How Luke Walton could be a good fit as Sacramento Kings' next coach


How Luke Walton could be a good fit as Sacramento Kings' next coach

The Kings haven’t even had time to give Dave Joerger’s office a fresh coat of paint, and they already have a new coach.

An NBA source confirmed Saturday that Luke Walton has agreed to take over in Sacramento after a whirlwind 48 hours for all parties involved.

Walton was one of the hottest names in the game three summers ago. Fresh off a 39-4 run as the Warriors' interim coach during Steve Kerr’s injury, Walton signed on to lead a young and inexperienced Lakers team on a five-year, $25 million deal. While he showed improvement in each of his three seasons in Los Angeles, the 39-year-old coach finished with a 98-148 record.

Strangely enough, Joerger finished with an identical 98-148 record over his three seasons in Sacramento. The win total wasn’t enough for Joerger to keep his job, but the Kings didn't hold it against Walton when hiring him.

Let's examine Walton's experience and how he's a fit for the Kings.

Why didn’t it work out for Walton in LA?

While Walton didn’t ultimately find success in LA, there's a lot of blame to go around.

Magic Johnson already has quit as team president after piecing together a ragtag group of players around superstar LeBron James. The Lakers' decision to chase Anthony Davis leading up to the NBA trade deadline killed chemistry and put all of the team’s young core on notice. It’s a total mess in La-La Land.

Walton didn’t rise above the chaos, but not many coaches would. James missed 27 games because of injury or being shut down. When James went down with a groin injury in December, the Lakers were 20-14. When he returned Feb. 5, the team was 27-27 and scuffling.

The Lakers shut James down late in the season and coasted to the finish line. Most of the decisions made that affected the outcome of the season came from higher-ups, not Walton.

Why might it work out for Walton in Sacramento?

There’s no guarantee it will work with the Kings, but Walton is a fresh voice, and he inherits a team on the rise.

While more experienced names are available, Walton’s play style fits the Kings' roster to a tee. He loves having his team push the tempo, although his 2018-19 Lakers squad was poorly assembled for that kind of play.

During his three seasons with the Lakers, Walton's teams finished sixth, second and fourth in pace. They finished just ahead of the Kings in pace this season, although they scored 111.8 points per game compared to Sacramento’s 114.2.

The biggest reason for the points disparity hinges on LA’s inability to shoot from the perimeter. Walton inherits a Sacramento team that shot 37.8 percent from behind the arc, which ranked fourth in the NBA. Despite shooting more 3-pointers than Sacramento, the Lakers hit just 33.3 percent (29th in the league).

The Kings shot 86 fewer 3-pointers than the Lakers and hit 80 more. So, Walton’s offense might look completely different with De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes and Nemanja Bjelica shooting from the perimeter.

On the other side of the ball, Walton’s group ranked 12th in the NBA in defensive rating in each of the last two seasons. Joerger’s team ranked 20th this season, which was a huge improvement over the previous season.

If the Kings return with the same roster, they have the potential to improve on defense because of their age and gaining valuable experience. But Sacramento doesn’t have the size and length of the Lakers’ roster under Walton.

LA also was a much better rebounding and shot-blocking team than Sacramento. This issue might be addressed during the offseason, but then again, it might not.


Walton is known as a player's coach, although at times he appeared to lose the room in LA this season. Not many coaches could handle the personalities, trade rumors and distractions that Walton faced. When LaVar Ball is the last of your worries, there's an organizational issue.

There's no way that Kings general manager Vlade Divac will add the types of personalities that Magic did. There's also no guarantee Walton will find a way to bond with a young Kings team and have them fall in line.

[RELATED: Joerger says he "bled purple"]

Walton’s 39-4 record as the Warriors' interim coach shows he can connect, even with the best of the best. His 37-45 record this season with the Lakers shows he can struggle as well.

The truth is, Walton likely is somewhere in between these two experiences. He also has pre-existing relationships with Divac from their playing days in LA, as well as a history with Harrison Barnes from their time together with the Warriors.

The Kings have plenty of talent. They need to continue to improve, and Walton is both young enough to grow with the group and experienced enough to potentially get them over the hump.

How Kings' up-tempo style could elevate De-Aaron Fox to All-Star level


How Kings' up-tempo style could elevate De-Aaron Fox to All-Star level

The last NBA All-Star representing the Sacramento Kings was DeMarcus Cousins in 2016-17.

De’Aaron Fox has a chance to end the Kings’ All-Star drought this season, as the floor general had the fourth-most assists in the NBA last season and will lead an offense that constantly will be pushing the tempo under new head coach Luke Walton.

