 3-pointers to open up a 17-point lead with 10 minutes remaining.

Hield scored 15 of their 19 points in the final period and chipped in six rebounds. Buddy showed up when his team needed it and put the game away. 

Barnes does it again

Harrison Barnes came into Tuesday averaging 17.2 points on 54.8 percent shooting from 3-point range over his previous five games. He put on another show against the Warriors.

The Kings’ starting small forward posted 14 points in the first quarter to get the ball rolling. He was quiet late but still managed to post 21 points on 9-for-12 shooting including a pair of makes from long range.

Barnes decided back in December that he wouldn’t shave his face until the team got to .500. He now seems to be harnessing the power of the beard. 

[RELATED: Bazemore is ingredient Kings missed during early struggles]

Making an impact

After failing to notch a double-double in his first 87 career games, Harry Giles almost got a streak going.

The second-year center scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Warriors' frontline. He struggled in the pick-and-roll against Marquese Chriss, but was active and made an impact on the floor. 

If Giles can continue to play like this, Walton will have plenty of options in the post when Richaun Holmes eventually returns to the court.