Kings

How Kings' versatility at forward gives Luke Walton plenty of options

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USATI

How Kings' versatility at forward gives Luke Walton plenty of options

What a difference a year makes.

Sacramento entered the 2018-19 season without a starting level small forward and the power spot was taken by a rookie and an unknown free-agent acquisition. Fast forward 12 months and the Kings have all kinds of options when it comes to the forward rotation.

Head coach Luke Walton has a stable of serviceable players to choose from. He also has a variety of player types, which should help him adapt his rotations to adjust to the opposition or create mismatches of his own.

Injuries play a role in every season, but the Kings are as deep and versatile at the forward position as they have been in years. 

Here is a look at the group of players Walton has to work with and how he might use his players on a nightly basis.

The Starters

Harrison Barnes signed a massive, 4-year, $85 million deal in the offseason and he is the long-term solution for the Kings at the starting small forward position. He came to Sacramento in a midseason move from the Dallas Mavericks where he played predominantly as a stretch four. Those skills will come in handy with Sacramento.

Marvin Bagley is the heir apparent at the power forward spot and the future is now. The No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft has star potential and he gives Walton a legitimate low post scoring option in the halfcourt offense. He’s also 20 years old and ready to take on a ton of minutes in year two.

Where Barnes can play both the three and the four, Bagley can shift between the power forward and center position. He has the height and athleticism to man the spot and would be perfect against small-ball centers.
Both of these players are primed to have major roles in the Kings’ rotation for the foreseeable future.

Bagley is the rebounder and scorer. Barnes is the shooter and defender. While they are going to take time to gel on the court, it’s not a bad starting forward combination.

The Reserves

Nemanja Bjelica joined the Kings at the end of the free-agent period in the summer of 2018, inking a three-year $20.5 million contract. He had played limited minutes during his time in Minnesota but instantly earned a spot in Dave Joerger’s starting lineup as a floor-spacing stretch four.

Bjelica played very well in his first season in Sacramento, but it’s clear he was just holding down the fort while Bagley got a season of experience under his belt. He averaged 9.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 23.2 minutes per game last season, but nothing the only thing guaranteed in his second season in Sacramento is his salary.

General manager Vlade Divac added Trevor Ariza as part of his offseason haul this summer. The 34-year-old forward signed a 2-year, $25 million contract, although his final year, like Bjelica’s, is only partially guaranteed for next season.

Ariza struggled early last year but made an impact for the Washington Wizards after a midseason trade. In 34.1 minutes per game with the Wizards, Ariza posted 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

Both players are considered strong shooters from the perimeter, although Bjelica hit a higher percentage last season. Ariza has historically been a better defender than Bjelica and he is more versatile in a switching defense.

While the Kings advertised Bjelica as a combo forward when they signed him, Bjelica is a stretch four that could possibly even spend a few minutes at the five in smaller lineups. Ariza could steal a few minutes at the four, but his primary position is at the small forward spot.

Bjelica and Ariza play very different styles of basketball when they step on the court, but they both help space the floor for point guard De’Aaron Fox to run. They also open the key for Bagley to do damage in the post.

The Other Guys

Versatility is the name of the game with the Kings’ 2019-20 roster. They have players that can fill a variety of roles and perhaps their most versatile player is Bogdan Bogdanovic.

After blowing up in the FIBA World Cup, the third-year wing is primed to take his game to the next level. Unfortunately, the backcourt is backed with Fox, Cory Joseph and Buddy Hield all ready to play major minutes.

Walton is going to need to steal time for Bogdanovic from somewhere and it’s likely going to come at the small forward spot. That means fewer minutes for more conventional wings, but Bogdanovic is a catalyst player and the centerpiece of the second unit.

Rookie Justin James can play the two and the three, but the likelihood of him cracking the rotation this season is slim at best. He’ll have to bide his time and wait for an opportunity to arise.

Prediction

Walton has all kinds of options at his two forward spots. Maybe even too many options.

Bagley and Barnes are the starters and will play a minimum of 32 minutes per game each. It’s possible Bagley can steal a few of those minutes as a small-ball five, but the center spot is jam-packed as well. Barnes will play 20-plus minutes at the three and then another 10-12 minutes at the four.

[RELATED: Bagley ready to take leap in sophomore season?]

With Hield set to play 32-34 minutes at the two, Bogdanovic will need 12-14 minutes at the three, which might leave a total of 20 minutes for Ariza and Bjelica.
Both Ariza and Bjelica bring the ability to shoot and open the offense. Ariza is a more switchable player on the defensive side of the ball.

Injuries over the course of an 82 game season will open opportunities, but Walton can’t play 11 or 12 players on a nightly basis. Someone is going to get minimal time in the rotation and have to wait for their chance to shine.

 

Buddy Hield contract extension talks cast momentary dark cloud over Kings

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USATSI

Buddy Hield contract extension talks cast momentary dark cloud over Kings

SACRAMENTO -- "Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again."

