How two-way contract additions Cooley, Sampson fit with Kings

How two-way contract additions Cooley, Sampson fit with Kings

The Sacramento Kings continued their offseason of change Saturday morning, adding two more players to their expanded roster rollover. Jack Cooley and JaKarr Sampson were added via the NBA’s new two-way contract, giving the Kings two more able bodied players to come into camp with.

The two-way contract is the NBA’s next step in establishing a true minor league system with G-League (formerly the D-League). Teams can add a 16th and 17th rostered player that they can then bounce back and forth with their G-League affiliate team. Sampson and Cooley are eligible for a $75,000 contract, which is substantially higher than the $26,000 cap of a standard G-League signee.

Both Sampson and Cooley are also eligible for a maximum of 45 days of call-ups to the parent club, where they make a prorated portion of the NBA’s $812,000 league minimum salary.

On a team filled with highly paid veterans and first round picks on guaranteed deals, both Sampson and Cooley have tried to break into the league the hard way. Neither jump off the page as potential future starters, but there is a way for both of them to fit with Sacramento as the current roster is constructed.

Cooley spent last season with Riesen Ludwigsburg of the German basketball Bundesliga. After going undrafted out of Notre Dame, he’s spent Summer League with the Kings and turned heads with his gritty style of play.

The 6-foot-10 power forward is a banger inside and a plus rebounder. He’ll provide organizational depth in case Skal Labissiere struggles in his sophomore season or an unexpected injury to 36-year-old Zach Randolph.

Cooley, 26, also gives the Kings the opportunity to take it slow with rookie Harry Giles, who has a history of knee injuries and played sparingly last season at Duke. After bouncing around the world chasing his basketball dreams, Cooley will likely act as a mentor to Giles both in Sacramento and with the Reno Bighorns.

Sampson went undrafted out of St. John’s in 2014. He’s played 147 games in his NBA career during stops in Philadelphia and Denver, but he spent last season with the Iowa Energy of the D-League. The 24-year-old small forward earned a D-League All-Star spot, while posting 15.1 points, 5.9 rebounds in 25.7 minutes per game.

Like Cooley, the high flying wing joined Sacramento in Las Vegas and played well. The Kings don’t have a conventional roster spot available for Sampson, but he has a lot more experience than either Malachi Richardson or Justin Jackson at the small forward position.

He has a motor that doesn’t stop and at 6-foot-9, 214-pounds, Sampson has great size at a position of need. He is a strong defender and he likes to finish above the rim. In a perfect world, he might compete for a rotational spot with the club while the rookies fight to earn playing time.

Sampson may earn minutes, but the limitations of the 2-way contract, matched with the team’s need to develop their young additions at the wing will limit his time with the parent club.

Cooley and Sampson are players who have worked hard to earn another shot in the NBA. They play with a blue collar mentality and can bring an interesting perspective for a group of young players that know nothing but the security of a first round rookie scale contract.

82 games is a long season. Chances are Cooley and Sampson will make an appearance this season in a Kings uniform, even if it’s for a quick look.

In Year 3, Kings have unleashed Buddy Hield into way more than a scorer

In Year 3, Kings have unleashed Buddy Hield into way more than a scorer

SACRAMENTO -- Where would the Kings be this season without Buddy Hield?

Like De’Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein, the third-year shooting guard has taken a huge leap in production. He’s proving that he is more than just a shooter, more than just a scorer.
Following practice Wednesday, the 24-year-old Bahamian spoke to media members with stitches in his right eyelid after catching an elbow in Monday’s win over the San Antonio Spurs. He made sure to share that the 12-inch wound likely would scar. 
“Nothing intentional happened in the game, but it’s something that’s going to heal,” Hield said.  
The Kings weren’t sure who and what Hield would be as an NBA player when they acquired him as part of the DeMarcus Cousins trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. Taken with the sixth selection in the 2016 NBA Draft out of Oklahoma, Hield came into the league a pure scorer with very little conscience. 
He has fit perfectly into the new uptempo style that Kings coach Dave Joerger is promoting. Hield’s shooting ability has opened the floor for others, and he continues to improve in all facets of the game.
“Our style of play, us making shots, playing together, playing free,” Hield said of why he thinks the team is off to such a fast start. “Coach is doing a great job of going over game plans and trying to find ways that we can score, score in the right spots, score quickly as we can. Our pace is good, but we’re trying to have good possessions and try to exploit mismatches.”
Three years into his NBA career, Hield continues to develop. He’s become a tremendous rebounder for his position, ranking third in the league amongst shooting guards at 5.6 boards per game. Only Victor Oladipo and DeMar DeRozan average more per game at the position.
As a passer, Hield has come a long way as well. For the season, he’s averaging 2.7 assists, which is a far cry from the 1.5 per game he posted as a rookie or the 1.9 assists he averaged last season. 
Like Fox, Hield is showing signs of maturity both on and off the court. He came into the NBA as a flashy scorer and a flashy personality, but he seems more grounded in his third season.