“[Fox’s] agent has said he wants to see him average 23, 24 points per game this season,” NBC Sports California's James Ham said Tuesday on NBC Sports' NBA Season Tip-Off Show. “If he can do that, average nine or 10 assists, he’s right there in the superstar conversation.”

The re-signing of Buddy Hield only can bode well for Fox’s chances of being named an All-Star, as Sacramento’s offense features a litany of 3-point shooters. Hield ranked second in the NBA in 3-point accuracy 2018-19, making 42.7 percent of his shots from long-range.

“They have a very good opportunity to make the playoffs this season,” Ham said of Sacramento.

[RELATED: Buddy, Kings happy to end contract drama before season]

While they may not be near the top of the incredibly-talented Western Conference, there is no doubt the Kings will be a fun team to watch this season, no matter how many games they end up winning.

You can see the full Kings segment from the “NBA Season Tipoff” show in the clip above.

Buddy Hield, Kings happy drama over with four-year contract extension

Buddy Hield, Kings happy drama over with four-year contract extension

SACRAMENTO -- Contract negotiations can be brutal. Things are said. Information finds its way into the media. Lines in the sand are drawn.

And then with a flick of the wrist, the contract is signed and all is forgiven.

Buddy Hield is the proud recipient of a new four-year, $86 million contract extension with the Kings. He’ll have an opportunity to make another $20 million in incentives over the course of the contract, which could push the deal over the $100 million mark.

While the talks were contentious at times, the two sides eventually came to an agreement. On Tuesday morning, Hield sat alongside general manager Vlade Divac to express relief that the situation is over.

“Sacramento is home for me,” Hield said. “I think the way I’ve been elevating my career in the past couple of years, I don’t think it would be the same going somewhere else.”

Hield was set to enter the final year of his rookie contract. The 26-year-old had a breakout season with the Kings last season where he led the team in scoring at 20.7 points per game and set a new franchise record with 278 3-pointers.

“I’m so happy that we came to the agreement that both sides are happy and we still are going the way we planned a few years ago to keep our young core,” general manager Vlade Divac said. “Buddy is one of the most important pieces of our core moving forward and (we’re) building something special here in Sacramento.”

Hield is the first of four members of the Kings’ young core to go through the extension process. It was clear over the last week that negotiations were heating up, but there were times where Hield allowed his emotions to spill out into the media.

In the end, Hield and Divac stayed up until 2 a.m. PT hammering out details, with the Kings’ shooting guard pitching his case to the team’s front office.

“I was just trying to plead my case to them, but that’s done with,” Hield said. “I’m here as a King now, so I’m just wanting to win games now and just try to take us to the playoffs, that’s the main focus.”

Divac greeted Hield after practice almost every day over the last week. The two could be seen joking around, but there was a clear tension in the gym.

“Me and Vlade have a great relationship, it goes back to when he first traded for me,” Hield said. “Just seeing the vibe around him and Peja [Stojakovic] and just being around the organization and [owner] Vivek [Ranadivé]. There was nothing directly or insulting to Vlade, that’s our relationship.”

It was clear that while negotiating a contract extension, Divac was still focused on making sure that Hield wasn’t taking anything personally. The business side of basketball can be ruthless. With the season just days away, the two sides wanted to get a deal done without feelings getting hurt.

“I felt pretty good that either way, what we built here is special,” Divac said. “This is something that we had to figure out, but we know where we want to be and we worked together to get there. This is one step forward.”

Acquired as part of the trade that sent All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans, Hield was not even slated to start for the Kings last season. A late summer knee injury to Bogdan Bogdanovic opened a door and Hield took full advantage.

In his third NBA season he blossomed next to point guard De’Aaron Fox. Hield turned himself into a viable starter moving forward and a player worthy of a huge contract extension.

Born in Freeport, on the island of Grand Bahamas, Hield has come a long way in his journey to become an NBA regular. With a tireless work ethic, he successfully turned himself into one of the game’s best perimeter shooters and he still has more room to grow.

“Where I came from, 10 years [ago], who would have thought I would sign an $86 million [contract],” Hield said. “If I would have told a friend that, he would have said you’re talking BS.”

Hield now has financial security moving forward and can return his focus to the court.

“I’m just extremely blessed, I’m happy to be here and happy to get things rolling,” Hield said.

Hield sighted the low-key environment of Sacramento as one of his selling points. He has a young daughter and Sacramento has become his home away from home during the last two-and-a-half seasons.

[RELATED: Where all 30 teams open this season in NBA power rankings]

The drama is over. It’s time to get back to basketball where the Kings will open the season Wednesday evening in Phoenix against the Suns.

The Kings are looking to snap a 13-year playoff drought and a happy and healthy Buddy Hield could go a long way towards making that a reality.