Kings

Kings player profile: Can Bogdan Bogdanovic avoid FIBA World Cup hangover?

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AP

Kings player profile: Can Bogdan Bogdanovic avoid FIBA World Cup hangover?

Two separate knee injuries, including one right before the start of training camp, set back Bogdan Bogdanovic and cost him his starting job last season. To his credit, Buddy Hield seized the opportunity, becoming the Kings’ leading scorer and solidifying himself as one of the franchise’s building blocks.

While his teammates were running extra wind sprints in preparation for the 2018-19 season, Bogdanovic was rehabbing and trying to get back on the court. He missed just 11 games due to the injury and played well initially, but he seemed to run out of gas in January and February when his numbers dipped considerably.

Not ready to give up international play, Bogdanovic starred for the Serbian national team at the FIBA World Cup up until Tuesday morning when they were eliminated in a stunning upset. While Bogdanovic is likely unhappy about the loss, it might be a good thing for the Sacramento Kings.

The World Cup finals are set for Sept. 15, just 13 days before the start of training camp in Sacramento. While it doesn’t seem like much, the extra five days of rest and recovery should help Bogdanovic get a break before jumping into camp.

Either way, the Kings will likely take it easy on the 26-year-old wing early in camp and through the preseason. He still needs to fly back to Sacramento from China and the team has a trip to India during the preseason as well. He’s put a lot of mileage on his body this summer and the Kings need him to play a vital role as their primary scorer off the bench this season.

Strengths

Playmaker, scorer, jack-of-all-trades. Bogdanovic is Sacramento’s swiss army knife, although they’ve rarely seen him at 100 percent strength. He can play the point guard, shooting guard and small forward position and he can work as both a primary ball-handler or off the ball.

Bogdanovic was more aggressive in his sophomore season and it equated to an increase of 2.3 shots and .8 free throw attempts in virtually the identical amount of minutes to the year before. While he shot just 41.8 percent and saw his 3-point shooting dip from 39.2 percent as a rookie to 36 percent in year two, there is still a lot to like from the Kings’ sixth man.

A versatile scorer at all three levels, Bogdanovic keeps defenses off balance. He also has a flair for the dramatic and is one of the team’s better clutch players in the fourth quarter.

One of the best creators on the team, Bogdanovic posted the second-highest assist percentage out of the regulars, trailing only De’Aaron Fox. He also posted the team’s fifth-highest usage rate.

Bogdanovic worked well with rookies Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles and the trio is likely to get stronger with more time together on the court. Bagley is set to move into the starting lineup, but Giles should have a major role alongside Bogdanovic with the second unit.

Like Fox and Hield, Bogdanovic held his opponent to below league average shooting behind the arc and outside of 15-feet. This group of guards is a big reason why the Kings held their opponents to 34.8 percent shooting from long range, which ranked 12th in the league last season.

Bogdanovic is a high basketball IQ player that always seems to be in the right place. He’s a catalyst for the second unit and the additions of Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza, Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes should each help increase his production on both ends of the court this season.

Weaknesses

Bogdanovic isn’t exactly made for the uptempo style the Kings like to play. He’s better in the halfcourt and playing in defined playsets. It’s not always a bad thing, but there are times when it looks like four players are playing one style and the fifth is not.

Conditioning appeared to be an issue for Bogdanovic as the season wore on. Missing camp was a big deal and it was the second straight summer that international play had taken its toll. He’s coming off another long stretch with Serbia and escaped the tournament unscathed. He should be in good shape, but lowering his minutes early in the season might help preserve his legs for the post-All-Star break schedule.

Likely due to fatigue, Bogdanovic saw his shooting numbers take a substantial hit. He dropped three percentage points off his 3-point shooting and nearly three percent off his overall field goal percentage. He just 36.7 percent from 16-feet out and he took 477 of his 863 field goal attempts from this area.

Defensively, Bogdanovic can be a liability at times. The closer to the basket the ball gets, the worse off he is. Inside of 16 feet, the 6-foot-6 wing allowed opponents to shoot 6.7 percent above league average and that number jumped to +11.2 percent inside of six feet.

