Kings

Instant Replay: Cousins' 28 leads Kings past Pelicans, Davis

Instant Replay: Cousins' 28 leads Kings past Pelicans, Davis

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SACRAMENTO -- With most eyes focused on Election Night 2016, the Sacramento Kings moved within one game of .500 on the season with a 102-94 win over the New Orleans Pelicans Tuesday night.

DeMarcus Cousins went toe-to-toe with fellow Kentucky alum Anthony Davis and came out victorious. The Kings’ star big man hit from inside and out on his way to 28 points in 11-for-20 shooting, four rebounds and four assists as the Kings moved to 4-5 on the season.

Cousins and veteran Rudy Gay continue to pace the Kings' offense. Despite struggling with a rib cartilage strain, Gay put up solid numbers for the second straight contest. The veteran wing scored 21 points, handed out six assists and grabbed six rebounds.

Sacramento has been waiting for the return of Darren Collison from suspension. The 29-year-old point guard made his season debut with the second unit and made an immediate impact. Collison finished the night with a modest nine points, but he dished out four assists, picked up two steals and got his teammates involved on the offensive end.

Arron Afflalo added 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting. Willie Cauley-Stein looked energized on his way to nine points and three rebounds and Kosta Koufos chipped in six points and seven rebounds starting alongside Cousins.  

Davis played well for New Orleans, but like the previous seven games, it wasn’t enough. The three-time All-Star finished the night with 34 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and three steals for the now 0-8 Pelicans.

E’Twaun Moore shook off a big toe injury early in the game to put in 13 points and four assists. He attacked the middle of the Kings defense and came away with plenty of easy baskets.

Rookie Buddy Hield scored 14 points off coach Alvin Gentry’s bench, but needed 16 shots to get there.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
The two teams headed to the half with the Kings leading 51-48.  When they returned to the floor following the intermission, the officials admitting to an error in the final minute when Cousins was fouled, but not given a pair of free throws. The Pelicans last second basket was removed from the score, Cousins was put at the line with 18.9 seconds remaining where he hit both freebies, giving the Kings a 53-46 lead. New Orleans couldn’t get a basket and the half ended. And then the third quarter started up.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Davis was the high-scorer for the game, but Collison’s return to action and his seven points off the bench in the third quarter proved to be a huge lift for the Kings.

TURNING POINT:
The Pelicans made a late run, cutting the Kings’ lead to just five with under a minute to play. With 45.2 seconds remaining, Afflalo buried a corner 3-ball and was fouled, ending New Orleans’ chances of a comeback.

INJURY UPDATE:
Anthony Tolliver listed as probable coming into the night and was in uniform for Sacramento, but he did not make an appearance.

WHAT'S NEXT:
The Kings host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night at the Golden 1 Center before hopping a plane for Portland where they will play the Blazers Friday evening on the second night of a back-to-back.

Harry Giles: Kings training camp profile

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AP

Harry Giles: Kings training camp profile

The Sacramento Kings took a gamble when they selected Harry Giles III with the 20th overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft. After redshirting the former No. 1 rated prospect last season, it’s time to test the knees of the 20-year-old power forward. 

Giles looked solid with limited talent around him during the California Classic and in Las Vegas for Summer League. He’s a high energy player that barks and sometimes bites. It’s the type of player the Kings have needed for a long time, although all expectations should be qualified with the fact that Giles has played very few minutes in the last three years.

Strengths

Giles has the all the physical tools you are looking for in an elite big man. At 6-foot-10, 250-pounds, the former Duke Blue Devil can play both the four and the five. In January, the Kings took Giles to P3 in Southern California for testing and his agility scores ranked with elite small forwards.

While he hasn’t seen court time at the NBA level, behind the scenes both the coaching staff and his teammates have raved about Giles’ passing skills. He has incredible court vision and he’s a very willing passer. Sacramento could really use a quality high-post passer and in limited action, Giles has shown an ability to draw a crowd in the lane and find the open man.

His passing skills have drawn comparisons to former Kings great, Chris Webber, but so have his hands. Giles has huge mitts, which he uses to attack the glass on both ends of the floor. He projects as an elite rebounder, which happens to help one of the team’s biggest weaknesses.

In summer league, Giles stood out on the defensive side of the ball. He directed traffic and demanded accountability from his teammates. It’s early, but his intensity and defensive IQ has drawn comparisons to the Warriors Draymond Green.  

Weaknesses


Giles needs to find a way to stay healthy. He’s put in the work with the Kings’ strength and conditioning staff to build his legs strength. Giles also focused on his core to help support a tremendous frame. After suffering ACL tears in both knees as a prep athlete, the fear will always be there, but he’s put in the work to come back healthy.

As a scorer, Giles is a work in progress. He shoots from the left side of his face, but he takes a direct path to get there, unlike the Lakers’ Lonzo Ball, who loops the ball all the way from the right to left. He has range all the way to the 3-point line, but he’ll likely stay inside the arc in his rookie season in the league.

On the defensive side of the ball, Giles is a beast. He also plays with a fire and energy that sometimes gets him in trouble. There’s a good chance he’ll struggle with foul trouble early in his career as he adjusts to quality of talent in the NBA game. He also runs hot, which might get him in some trouble with officials.

Path to Improvement


Giles tore the ACL in his left knee in 2013 and then did the same thing to his right knee in 2015 in his first game of his senior year in high school. He underwent a cleanout procedure before stepping on the floor at Duke, which is customary in bilateral knee injury recovery. The surgery at Duke limited him to just 300 minutes of action for coach Mike Krzyzewski.