[RELATED: Fox shares reason behind his improved 3-point shooting]
“You want people to take notice, but us, as a young group, you can’t get too high, you know, the league is 82 games and anything can happen,” Hield said about the Kings’ early success. “You can hit a winning streak, you can hit a losing streak. You want to stay content and stay humble and just keep winning, man. Just keep growing and growing as a group.”
“We’re trying to change the culture around here,” Hield added. “The culture is try to get us to the playoffs and we’re just trying to take it one game at a time.”
Over the last few games, Hield’s stats have been all over the board. After posting 17 points or more in 10 of the first 11 games of the season, he’s averaging 13.7 points over the last three games. The team has had to adjust to the return of Bogdan Bogdanovic, who's missed 11 games early in the season with a knee injury. 
“You’ve just got to find a rhythm,” Hield said. “The first 12 games, I was playing the whole first quarter. I’ve got to figure out how to find that balance, and we know that Bogi’s a special part of our team.”

[RELATED: Now healthy, Bogdan has lofty goals for Kings, including playoffs]
The two have a special bond. They vacationed together in Serbia over the summer, and Hield has credited the 26-year-old European star with helping him grow his understanding of the game.
Hield’s role will continue to evolve as the season continues. He’s averaging a career-best 18.7 points on 47.4 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from long range in 31.1 minutes game. In addition to knocking down a higher percentage of shots, Hield is getting to the free throw line 2.5 times per game, another huge improvement over last season’s 1.0 attempts per night.
In his third season in the league, Hield is figuring out the game, and he’s a big reason for the Kings’ early success. Whether he stays in the starting lineup long term or transitions back to a sixth-man role with Bogdanovic’s return is uncertain at this time. 

What we do know is that Hield has made his case with a strong start to the season, and he’s earned his spot as one of the team’s young building blocks. 

Kings’ De'Aaron Fox shares reason behind his improved 3-point shooting

Kings’ De'Aaron Fox shares reason behind his improved 3-point shooting

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings are the surprise team of the early NBA season and point guard De’Aaron Fox is a big reason for the quick start.

The sophomore playmaker looks like a different player on the court and he continues to improve almost every time he steps on the court.

Fox is known for his incredible speed and quickness, but he’s added a new element to his game this year that is opening up the spacing on the floor and allowing him even more room to operate.

After shooting 30.7 percent from behind the arc in his rookie campaign, Fox has come out hot early, knocking down 19-of-43 from 3-point range for a blistering 44.2 percent.

“It’s just confidence,” Fox said following practice on Tuesday. “Shooting the ball with confidence every time. Shooting the ball like every shot is going to go in.”

[RELATED: Joerger wants more from Fox]

Fox started the season slow from long range, shooting just 4-of-19 in eight games in October. In six games in the month of November, the 20-year-old has hit 15-of-24 (62.5 percent) from deep as he’s become more comfortable on the floor. 

The former Kentucky star added 15 pounds of muscle in the offseason and he spent plenty of time hoisting up shots, but he hasn’t really made many adjustments in his stroke.

“I didn’t really change any mechanics,” Fox said. “Looking at college I kind of saw that I brought the ball back too far, but other than that, it wasn’t anything major.” 

The increase in range has helped his overall field goal percentage as well. Fox shot just 41.2 percent from the field last season, compared to the 50.8 percent he’s posted through 14 games. 

He is running to the rack in transition and when teams give him space, he’s pulling up for open threes. There is no hesitation in his game, which is a major sign of growth. 

“I think it’s extremely different,” Fox said of his play this season versus last year. “I think with shooting the ball better comes a lot more things.”

[RELATED: Fox at front of surprising Kings]

It’s early, but Fox is averaging 18.7 points, 7.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 32.7 minutes per game. He’s garnering attention around the league for his strong start and he is a big piece to the Kings’ early success. 

If there is one knock on Fox so far, he’s struggled at the line, which he is the first to point out.

“I’ve been pretty efficient, right now I just need to make free throws,” Fox said. “I feel like every other aspect of my game is going pretty well, but I got to get the easy ones.”

Fox is using his new found confidence to attack the rim more frequently this season. As a rookie, he attempted just 2.7 free throw attempts per game, hitting on 72.3 percent from the stripe. During the 2018-19 season, he’s bumped his attempts to 6.2 per game, but he’s knocking down just 67.8 percent.

The sample size is still small, but the improvement Fox has shown early is remarkable. He came into the season on a mission and so far, he’s lived up to all the hype of a top five draft selection.