Path to Improvement

The Kings may have paved the way for Bogdanovic’s improvement with their summer additions. Joseph will likely take on the strongest offensive player when the two are paired in the backcourt. Both Dedmon and Holmes are better rim protectors behind him and Ariza is not only a quality veteran defender, but he’s a consistent threat from the corner.

Bogdanovic should get a full training camp to work into the action, which is not what he’s had in his first two seasons with the Kings. If he comes in with fresh legs and the right mindset, he has an opportunity to take another step forward in production.

He’ll get plenty of opportunities with the second unit, but he needs to find a way to be more efficient as a scorer. 36 percent from behind the arc isn’t bad, but if he can push that closer to 40 percent, he’ll be dangerous.

Like Hield, Bogdanovic took limited free throw attempts last season, averaging just 2.3 shots per game from the stripe. He’s too crafty of a player not to get to the line more.

With stronger veteran players around him, Bogdanovic should see an uptick in assists and his defensive deficiency can be better masked.

Projection

The Kings love the trio of Fox, Hield and Bogdanovic in the backcourt. They’ll play together in three-guard sets and they are mostly interchangeable. Saying that Luke Walton is also going to need to keep Joseph, Ariza and Harrison Barnes happy as well, making competition for minutes fierce.

Last season Bogdanovic averaged 27.8 minutes per game and it’s likely he’ll be in that same ballpark again. That doesn’t mean that he can’t be a better player.

[RELATED: Divac helped build Kings' culture of family]

With a full training camp and a healthy set of knees, Bogdanovic could easily improve his shooting percentages slightly from last season and push his scoring average closer to 16 points per game. He could also see a slight improvement on his 3.8 assists per game he averaged last season due to the improvements around him on the roster.

Like Hield, Bogdanovic is in a contract year and has a lot riding on not only personal but team success. A conservative line has him averaging 15.5 points, 4.2 assists and four rebounds in 28 minutes per game as the primary scorer off the Kings’ bench.

Kings' Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic deliver in win over Blazers

Kings' Nemanja Bjelica, Bogdan Bogdanovic deliver in win over Blazers

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings are not accepting condolence cards.

Despite an atrocious 0-5 start to the season and major injuries to both forward Marvin Bagley and point guard De’Aaron Fox, the Kings refuse to give up on the final 70-plus games of the season. The Portland Trail Blazers learned that lesson on Tuesday evening at Golden 1 Center.

It took a full 48 minutes, but the Kings staved off the Blazers late to come away with a 107-99 victory in front of an appreciative home crowd.

With two of their top scorers on the shelf, the Kings need more from every member of the rotation. Against a Portland team that made it to the Western Conference Finals last season, it was a pair of Serbian national team teammates that came to play.

Nemanja Bjelica was the only Kings player that could find the bottom of the net in the first 8:41 of the first quarter. The 31-year-old forward scored seven of the team’s first eight points, with Richaun Holmes putting in a lone free throw as Sacramento fell behind 18-8 early.

“Bjeli started off well and everybody is staying together as a group and just connecting with each other and supporting each other,” Buddy Hield said.

Bjelica posted his first double-double of the season, finishing the evening with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in 36 minutes.

The veteran big started the game well and then came to the rescue late with a 26-foot three-pointer to give Sacramento an eight-point lead with 2:37 remaining in the fourth.

“Great win, especially in front of our fans,” Bjelica said. “I mean, we’re always talking about is we want to make the playoffs, we need to win every game at home, so it is very important for us.”

Needing a spark to wake up the offense, coach Luke Walton turned to the Kings’ other Serbian-born player, Bogdan Bogdanovic. The third-year wing changed the entire momentum of the game with his defense, scoring ability and playmaking.

Bogdanovic picked up three steals in just under six minutes of play in the first quarter and matched his career-high with four steals on the night.

