Kings notes: Buddy Hield has been on fire during five-game winning streak

Kings notes: Buddy Hield has been on fire during five-game winning streak

Who are these Kings?

Sacramento extended its win streak to five games Thursday night at Philips Arena, running over the Atlanta Hawks in a 146-115 schelacking. De’Aaron Fox was the star, but plenty of Kings stepped to the plate in the victory.

The win snapped an 11-game losing streak in Atlanta, dating all the way to the Rick Adelman era of Kings basketball. 

Here are seven notes as the Kings move to 6-3 on the season.

Breakout game for Fox

You could see it building for the last two weeks. Fox was ready to break out and have one of those career-altering games. 

In Atlanta, Fox took it all to a new level, setting new career highs in points, assists and rebounds, finishing with 31 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds for his first career triple-double.

On the defensive end, Fox locked down Hawks rookie Trae Young, helping to contribute to the first-round draft pick's eight turnovers on the evening. 

Buddy is on fire

Buddy Hield scored 20 or more for the fifth consecutive game to help lift the Kings to victory. The confidence level is growing with the third-year shooting guard. Against Atlanta, Hield dropped in 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting with six assists and five rebounds. 

Bjelica scores but struggles on the defensive end

So far this season, Nemanja Bjelica has been a huge surprise for Sacramento. The 30-year-old forward scored 19 points and dished out three assists in the win, but he was a target on the defensive end.

The Hawks worked to get him in switches all night, and when they had him isolated, they attacked him going to the rim. He needs more help in those situations.

Sneaky game for the rookie

With Fox, Hield and Bjelica putting up big numbers, Marvin Bagley’s night was easy to overlook. The 19-year-old dropped in 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting and added five rebounds in 24 minutes of action. He ran the floor and was active in the paint for another solid game off the bench for coach Dave Joerger.

Quiet night for Cauley-Stein

Willie Cauley-Stein has been really good for Sacramento this season. Against the Hawks, he posted a modest 12 points, six rebounds and three steals in 25 minutes. If this is a bad night for the Kings’ starting center, Joerger and his staff will take it. 

Stat of the night

The Kings handed out an incredible 38 assists as a team, including 22 in the first half. There was very little defense played by either teams, but the assist numbers were off the charts.

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.

[RELATED: Shump explains what makes Fox so special]

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: