Kings

Kings crest 34-win mark for first time in more than decade, want more

Kings crest 34-win mark for first time in more than decade, want more

SACRAMENTO -- Thirty-four wins isn’t the mark the Kings were focusing on, but it’s a milestone of sorts for a franchise that has struggled mightily for well over a decade.

With their 129-102 victory over the Chicago Bulls, the 2018-19 Kings have crested 33 wins for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

“That’s a good feeling,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said after the win. “We’re so locked in on what we’re trying to do and grinding in and out, and every once in a while, you’ve got to step back and take a breath and enjoy the group and the success and how far they’ve come.

"That’s really cool. I didn’t know that.”

The season isn’t over. Sacramento still has 13 games remaining on the schedule and a very outside shot at climbing back into the playoff race. But this is a mark that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

For perspective sake, the last time the Kings won more than 34 games, rookie Marvin Bagley had just turned 9 years old. Starting point guard De’Aaron Fox was 11.

“I think you could probably see it coming toward the beginning of the year,” Fox said. “We’re trying to fight for a playoff spot. I mean, the West is tough, but just to be able to be here, knowing the history, I think is definitely good.”

Reggie Theus was the Kings' coach during the '07-08 season. The night Sacramento picked up its 38th victory, Beno Udrih and John Salmons started in the backcourt, with Ron Artest, Mikki Moore and Spencer Hawes up front.

Hawes is attempting to make a comeback through the G League, but the other four are retired. So are Francisco Garcia, Sheldon Williams and Quincy Douby, the three players Theus turned to off Sacramento's bench.

The current Kings roster has grander aspirations. While they understand the math, they have yet to give up on the postseason, which was their personal goal coming into the season.

“I cannot still call it a successful season, because we’re really trying to make the playoffs,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “Not even an eight spot. We were trying to aim higher.”

Whether they find a way to sneak into the postseason or not, the Kings are heading in the right direction. They’ve already bested their '17-18 win total of 27, and they’ve smashed the Las Vegas prediction of 25.5 wins.

[RELATED: Kings still respect one another despite recent struggles]

With plenty of winnable games in their final 13, the Kings have a chance to set the bar much higher for next season.

Why NBA journeyman Corey Brewer hopes he found steady home with Kings

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USATSI

Why NBA journeyman Corey Brewer hopes he found steady home with Kings

Corey Brewer has been around the NBA. 

The Kings are the eighth team the journeyman forward has suited up for in his 12-year career, and the ninth organization he's been a part of overall. But after finishing the 2018-19 season in California's capital, Brewer hopes he has found a more permanent home. 

“Just being around these young guys has been fun,” Brewer told the Kings' website. “Just being able to help them as best I can, and knowing how good they can be and how good they’re going to be.”

After Sacramento traded Iman Shumpert ahead of the deadline, Brewer gave the young Kings team some much-needed veteran leadership. The 33-year-old signed a pair of 10-day contracts in January, before signing with the team for the remainder of the season in February. 

“He’s been good for us,” point guard De’Aaron Fox said back in February. “When he gets on the court, you know what he’s going to bring.”

[RELATED: Walton must improve defense for Kings to win]

In 24 games with the Kings, Brewer averaged 4.1 points and 2.5 rebounds in just under 15 minutes per. His impact was particularly felt on the defensive end, as Kings.com writer Alex Kramers noted, where Sacramento gave up 4.1 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor,

Brewer can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but it sounds like he doesn't have much intention of signing anywhere else. 

Do Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox make a case for NBA's Most Improved Player?

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USATI

Do Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox make a case for NBA's Most Improved Player?

Locked out of the offseason awards since Tyreke Evans took home the Rookie of the Year trophy in 2010, the Sacramento Kings have two legitimate candidates this season for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.

It’s a crowded field, but with the Kings drawing a lot of attention this season with their strong play, both Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox will receive consideration. One of the pair may even take home the trophy.  

The case for Buddy Hield

Coming out of Oklahoma, Hield walked into the NBA as a known scorer. In year three, he cemented himself as one of the premier shooters in the league.

After earning a starting role coming out of training camp, Hield instantly settled in next to De’Aaron Fox in the Kings’ backcourt. He showed improvements across the board, but his real leap came as a scorer.

Hield showed a 7.2 points per game increase over his previous season, jumping from 13.5 points per game as a sophomore to 20.7 in year three. He also set new career highs in rebounds, assists and minutes played.

Known for his ability to knock down the long ball, Hield hit 278 3-pointers, which is the seventh highest single-season mark in NBA history, and a 102-make increase over his previous best season.

Hield increased his 3-point attempts by 2.8 per game while seeing his percentage barely drop from 43.1 to 42.7 percent. He became the Kings’ most consistent scoring threat and he hit big shots all season long.

The case for De’Aaron Fox

Fox posted a decent rookie campaign last year, but he took a massive leap as a sophomore. Not only did he improve, but the 21-year-old point guard became the face of the Kings’ franchise, which showed a shocking 12 game improvement in the standings.

Like Hield, Fox took steps forward in almost every facet of his game. His scoring average jumped from 11.6 points per game as a rookie to 17.3 in year two. He improved his 3-point percentage from 30.7 to 37.1 percent and his overall field goal percentage from 41.2 to 45.8 percent.

As a rookie, Fox posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.4-to-2.4. Despite the Kings cranking up their pace from 29th in the league to fifth, Fox successfully improved his assists to 7.3 per game while barely increasing his turnovers to 2.8.

Fox finished the season in the top 10 in both assists and steals and he looks like a player that can take another leap forward in his production. He has elite potential on both ends of the court, which bodes well for Sacramento.

Primary Competition

-Pascal Siakam had a tremendous season for the Toronto Raptors, and his team’s win total, although expected, may play a role in his candidacy.

Siakam jumped his scoring average from 7.3 points per game to 16.9 and added a career-best 6.9 rebounds per game. He went from a back end of the rotation player to starting 79 games on a 58-win team. He gets added points for being a late first-round selection.

-D'Angelo Russell went from bust to the leader of a surprise playoff team in Brooklyn. It’s a riches to rags to riches story for Russell who made himself a lot of money with his play this season.

Russell posted his best season as a pro, finishing the year averaging 21.1 points and seven assists per game while leading the Nets to a 42-40 record

-Montrezl Harrell found a home alongside Lou Williams coming off the Clippers bench. The 25-year-old undersized center bullied opposing bigs, helping lead Los Angeles back to the postseason.

Harrell averaged career-highs in points (16.6), rebounds (6.5), blocks (1.3) and minutes (26.3). He also shot 61.5 percent from the field and routinely dunked on his competition.

-Jon Collins slipped to the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and he’s making plenty of teams regret that decision.

The high flying power forward increased his scoring average from 10.5 points as a rookie to 19.5 as a sophomore. He made a similar jump as a rebounder, grabbing 9.8 rebounds compared to 7.3 in year one.

Collins flourished in Atlanta’s uptempo style, although the Hawks won just 29 games.

[RELATED: Bjelica recounts long road from Serbia to NBA]

Prediction

Both Hield and Fox have a strong case to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Hield elevated his game to become one of the game’s elite shooters while Fox developed into a floor general.

If one of the two is going to win the award, Fox might have the advantage. He is the face of the franchise and his ability to change the game with his speed helped multiple players post-career years in Sacramento.