Kings

Luke Walton officially hired as Kings' new coach on four-year contract

Luke Walton officially hired as Kings' new coach on four-year contract

The last time Kings general manager Vlade Divac conducted a coaching search, it spanned weeks, with more than 10 candidates drawing interviews.

With a new contract extension in hand and complete control of the Kings’ franchise, Divac is taking a different approach this time.

Luke Walton officially became the Kings' new coach Monday, the team announced, just four days after Dave Joerger was fired. Walton will be introduced at a press conference later Monday.

“I have known Luke for many years, and I am so excited to welcome him and his family to the Sacramento Kings,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said in a team-issued statement. “I look forward to his leadership on the court as we work to build a winning culture for many years to come.” 

Walton and the Kings agreed to a four-year contract Saturday, only one day after he mutually parted ways with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Sam Amick of The Athletic was the first to report the deal, and NBC Sports California confirmed the details with a league source.

The Kings would not reveal terms of Walton’s deal, citing team policy.

The former player-turned-coach posted a 98-148 (.398) record during his three seasons in Los Angeles, but he dealt with myriad issues behind the scenes.

Before joining LA, the 39-year-old son of NBA legend Bill Walton worked under Steve Kerr as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors. He spent two seasons in Oakland, including a 43-game stint as an interim head coach while Kerr dealt with back issues.

Walton posted an incredible 39-4 record as a fill-in for Kerr, and even took home NBA Coach of the Month honors during his time.

Following Walton’s departure from the Lakers, Kerr shared his thoughts on his former understudy.

“As this job, as a coach in the NBA, you are 100 percent dependent on your circumstances -- the strength of the organization, the momentum, the unity -- everything has to be in good order,” Kerr said Friday at Warriors practice. “Because if it’s not, as we’ve witnessed with the Lakers, then there’s going to be casualties, and usually the coach is the first one.

“They are losing one of the best human beings in the NBA, they’re losing a guy who knows the game as well as anybody I’ve ever met, they’re losing somebody players believe in and players want to play for,” Kerr added.

The Kings have a strong young core. They posted a 39-43 record under Joerger this season, but they chose to go in a different direction after missing the playoffs for a 13th consecutive season.

During his Thursday press conference announcing Joerger's firing, Divac was clear that he wanted a coach who would continue to run the up-tempo style Sacramento became known for this season. 

[RELATED: Divac fires Joerger, takes full ownership of Kings' future]

"Our new coach, which I'm looking for, has to bring, first of all, that style we had last year -- that's Kings style," Divac said. "We have to play that way. Uptempo and moving the ball and communication and defined roles and, obviously, believing in the team."

The Lakers finished fourth in the NBA in pace, just ahead of the Kings. They were second in pace last season before LeBron James joined the franchise via free agency.

Walton is the 18th coach for the Kings since the franchise relocated to Sacramento prior to the 1985-86 season. He is the 10th coach since Rick Adelman left the post after eight years at the helm following the 2005-06 season.

Kings player profile: How good can Marvin Bagley be in sophomore season?

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USATI

Kings player profile: How good can Marvin Bagley be in sophomore season?

Vlade Divac took a huge gamble when he passed on Luka Doncic to draft Marvin Bagley with the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. Doncic went on to win the Rookie of the Year award, but Bagley showed flashes of brilliance, as well.

The final grade on this move will likely take years to resolve, but the Sacramento Kings feel very confident in their decision. Bagley is a perfect fit for the Kings' style of play and his potential is through the roof.

The 20-year-old will be asked to do a lot more in year two, although he’ll also need to show that he can stay healthy throughout an 82-game schedule. He has elite scoring and rebounding skills and an advanced game for a player moving into his sophomore season.

Can he lead the Kings in scoring? Can he be a perennial 20-10 player? Can he be a star? The answer to all of these questions is yes.

Strengths

Seldom does a one-and-done college player walk into the league with an advanced offensive game like Bagley. At 6-foot-11, 235 pounds, he runs the floor like a gazelle and he has low post moves of a 10-year vet.

He favors his left hand, but there are plenty of successful players with a dominant side. He has a half hook, a power move off the dribble and when he elevates in the lane, there isn’t a player in the league that can stop him.

For a rookie, the former Duke star had a remarkably compact shot chart. Bagley shot 69.1 percent at the rim on 256 shot attempts. From 3-10 feet, he knocked down 43.4 percent while shooting 95-of-219 from the field. Of his 706 shot attempts, 475 came inside of 10 feet.

While he didn’t take a ton of midrange jumpers, Bagley still managed to hit 40 percent on 135 attempts from 10 feet out to the 3-point line. He has a high release on his jumper and a refined shooting stroke.

The sample size was small, but there will come a time in Bagley’s career when he will be able to stretch the floor with a 3-point shot. He knocked down 31.2 percent on 96 attempts, although he was streaky during the season.

Despite his age and inexperience, Bagley still managed to get to the free-throw line 4.2 times per game, which was second on the Kings behind De’Aaron Fox. He has the potential to double that number as he becomes established in the league and gets more calls.

As a rebounder, Bagley crashes the glass and isn’t afraid to go outside of his zone for the board. He has an incredible second leap, which helped him finish the season tied with Kosta Koufos for the best offensive rebounding percentage on the squad.

Bagley averaged 7.6 rebounds per game in 25.3 minutes. That equates to 10.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is a good start for a rookie. As he gets stronger and learns the NBA game, that number has a chance to improve dramatically.

On the defensive side of the ball, Bagley was better than advertised. He has work to do as a team defender and he was vulnerable from the perimeter, but he held his opponent to minus-1.3 percent on 2-point attempts and minus-3.1 percent inside of six feet. He also averaged a block per game. 

Weaknesses

Bagley can’t go right. He’s really good with his left, but his inability to use both hands may limit his ability to reach his highest potential. He also missed 20 games with two separate knee injuries.

As a scorer, Bagley is a force to be reckoned with, but he has plenty of room to grow. If he can extend his range out to the 3-point line, he can open the floor for everyone else. He could also get stronger and do a better job of fighting through contact, but at 20-years-old, it will take time to grow into his body fully.

Sacramento moves the ball around well and everyone has an opportunity to get involved. Of the regulars, Bagley ranked last in assist percentage at just 5.9 percent. In fact, only Troy Williams, Ben McLemore and B.J. Johnson averaged a lower percentage on the team.

Bagley is going to draw double-teams and he needs to do a better job of finding his teammates and not forcing his offensive game. He finished the season with just 62 assists and that isn’t going to cut it. 

While Bagley did a nice job on the offensive glass, he has plenty of room to grow on the defensive side of the court. He posted a defensive rebound percentage of 15.5 percent, which is about half of what elite rebounders average. The Kings need Bagley to post double-figure rebounding numbers on a nightly basis if they are going to move up in the standings.

Like the rest of the young players on the Kings' roster, Bagley needs to improve on the defensive side of the ball. He often gets lost in rotations and is slow as a help defender. The makings of a good defender are there, but it will take time for him to develop.

Path to Improvement

Add minutes.

Bagley is an offensive star in the making, but he needs to get bigger and stronger if he hopes to stay healthy and play 30-35 minutes a game. He’ll likely move into the starting lineup alongside Dewayne Dedmon on the frontline, which should be a solid combination.

He likely spent the offseason further refining his shot, which will help him stretch the floor for Fox and others. It also will help him stay on the court longer as the Kings turn to players like Harry Giles and Richaun Holmes, who have less range.

While he is the focal point of the offense, he needs to move the ball and keep others involved. Averaging just a single assist per game might work in Year 1, but eventually, his teammates will key in on the issue.

Bagley has an incredible motor and the size and athleticism to be an elite rebounder. He needs to hit the defensive glass and impact the game on both ends of the floor.

[RELATED: Bogi named to 2019 FIBA World Cup team]

Projection

The sky’s the limit for Bagley. He was limited in his first season by injury and a lack of minutes, but it’s likely the training wheels are coming off in Year 2.

A perfect fit for the Kings’ style of play, Bagley is expected to take a huge leap. Conservative numbers have him posting 18-19 points and nine rebounds per game as a sophomore, but there is a chance for even bigger numbers than that, especially if he can get to the line more frequently.

Luke Walton will have the Kings flying up and down the court and there will be plenty of touches to go around. Bagley will score on the break due to his speed and athleticism, but he also also be a huge part of the team’s half-court offense.

He’ll need to work on the defensive side of the ball, especially when Walton turns to switching, but he is a high-effort player that should catch on quickly.   

Bagley should lead Sacramento in rebounding and there is a possibility for him to be the top scorer as well. He has All-Star potential and if his first season was any indicator, it won’t take long for him to become a go-to option for the Kings.

Kings' Bogdan Bogdanovic named to 2019 FIBA World Cup All-Star team

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AP

Kings' Bogdan Bogdanovic named to 2019 FIBA World Cup All-Star team

On the Sacramento Kings, Bogdan Bogdanovic is the fourth or fifth name in the pecking order.

But at the recently concluded 2019 FIBA World Cup, the Kings reserve wing was the talk of the tournament.

In eight games for Serbia, Bogdanovic averaged 22.9 points on 55.6 percent shooting from the field. His 183 total points were the most scored by any player in the global tournament held in China.

For that, Bogdanovic was named to the 2019 FIBA World Cup All-Star team.

Bogdanovic was joined on the team by Magic guard Evan Fournier, Suns guard Ricky Rubio, Raptors center Marc Gasol and former NBA player Luis Scola.

The Kings and their fans are hoping Bogdanovic can carry his strong play into the 2019-20 NBA season.

[RELATED: Can Bogdanovic bring stardom back to Kings?]

After finishing with a 39-43 record last season, the Kings have aspirations of making the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Sacramento is expecting big things from De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley and Harrison Barnes.

But if Bogdanovic emerges as another star, the Kings would be tough to deal with on a nightly basis.