Kings notes: Bogdan Bogdanovic comes out on fire, but needs time to adjust

Kings notes: Bogdan Bogdanovic comes out on fire, but needs time to adjust

SACRAMENTO -- The road is an unfriendly place, but home is no picnic either. After surviving a four-game trip with a 3-1 record, the Kings faced the Toronto Raptors Wednesday evening in the first of four games against top tier opponents at Golden 1 Center.

The Kings gave the Raptors a fight, but in the end, the team with the Eastern Conference best record came away with a 114-105 victory. 

Here are six notes as the Kings drop fell to 6-5 on the season.

Better in person

The Toronto Raptors don’t look that tough on paper, but with the win over Sacramento, they are now 11-1 on the season. Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry are the stars, but coach Nick Nurse receives contributions from every player he throws on the court. 

Against the Kings, Pascal Siakam had a big night, scoring 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Serge Ibaka picked up the start and added 14 points and 14 rebounds. Center Jonas Valanciunas came off the bench to chip in a double-double and OG Anunoby finished with a team-high +13 in the plus/minus category.

Consistently good

Coming into the season, Buddy Hield was considered a sixth man for the Kings, but that is all but an afterthought now. Coach Dave Joerger is having a difficult time giving Hield a break during a 48-minute game. Transitioning him out of the starting lineup seems completely out of the question at this point. 

The third-year bomber dropped in 24 points on 9-of-22 shooting, giving him 19 or more points for the seventh straight game and pushing his season scoring average to 20.1 points per game. 

Battle at the point

Every night is a challenge when you play the point guard position at the NBA level. One night De’Aaron Fox is matched up against a speedster like Eric Bledsoe. A few nights later he meets a bowling ball like Kyle Lowry.

Fox continues to hold his own, regardless of the opponent. On Wednesday, he managed score 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 2-for-4 from long range. Fox also dished out four assists, but he turned the ball over a team-high five times.  

Flying high

Willie Cauley-Stein continues to impress with his offensive game. In the midst of a contract year, the fourth-year center torched the Raptors for 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting and chipped in eight rebounds and four assists. Through the first 11 games, he’s had one subpar game, which corresponded with him having to guard Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

The return of Bogi

After missing the first 10 games of the season with a knee injury, Bogdan Bogdanovic returned to action for Sacramento. The second-year wing played a little over 18 minutes, finishing with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting. He came out firing, scoring five points in his first three minutes of action, but he’ll need time to adjust to the Kings new system and uptempo style.

Troy Williams continues to impress

Joerger went away from Williams in the first half, using Justin Jackson as his small forward off the bench. When he gave his two-way forward a look after the intermission, Williams sparked the team with his defensive intensity and aggressive style. 

It’s a small sample size, but Williams is doing everything in his power to earn a full-time job in Sacramento. He posted a modest six points, two assist, three rebound line in 14 minutes of action, but he ran a team-best plus-four in the plus/minus stat.

How Vlade Divac, Kings came out ahead in DeMarcus Cousins trade gamble


How Vlade Divac, Kings came out ahead in DeMarcus Cousins trade gamble

After Vlade Divac surprisingly traded DeMarcus Cousins on Feb. 20, 2017, the Kings general manager famously delivered a prediction.

“I believe we are going to be in a better position in two years,” Divac said. “I want to hear again from these same people in two years. If I’m right, great. If I’m wrong, I’ll step down. But if I go down, I’m going down my way.”

We’ve almost reached that two-year mark, so it’s time to assess the work Divac has done since making the difficult decision to deal away Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans for a package featuring Buddy Hield and a first-round and a second-round draft pick.

The Kings were 24-33 when they traded Cousins, a four-time All-Star who considered the franchise’s cornerstone from the moment he was picked fifth overall in the 2010 NBA Draft. They were just outside of the playoff hunt at the time of the transaction but fell apart down the stretch, struggling to an 8-27 record over the final 35 games to finish with the league’s eighth-worst record.