If ever there was an NBA unknown, it’s Giles. He was the star of Team USA basketball as a prep. He was a star when he played at the highschool level. The reality is that he’s played 300 minutes in three years.

The path for improvement starts and ends with being able to play. Anything and everything after that is gravy in year one. It should be noted that Kenyon Martin, Danny Manning and Amar’e Stoudemire all played 14 seasons or more with similar injuries. The group combined for nine All-Star appearances and technology and medical advancements have improved since their time in the league.

Projection


Giles is going to play. Where he fits in is still a question mark. With his natural size and strength, he can play either frontline position. If he can remain healthy, there is a chance that he and rookie Marvin Bagley III will see major time together this season.

There is a good chance that Bagley and Willie Cauley-Stein start the season ahead of Giles in the rotation, but counting him out is a mistake. While he didn’t see a second of NBA action last season, Giles practiced with the team all year and he knows the terminology and playbook. 

A conservative prediction has Giles posting 9-10 points, 7-8 rebounds and two-plus assists in 24 minutes per game as a rookie. Those numbers could jump considerably if he earns a starting spot coming out of training camp. 

Buddy Hield: Kings training camp profile

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USATSI

Buddy Hield: Kings training camp profile

Buddy Hield grows on you. After coming over to Sacramento midway through his rookie season in the DeMarcus Cousins deal, the Kings have watched Hield become an elite 3-point threat. In year three, they are hoping for even more signs of improvement.

There are plenty of questions surrounding Hield. Is he a starter or better served coming off the bench? Can he take the next step and become the scoring threat he was at the NCAA level? Will he make the necessary improvements to become an all-around player?

The 24-year-old shooting guard is an exciting player and he puts in the work to improve. It appears he’s part of the long-term core of the Kings, although his long term fit into the overall puzzle has yet to be determined.

Strengths

Shooters are going to shoot. Hield has yet to become the scorer he was at Oklahoma, but he’s had plenty of moments in his two seasons in the NBA. An elite perimeter shooter and improving slasher, Hield has the potential to be a 20-point per game scorer at some point in his career.

Per 36 minutes, Hield posted 19.2 points per game last season, although he played just 25.2 minutes per contest for coach Dave Joerger. He’s the best 3-point shooter on the team, knocking down 43.1 percent from long range on 408 attempts. His 3-point percentage ranked ninth in the NBA overall.

Hield has worked to improve his ball handling skills to open up more offensive opportunities, but his bread and butter is still the jumper. Of his 933 shot attempts, nearly 600 came from outside of 16-feet and 729 of his attempts were considered jump shots.

Not just a scorer, Hield is a quality rebounder for a shooting guard, averaging 5.5 per 36. He also posted 2.8 assists per 36 minutes, but he needs improvement as a passer.

On the defensive end, Hield took some baby steps forward in his second NBA season, but he’s still a work in progress. He played the passing lanes better down the stretch, averaging 1.5 steals per game in the final six weeks of the season. He has a knack for the dramatic steal and he loves to turn defense into instant offense.

Weaknesses

Despite four years of college and two years in the pro’s, Hield is still learning the finer nuances of the game. He spent time last season working on film study with Bogdan Bogdanovic and appears to be growing in his understanding, but these things take time.

Hield improved his overall passing numbers last season, but this has to be an area of emphasis moving forward. With his ability to shoot the ball, he should be a better pick-and-roll player. He struggled in the two-man game, relying heavily on his own ability to score instead of using his big.

The Kings want to push the tempo, which plays perfectly into Hield’s style, but they also added a few athletic bigs that are going to demand the ball in the offense. If he can develop the necessary passing skills, the spacing on the floor will improve overall.

Very few pure scorers come into the league ready to play defense. Hield is no exception. He showed signs of improvement, especially with effort and understanding. There are still too many situations where his opponent blows by him, but the difference between his rookie campaign and his sophomore season was night and day.

Path to Improvement

One of Hield’s biggest weaknesses coming into the 2018-19 season is his inability to get to the free throw stripe. An 87.7 percent shooter from the line, Hield took just 81 free throw attempts in 80 games last year for Sacramento.

Whether he’s coming off the bench as a super-sub or starting in the back court, Hield needs to find a way to draw contact if he hopes to dramatically improve his scoring numbers. It’s an epidemic with the Kings roster. Most of the players struggle to get to the line, but it’s different when you are counted on as a primary scorer.

Hield needs to find a way to get to the free throw line 4-5 times per game, which would equate to an additional 3-3.5 points per game. If you add that number onto his 13.5 point per game average last season and he can hit one more 3-pointer per contest, he’s at 20 points per game.

Projection

This season could go one of two ways for Hield. Joerger could continue to bring him off the bench as a primary scoring option with the second unit or he can insert him into the starting group in a three guard set with De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

With the Kings failing to add a seasoned starter at the small forward spot, it’s very possible Joerger goes with plan B. Hield deserves the look with the starting unit. He’s a knockdown 3-point shooter and he is one of the hardest workers on the team.

Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Hield is a breakout candidate for Sacramento. He has the skills to put up a ton of points. He’s improved in each of his two seasons in the league and his shooting is an elite weapon.

Projecting what role he might play is difficult, but it’s very possible that Hield is the Kings leading scorer this season. An early prediction has Buddy Buckets posting 16.5-17.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 30 minutes per game this season for the Kings.