On the offensive end, Bogdanovic hit Portland with a team-high 25 points, including 15 in the first half while the Kings were struggling to keep up.

“He’s fun to watch, man,” Hield said of Bogdanovic. “Playing with him, he’s such a good passer. He’s a good playmaker and he’s always about team. You see him making shots and scoring, but he’s always a team-first guy.”

With Fox sidelined, Bogdanovic took the reigns of the offense. He finished with 10 assists in 32 minutes of action and during crunch time, he made the right plays when it mattered.

“I think I’m an experienced player and I can adjust to any role here,” Bogdanovic said. “I’m just trying to help the team to get these wins and tonight it was 10 assists. I’m more happy with the win.”

It was Bogdanovic who fed Bjelica for the open three in the fourth. He had another pass to Cory Joseph for a three at the 2:01 mark of the fourth and he found a cutting Harrison Barnes with 1:30 remaining to help seal the win.

Bjelica and Bogdanovic put up the big numbers, but it was a team effort for Sacramento.

Hield struggled with his shot, but still managed to post 20 points on the evening. Barnes went scoreless in the first half but finished with 16 after a strong final 24 minutes. Joseph played solid defense on Damian Lillard and Richaun Holmes chipped in the team’s third double-double with an 11-point, 10-rebound, two-block performance.

[RELATED: What we learned as Kings take down Blazers without Fox]

The Kings have a long road in front of them, but they are playing a better brand of basketball after a tough start and they are starting to show improvements on both ends of the court. With the win, Sacramento is now 4-1 over their previous five games and they’ve climbed to 4-6 on the season.

They’ll have a much tougher test on Friday when they fly to Los Angeles to face LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the 8-2 Lakers.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in balanced 107-99 win over Blazers

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AP

Kings takeaways: What we learned in balanced 107-99 win over Blazers

BOX SCORE

No Fox? No problem.

Playing the first of what could be many games without their star young point guard De’Aaron Fox, the Kings were the aggressor Tuesday evening at Golden 1 Center in a matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum put up big numbers for Portland, but the Kings received huge baskets late from Nemanja Bjelica and Cory Joseph late to come away with a 107-99 victory over the Blazers. 

Here are three takeaways as the Kings picked up their fourth win in five games to improve to 4-6 on the season.  

Active

With De’Aaron Fox on the shelf, the Kings need everyone to step up if they hope to compete. Against the Blazers, that player that shined the brightest was Bogdan Bogdanovic.

Sacramento’s super-sub put on a show from the moment he stepped on the floor. He wreaked havoc on the defensive end, coming away with four steals. 

On the offensive end, he scored 15 of his 25 points in the first quarter, when very few of his teammates could buy a bucket. Bogdanovic shot 8-for-19 from the field on the evening, including 3-of-8 from long range. He also chipped in a team-high 10 assists. 

If the Kings are going to survive the Fox injury, Bogdanovic needs to play like this every night.

Double-Doubles

When the season started, Bjelica and Richaun Holmes were supposed to be the Kings’ two bigs off the bench. We're a few weeks into the season, and the duo now is doing damage for Sacramento’s starting unit.

Bjelica was active early, hitting a pair of shots to get the Kings’ scoring going. He played well for stretches throughout the game, finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.

With Bjelica working the perimeter, Holmes went to work in the paint, dropping in 11 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes. 

The two bigs complement each other well on the court. 

[RELATED: Kings rise in latest NBA power rankings]

If at first you don’t succeed, keep chucking

The basket looked extra small when Buddy Hield took shots in the first half against the Blazers. The Kings’ sharpshooter missed his first two 3-point attempts so badly it was as if he was aiming at the wrong basket.

Eventually, Hield settled in, hitting a pair of 3-balls in the third quarter to get going. He finished the night with 20 points on 7-for-21 shooting from the field and just 2-of-11 from 3-point range.

With Fox out, the Kings need Hield to shoot. It helps when it goes in, but just the threat of one of the game’s best shooters is enough to help the team on some nights.