Kings

Instant Replay: Kings beat Magic, make losing streak disappear

Instant Replay: Kings beat Magic, make losing streak disappear

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings sat four veterans Monday night at Golden 1 Center, suiting up just nine players against the Orlando Magic. It didn’t matter. Behind a ruckus crowd, seven Kings scored in double-figures as the home team snapped their eight-game losing streak by a final of 120-115.

The Thin Towers put on a show. Starting together on the frontline for the first time, Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere gave fans a glimpse of the future in Sacramento.

Cauley-Stein went to work in the post, scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Labissiere produced on both ends of the floor, coming away with 11 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 20 minutes of action.

Veteran point guard Darren Collison orchestrated the offense, hitting the Magic for 19 points and 13 assists. His work with Cauley-Stein in the pick-and-roll opened up the perimeter shot for Sacramento’s shooters.

Anthony Tolliver made it rain from downtown, dropping in 5-of-7 from behind the arc on his way to 19 points and six assists.

Buddy Hield let it fly. The rookie shooting guard isn’t shy about hoisting up shots. Against the Magic, he finished with 17 points on 6-for-13 shooting from the field and added six rebounds.

Veterans Garrett Temple scored 14 points and grabbed two steals and Ben McLemore scored 14 on 3-for-6 shooting from long distance.

During the 2014 NBA Draft, the Kings chose Nik Stauskas over Elfrid Payton. Payton went two picks later to the Magic and in his third season in the league, he’s growing into a solid pro for Orlando. Monday against Sacramento, he pushed the tempo, finishing the night with a 13-point, 13-assist, 10-rebound triple-double.

Nikola Vucevic hurt the Kings in the post. The veteran big dropped in 23 points and added nine rebounds as the Magic fell to 24-44 on the season.

Evan Fournier got hot from the perimeter, scoring 21 points on 4-of-11 from deep. Aaron Gordon finished with 17 points and three rebounds and Mario Hezonja added nine off the Magic bench.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Sacramento dropped in 16-of-30 on the night, including makes from six different players. The ball movement was good and so was the spacing.

TURNING POINT:
The short-handed Kings put on a gritty performance, using all 48 minutes to come away with the win and snap their eight-game losing streak.

INJURY UPDATE:
Tyreke Evans missed the game with a sore left ankle. Kosta Koufos, Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo all sat for “planned rest.” Rookie Malachi Richardson is out another week or two with a right hamstring thickness tear. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles.

WHAT'S NEXT:
The Kings travel to Phoenix following the game where they’ll take on the Suns Wednesday in the first of three on the road.

Buddy Hield: Kings training camp profile

buddyhieldklayus.jpg
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.

Bogdan Bogdanovic: Kings training camp profile

bogdanap.jpg
AP

Bogdan Bogdanovic: Kings training camp profile

A rookie only in name last season, Bogdan Bogdanovic is ready to take on more of an active role in his sophomore campaign. After finishing out the European season with Fenerbahce and playing through last summer with the Serbian national team leading up to the NBA season, the 26-year-old wing looked tired in March and April. 

He underwent a successful procedure to repair a slight tear of the medial meniscus in his left knee after the season ended, forcing him to rest for 8-10 weeks. Healthy and well rested, the Kings are hoping Bogdanovic steps in and makes an even bigger contribution in his second season in the NBA. 

Strengths

Listed at 6-foot-6, 205-pounds, Bogdanovic is a versatile player with a long wingspan and mature game. In his rookie campaign, he proved to be the Kings’ best passer, especially in pick-and-roll sets. 

Bogdanovic has a natural feel for the game that he’s honed while playing professionally overseas since a young age. He can play off the ball or as a primary ball handler, making him one of the more valuable players on the Kings roster. 

Unlike most players coming from the college levels, Bogdanovic brings a developed offense game that opens the spacing for his teammates. The additions of Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III will only give him more weapons to work with this season. The Kings will look to push the tempo, but when they get into half court sets, the offense will often run through Bogdanovic for long stretches. 

While his long range shooting numbers were respectable in Europe, Bogdanovic found the spacing at the NBA level to his liking. He knocked down 39.2 percent from behind the arc last season and shot over 40 percent from deep in December, January and February before the grind of the 82-game schedule hurt his numbers late in the year. 

On the defensive end, Bogdanovic is savvy. He uses his wingspan and high basketball IQ to stay with bigger players, although the quicker guards can be an issue. He’s a serviceable defender at both the two and the three, although he gets by more on his smarts than his physical tools.

Weaknesses

If there is one knock on him as a player it is that he is too unselfish. Most young players come into the league looking to make a mark. In his rookie season, Bogdanovic deferred to his teammates too often, leaving plenty of scoring opportunities on the court. 

The Kings need Bogdanovic to be aggressive in looking for his own shot. He has the potential to lead the team in scoring and they need him to take the next step in year two. 

Like most of his young teammates, Bogdanovic struggled to get to the free throw line. An 84 percent shooter from the stripe, he averaged just 1.5 attempts per game in his first season. He needs to look to draw contact as he develops into a more prominent scoring threat for Sacramento.

Bogdanovic lacks elite athleticism, although he gets by on his experience and his advanced understanding of the game. He struggled to stay in front of faster guards and while he held his own against bigger wings, it’s not a perfect fit. He’s added bulk in the offseason and a clean out on his knee should help as well. 

Path to Improvement

More, more, more. That is what the Sacramento Kings need from Bogdan Bogdanovic. He’s mature beyond his years and unselfish to a fault. Even his cold spots on the floor are only slightly below league average. 

Bogdanovic finished the season second to only Buddy Hield in 3-point attempts for the Kings last season, but the team needs him to chuck. He fared better from the top of the key and from the left side, but he’s solid from most spots except for from the right elbow.

It’s unlikely that Bogdanovic will ever shoot seven-to-eight 3-pointers a game, but he needs to increase from his current 4.2 attempts. He’s a quality marksman both off the dribble and off the catch-and-shoot, the Kings just need to feature him more in the offense. 

Bogdanovic also needs to get to the free throw line more and work on his floaters in the key, but for a first-year player, there was a lot to like. 

Projection

Bogdanovic is huge piece to what the Kings are trying to accomplish this season. He’ll start at either the shooting guard or small forward position and play major minutes for coach Dave Joerger. 

Last season, Bogdanovic tried to fit in. Year two is different. The veterans are stepping aside or already playing for other teams. Bogdanovic is a coach on the floor and one of the leaders on the team. He’s also the best pick-and-roll ball handler the Kings have. 

In 27.9 minutes per game last season, Bogdanovic averaged 11.8 points, 3.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. He was able to manage those numbers without an offseason break following his European season and while playing on a bum knee. 

With a predicted boost in minutes and coming into the season healthier than last year, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Bogdanovic push his numbers up substantially in his sophomore season. An early prediction is 32-35 minutes per game for Bogdanovic while posting 15.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. He’s capable of scoring more, but he’s also a team player that looks to get everyone involved.