Kings

Kings make tough, but correct decisions at the trade deadline

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AP

Kings make tough, but correct decisions at the trade deadline

SACRAMENTO -- And then there were eight. The Sacramento Kings walked into the 2017-18 season with 10 young players on rookie scale contracts. That number was reduced by two at the trade deadline with former first-round selections Georgios Papagiannis and Malachi Richardson leaving the franchise.

It was a bold move by Vlade Divac and assistant general manager Brandon Williams. Giving up on two young players that you invested picks and nearly two years in development isn’t easy. It was also the right move. 

“We wish both kids nothing but the best,” Vlade Divac said Friday morning. “I think it was a plan to develop the group that we have, moving forward and creating a little bit more flexibility.”

Not every player taken in an NBA Draft develops at the right pace. Not every player taken in the NBA Draft is an NBA player. 

By moving away from two young players, the Kings acknowledged that they are willing to make difficult moves. They also acknowledged that they are willing to take the criticism that goes comes with that decision. 

“It was a tough decision, but as a GM, you have to sometimes make tough decisions,” Divac added.

Taken with the 13th overall selection in the 2016 draft, Papagiannis struggled to earn any rotational minutes with the Kings. At 7-foot-1, 240-pounds, the 20-year-old out of Greece might have come into the league in the wrong era. 

While he has passing skills, a soft touch and can set a mean screen, the pace of the game appeared too much for Papagiannis. He may one day develop, but with so many other young players on the team, the Kings can’t eat up roster spots and valuable coaching time with a project that might be another year or two out.

Richardson earned a look last season before a hamstring tear set him back. From that moment on, the 22-year-old has struggled to gain traction in Sacramento. He tweaked the hamstring again in Las Vegas Summer League and quickly fell behind rookie Justin Jackson on the depth chart. 

When given brief opportunities this season, Richardson failed to produce. He’s worked hard to reinvent his body and his 3-point shot looks clean in practice, but translating his skills to an NBA court proved difficult.

Neither of the moves were all that surprising, nor is this an indictment on a coaching staff that has worked tirelessly on player development this season. Both Papagiannis and Richardson were buried on depth chart behind both veterans and young players. With two draft picks in the 2018 NBA Draft, the roster needed reshaping.

“As you know, development projects can be challenging,” assistant general manager Brandon Williams said. “Our coach has done a fantastic job in trying to manage and disperse minutes and opportunity knowing that it’s difficult for young guys that have some talent, have some upside to not have as many minutes.”

The focus will now turn to De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Justin Jackson, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Frank Mason, Harry Giles and possibly even Bruno Caboclo, who was acquired in the Richardson deal. With 28 games remaining, there is still plenty of time to continue the development of the young core.

“This is like another college season in a lot of ways,” Williams said. “So, how much more progress do we make by not dividing minutes up among more players.”

It wasn’t a banner trade deadline for Sacramento, but the Kings made important moves for their future. They now have roster and financial flexibility that they didn’t have before. It came at a cost, but that’s part of the NBA business. 

Kings takeaways: What we learned from surprising loss to Lakers

Kings takeaways: What we learned from surprising loss to Lakers

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- In a game of runs, the Sacramento Kings ran out of gas Sunday evening at Staples Center. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Kings couldn’t buy a bucket the entire night.

Sacramento continued to hang around throughout the game, but Kyle Kuzma put up huge numbers and LeBron James notched his 81st career-triple double to hand the Kings a 111-106 loss.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings dropped back under the .500 mark on the season at 36-37.

Energizer Bunny

Marvin Bagley has springs in his legs, even when the rest of the roster doesn’t. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Kings’ rookie big looked fresh. The 20-year-old rolled through the Lakers' defense, scoring 25 points on 10-for-19 shooting in 36 minutes. He added 11 rebounds and a block, but it wasn’t enough to come away with the win. Since returning from injury, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft is crushing it, averaging over 19 points and eight rebounds per game.

A third to forget

The Kings couldn’t buy a bucket early, but they slowly came around in the second quarter to take a 49-48 lead into the half. Los Angeles came out hot in third and ran the Kings off the court. Led by the hot shooting of Kuzma, the Lakers outscored the Kings 39-28 in the period to take a 10-point lead into fourth. Kuzma torched the Kings for 21 of his 29 points in the 12-minute stretch, hitting 7-of-8 from the field and 4-for-5 from long range.

The Rally

Sacramento looked dead in the water coming out of the third, but the Kings never stop playing. Bagley and Bogdan Bogdanovic kept the Kings afloat in the fourth to make things interesting. After trailing by as many as 17 in the third, the Kings reduced the Lakers' lead all the way down to two multiple times in the final three minutes, but they couldn’t get the big shot to fall when they needed it.

Kings vs. Lakers live stream: How to watch NBA game online and on MyTeams

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NBC Sports Bay Area staff

Kings vs. Lakers live stream: How to watch NBA game online and on MyTeams

The Lakers have a slight (and we mean very slight) advantage over the Kings as the teams prep for a matchup in the City of Angels.

Los Angeles has gone 2-1 against the Kings this season -- so that's about as intimidating the Lakers are at the moment. 

The Kings enter Sunday's game 5 1/2 games behind the Spurs which sets them at eighth place in the Western Conference. 

Buddy Hield heads into the game with a bit of confidence knowing he broke Peja Stojakavic's franchise record of three-pointers in a single season.

“Getting the record from Peja, he left a mark on this franchise, it’s pretty big,” Hield told NBC Sports California's James Ham. “It’s something special. Hope I can keep it for many years, but who knows. There’s always going to be some other kid that’s going to come up and break records.”

Here's how you can watch Kings-Lakers, as well as NBC Sports California's pregame and postgame coverage, live on the MyTeams by NBC Sports app. 

When: 6:30 p.m. PT on Sunday, March 24 (pregame show starts at 6:00 p.m.)
Live Stream: MyTeams by NBC Sports app