Whether it’s the soothing harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel or the powerful bellowing of Disturbed frontman David Draiman, the opening lines of the "Sound of Silence" are ringing in my ears.

For more than a decade, drama finds the Sacramento Kings, whether they are looking for it or not. Often times the wounds are self-inflicted. Every once in a while, the issues are nothing more than the complexities of the NBA playing out in real-time.

Buddy Hield wants his money. His agent says so. He says so. Twitter says so.

Hield’s team has gone on the record with the number of $110 million over four-years to seal the deal. The Kings will not confirm whether the reported four-year, $90 million figure that has been put out there is top end for the team.

Sacramento had a similar situation last season when big man Willie Cauley-Stein went public with his wishes to get paid. Again, the two situations are similar ... but really they aren’t.

Hield accomplished last season what Cauley-Stein never could in purple and black. He lived up to his lottery billing and became a consistent impact player on the court for the Kings.

Part of the team’s exciting young core, Hield has made it his offseason mission to get locked up long term. In doing so, he is making things as uncomfortable as possible for general manager Vlade Divac and his staff.

Will it work? Will slaying the drama mean more to the franchise than the long term financial flexibility they have worked so hard to build? That is the $110 million question.

The Kings are on the clock and Hield has started to get personal.

The talented shooting guard has asked for what he believes is fair, but the value is in the eye of the beholder. During his post-game comments on Wednesday evening, he invoked two separate ideas that take aim at not only the franchise but his standing amongst his teammates as well.

"Name one big free agent that came to Sacramento," Hield told the larger media scrum. "I've been here three years trying to grow the program, grow the organization and I feel like I could be rewarded close to that. But that's just me. That's my gut feeling."

Long an NBA outpost, the good people of Sacramento, regardless of who is running the franchise, know where they stand in the tall pecking order of the league. Landing an 'A list' free agent has never been on the table.

While it’s a matter for some debate, Divac himself is likely the top free agent the team has brought in during the team’s 35 years in Sacramento. The franchise has found success bringing back their own big-name free agents, like Mitch Richmond, Chris Webber and Mike Bibby. But they haven’t been able to crack into the superstar free-agent market.

That leaves the franchise with two options: Draft potential stars and hope for the best or acquire talent via trade and hope for the best.

Hield is a combination of both. Sacramento didn’t draft him, but they traded for him during his rookie season and spent the last three seasons helping to develop him into the player he is today.

In addition to taking a shot at a sensitive issue for the franchise he plays for, Hield went where most players don’t want to go. He compared himself to his teammates and what might happen for them in the near future.

“It’s all about value and where they see me as a player and of course, if another young player comes up and they give them what they want, it shows how much they value me,” Hield told NBC Sports California following the main media scrum.

Hield is pointing directly at the franchise and how they might value De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley. Creating a list of who mom and dad like the best doesn’t work for siblings. In the NBA world, it’s a good way to get your feelings hurt.

Speaking to people within the walls of the Golden 1 Center, they understand that all of this is part of the process.

They still love Buddy Hield. They still view him as a big part of the franchise. This is just another day out of many in the history of the Kings and it too shall pass.

It should also be noted that Hield is fighting to stay in a Kings' uniform. He is asking the team to lock him up for the next five seasons in Sacramento so he can put permanent roots. He has visions of buying a house in the area and making this his NBA home. 

Between now and Oct. 21, Hield will either get an extension or he won’t. He is emotional about the process. He wants financial stability. He wants respect. He wants to know that he is just as important to the recent success of the franchise as anyone else. All of this is understandable.

[RELATED: Kings, Hield $20M apart in contract extension talks]

At the end of the day, this is a negotiation. The NBA is a business and it shouldn’t get personal. If a deal doesn’t get done now, the two sides have another bite at the apple at the end of the season.

The next few days building to the deadline could get wild, but like so many other situations with the Kings, the darkness will pass soon enough. A resolution, one way or another, will happen and the focus will shift to basketball and the task at hand.

Kings' De'Aaron Fox voted fastest, most likely to break out by NBA GMs

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USATSI

Kings' De'Aaron Fox voted fastest, most likely to break out by NBA GMs

The 2019-20 NBA season is closely upon us, which has general managers around the league voting for their favorites to lead in respective categories.

The Kings were not left unnoticed. Especially with De'Aaron Fox, who is anticipated to have a coming out party.

The young point guard received 19 percent of votes as the player most likely to have a breakout season, as well as an impressive 64 percent of votes saying Fox was the fastest with the ball.

Fox's speed has been the highlight of what he brings to the court. He even put weight on this summer and consumed 4,000-5,000 calories because he would burn through them so fast.

[RELATED: Kings social media takes shot at Lakers]

The Kings themselves are a team that wants to push the ball, so it's a win-win scenario all around.

Fox is being called the fastest guy in basketball, both by himself and his peers, and it's nice to see him getting the recognition he deserves.