Hield played well for Sacramento after coming over in the deal, finishing his rookie season by averaging 15.1 points per game in 25 games wearing a Kings uniform. In his third season, the 26-year-old has become one of the league’s best shooters, and he’s averaging more than 20 points per game as the Kings’ starting shooting guard.

New Orleans struggled down the stretch after acquiring Cousins, which worked out perfectly for the Kings. They took the 10th overall selection from the Pelicans and traded it to the Portland Trail Blazers for the 15th and 20th picks in the 2017 NBA Draft.

With the 15th pick, the Kings selected Justin Jackson out of North Carolina. He has become a valuable part of the team’s rotation as a reserve wing, and is showing major improvements in his second season.

Divac selected Harry Giles with the 20th pick, and then redshirted the talented but injured big man in Year 1. Giles has worked himself into the rotation and has high-end potential in the post.

Sacramento also received the 34th pick in the 2017 draft as part of the Cousins trade. It used the selection to take Frank Mason, who has been in and out of the rotation in his first two seasons with the team.

In addition to acquiring Hield, and the picks used on Jackson, Giles and Mason, there was an expected secondary result from the trade. In fact, it was one of the motivations behind it.

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The Kings owed a top-10-protected pick to the Chicago Bulls as part of the 2011 trade that sent Omri Casspi to the Cleveland Cavaliers for J.J. Hickson. The transaction hung over Sacramento’s head for years, but 2017 was the final summer that Chicago could receive the pick. If it wasn’t relayed during that season, it converted to a second-round selection.

By falling apart down the stretch without Cousins, the Kings retained the pick. On draft lottery night, Sacramento moved from the eighth spot in the lottery to the third pick, before dropping back to fifth as part of a pick swap with Philadelphia.

With the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, Divac selected De’Aaron Fox out of Kentucky. In his second NBA season, he is the centerpiece of the Kings’ franchise.

Divac gambled, and the early results are shocking. He basically turned Cousins into Hield, Jackson, Giles, Mason and Fox. He went young last season, and that resulted in another lottery selection, which became Marvin Bagley.

In Cousins’ six-plus seasons with the Kings, the team never made it to Jan. 1 with a .500 record. The team currently sits at 23-22 on the season and is in the hunt for a playoff spot. Meanwhile, Cousins is with the two-time defending champion Warriors after leaving the Pelicans, trying to rebuild his value after an Achilles injury cut his 2017-18 season short.

Sacramento did its best to build a team around Cousins, who would’ve been paid upwards of $35 million this season, not the $5 million the Warriors are on the hook for now. Every summer, the Kings focused on bringing in the right fit to match with their star. It never worked out.

[RELATED: Kings' early trade targets before the Feb. 7 deadline]

The rebuild hasn’t been easy. The Kings have made some mistakes, and there were plenty of ups and downs, but Divac has reinvented the team as a young and exciting club with plenty of talent.

He and his staff also have used the cautious approach to the salary cap and have the financial freedom they wouldn’t have had with Cousins in tow. They are walking into the trade deadline with $11 million in cap space and $37 million in expiring contracts.

If Divac and his group take a cautious approach to the deadline, they can walk into the summer with most of their rotation under contract and upwards of $60 million in cap space.

Trading DeMarcus Cousins was about as bold as it gets in the NBA world. Divac put himself on notice with the move, and he’s found a way to come out ahead.

NBA trade deadline 2019: Six early targets for playoff-hungry Kings


NBA trade deadline 2019: Six early targets for playoff-hungry Kings

The Kings have a wad of cash and it’s burning a hole in their pocket. Armed with $11 million in available cap space and another $37 million in expiring contracts, the Kings are surfing the market looking for long term, as well as short term upgrades.

Sacramento has needs, like every team in the league. High on the priority list is size at the wing and possibly a backup point guard. They are open to adding talent, as long as the move makes sense both now and in the future. 

Here is an early list of players that the Kings have either been linked to in the past or are available on the open market and fit the team’s needs: