Kings

NBA Gameday: Underdog Kings seek three-game road streak vs Pacers

NBA Gameday: Underdog Kings seek three-game road streak vs Pacers

The Sacramento Kings are riding high after surprising the Cleveland Cavaliers on their home floor Wednesday night. They face an Indiana Pacers team that overcame a huge deficit a week ago to beat the Kings on their home floor.

Can they get revenge against the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and push their win streak to three games?

With injuries piling up, coach Dave Joerger turned to his young players in Cleveland and they responded well. Rookie Malachi Richardson dropped in 12 points against the Cavs, hitting 5-of-6 from the field in 14 minutes of action. Willie Cauley-Stein brought energy and a defensive presence, scoring eight points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench.

Joerger will need similar performances from the young duo if the Kings hope to knock off the Pacers at home.

Indiana is playing the second night of a back-to-back after taking out the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday evening. Paul George led the way with 32 points and five assists while Myles Turner added 23 points and six rebounds. With the win, the Pacers snapped their three-game losing streak and moved back over .500 on the season. 

OPENING LINE 

Pacers by 4

MATCHUP TO WATCH

DeMarcus Cousins vs. Myles Turner -- Cousins posted a triple-double when these two teams faced off last week, finishing the night with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. But the 3-time All-Star went 0-for-9 from the field in the season half as the Pacers erased a 22-point lead to stun the Kings on their home floor. Turner is young and athletic, but at 20-years-old, he still has a lot to learn about the NBA game. He’s averaging 15.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game in his sophomore season and he has a bright future in front of him.

WHERE THEY STAND 

Kings: 18-27, third place in Pacific
Pacers: 23-22, second place in Central

INJURY REPORT 

Kings: F Omri Casspi (left calf strain) out, SF Rudy Gay (left Achilles) out for the season.
Pacers: PG Rodney Stuckey (hamstring) out. 

SERIES HISTORY 

The Pacers snapped their four game losing streak to the Kings last week, coming away with a 106-100 win at Golden 1 Center. Indiana holds a 45-39 lead over the Kings all-time and a 34-26 advantage during the Sacramento-era.

QUOTE

“I think we’re just growing from it, I think we’ve seen every type of mistake possible this season and I think we’re growing from it.”
-- Cousins following the big win over the Cavs

Harry Giles: Kings training camp profile

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AP

Harry Giles: Kings training camp profile

The Sacramento Kings took a gamble when they selected Harry Giles III with the 20th overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft. After redshirting the former No. 1 rated prospect last season, it’s time to test the knees of the 20-year-old power forward. 

Giles looked solid with limited talent around him during the California Classic and in Las Vegas for Summer League. He’s a high energy player that barks and sometimes bites. It’s the type of player the Kings have needed for a long time, although all expectations should be qualified with the fact that Giles has played very few minutes in the last three years.

Strengths

Giles has the all the physical tools you are looking for in an elite big man. At 6-foot-10, 250-pounds, the former Duke Blue Devil can play both the four and the five. In January, the Kings took Giles to P3 in Southern California for testing and his agility scores ranked with elite small forwards.

While he hasn’t seen court time at the NBA level, behind the scenes both the coaching staff and his teammates have raved about Giles’ passing skills. He has incredible court vision and he’s a very willing passer. Sacramento could really use a quality high-post passer and in limited action, Giles has shown an ability to draw a crowd in the lane and find the open man.

His passing skills have drawn comparisons to former Kings great, Chris Webber, but so have his hands. Giles has huge mitts, which he uses to attack the glass on both ends of the floor. He projects as an elite rebounder, which happens to help one of the team’s biggest weaknesses.

In summer league, Giles stood out on the defensive side of the ball. He directed traffic and demanded accountability from his teammates. It’s early, but his intensity and defensive IQ has drawn comparisons to the Warriors Draymond Green.  

Weaknesses


Giles needs to find a way to stay healthy. He’s put in the work with the Kings’ strength and conditioning staff to build his legs strength. Giles also focused on his core to help support a tremendous frame. After suffering ACL tears in both knees as a prep athlete, the fear will always be there, but he’s put in the work to come back healthy.

As a scorer, Giles is a work in progress. He shoots from the left side of his face, but he takes a direct path to get there, unlike the Lakers’ Lonzo Ball, who loops the ball all the way from the right to left. He has range all the way to the 3-point line, but he’ll likely stay inside the arc in his rookie season in the league.

On the defensive side of the ball, Giles is a beast. He also plays with a fire and energy that sometimes gets him in trouble. There’s a good chance he’ll struggle with foul trouble early in his career as he adjusts to quality of talent in the NBA game. He also runs hot, which might get him in some trouble with officials.

Path to Improvement


Giles tore the ACL in his left knee in 2013 and then did the same thing to his right knee in 2015 in his first game of his senior year in high school. He underwent a cleanout procedure before stepping on the floor at Duke, which is customary in bilateral knee injury recovery. The surgery at Duke limited him to just 300 minutes of action for coach Mike Krzyzewski.

If ever there was an NBA unknown, it’s Giles. He was the star of Team USA basketball as a prep. He was a star when he played at the highschool level. The reality is that he’s played 300 minutes in three years.

The path for improvement starts and ends with being able to play. Anything and everything after that is gravy in year one. It should be noted that Kenyon Martin, Danny Manning and Amar’e Stoudemire all played 14 seasons or more with similar injuries. The group combined for nine All-Star appearances and technology and medical advancements have improved since their time in the league.

Projection


Giles is going to play. Where he fits in is still a question mark. With his natural size and strength, he can play either frontline position. If he can remain healthy, there is a chance that he and rookie Marvin Bagley III will see major time together this season.

There is a good chance that Bagley and Willie Cauley-Stein start the season ahead of Giles in the rotation, but counting him out is a mistake. While he didn’t see a second of NBA action last season, Giles practiced with the team all year and he knows the terminology and playbook. 

A conservative prediction has Giles posting 9-10 points, 7-8 rebounds and two-plus assists in 24 minutes per game as a rookie. Those numbers could jump considerably if he earns a starting spot coming out of training camp. 

Buddy Hield: Kings training camp profile

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USATSI

Buddy Hield: Kings training camp profile

Buddy Hield grows on you. After coming over to Sacramento midway through his rookie season in the DeMarcus Cousins deal, the Kings have watched Hield become an elite 3-point threat. In year three, they are hoping for even more signs of improvement.

There are plenty of questions surrounding Hield. Is he a starter or better served coming off the bench? Can he take the next step and become the scoring threat he was at the NCAA level? Will he make the necessary improvements to become an all-around player?

The 24-year-old shooting guard is an exciting player and he puts in the work to improve. It appears he’s part of the long-term core of the Kings, although his long term fit into the overall puzzle has yet to be determined.

Strengths

Shooters are going to shoot. Hield has yet to become the scorer he was at Oklahoma, but he’s had plenty of moments in his two seasons in the NBA. An elite perimeter shooter and improving slasher, Hield has the potential to be a 20-point per game scorer at some point in his career.

Per 36 minutes, Hield posted 19.2 points per game last season, although he played just 25.2 minutes per contest for coach Dave Joerger. He’s the best 3-point shooter on the team, knocking down 43.1 percent from long range on 408 attempts. His 3-point percentage ranked ninth in the NBA overall.

Hield has worked to improve his ball handling skills to open up more offensive opportunities, but his bread and butter is still the jumper. Of his 933 shot attempts, nearly 600 came from outside of 16-feet and 729 of his attempts were considered jump shots.

Not just a scorer, Hield is a quality rebounder for a shooting guard, averaging 5.5 per 36. He also posted 2.8 assists per 36 minutes, but he needs improvement as a passer.

On the defensive end, Hield took some baby steps forward in his second NBA season, but he’s still a work in progress. He played the passing lanes better down the stretch, averaging 1.5 steals per game in the final six weeks of the season. He has a knack for the dramatic steal and he loves to turn defense into instant offense.

Weaknesses

Despite four years of college and two years in the pro’s, Hield is still learning the finer nuances of the game. He spent time last season working on film study with Bogdan Bogdanovic and appears to be growing in his understanding, but these things take time.

Hield improved his overall passing numbers last season, but this has to be an area of emphasis moving forward. With his ability to shoot the ball, he should be a better pick-and-roll player. He struggled in the two-man game, relying heavily on his own ability to score instead of using his big.

The Kings want to push the tempo, which plays perfectly into Hield’s style, but they also added a few athletic bigs that are going to demand the ball in the offense. If he can develop the necessary passing skills, the spacing on the floor will improve overall.

Very few pure scorers come into the league ready to play defense. Hield is no exception. He showed signs of improvement, especially with effort and understanding. There are still too many situations where his opponent blows by him, but the difference between his rookie campaign and his sophomore season was night and day.

Path to Improvement

One of Hield’s biggest weaknesses coming into the 2018-19 season is his inability to get to the free throw stripe. An 87.7 percent shooter from the line, Hield took just 81 free throw attempts in 80 games last year for Sacramento.

Whether he’s coming off the bench as a super-sub or starting in the back court, Hield needs to find a way to draw contact if he hopes to dramatically improve his scoring numbers. It’s an epidemic with the Kings roster. Most of the players struggle to get to the line, but it’s different when you are counted on as a primary scorer.

Hield needs to find a way to get to the free throw line 4-5 times per game, which would equate to an additional 3-3.5 points per game. If you add that number onto his 13.5 point per game average last season and he can hit one more 3-pointer per contest, he’s at 20 points per game.

Projection

This season could go one of two ways for Hield. Joerger could continue to bring him off the bench as a primary scoring option with the second unit or he can insert him into the starting group in a three guard set with De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic.

With the Kings failing to add a seasoned starter at the small forward spot, it’s very possible Joerger goes with plan B. Hield deserves the look with the starting unit. He’s a knockdown 3-point shooter and he is one of the hardest workers on the team.

Whether he starts or comes off the bench, Hield is a breakout candidate for Sacramento. He has the skills to put up a ton of points. He’s improved in each of his two seasons in the league and his shooting is an elite weapon.

Projecting what role he might play is difficult, but it’s very possible that Hield is the Kings leading scorer this season. An early prediction has Buddy Buckets posting 16.5-17.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 30 minutes per game this season for the Kings.