Kings

NBA rumor mill is churning, but is Enes Kanter a fit with the Kings?

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USATSI

NBA rumor mill is churning, but is Enes Kanter a fit with the Kings?

Enes Kanter? Really? That’s the solution the Kings have been waiting for?

It’s confusing times in Sacramento. Fans woke up to a random tweet from the great Adrian Wojnarowski, stating that the Kings and Knicks were discussing a potential swap that includes veteran Zach Randolph moving back to New York in exchange for the talented, yet controversial Kanter.

On paper, the deal works. Sacramento has upwards of $11 million in cap space to absorb any extra money coming in, although they would be wise to stick the Knicks with another outgoing contract to make the money closer.

Kanter is in the final season of a four-year, $70 million deal he signed in July of 2015. He’s owed a robust $18.6 million this season.

Randolph is also in the final year of his deal, which pays him $11.6 million this season. A straight up swap would save the Knicks roughly $7 million this season. Adding a player like Ben McLemore and his $5.5 million contract would balance the scales out, but would might also cost the Kings an asset, like a future second round selection.

At 26-years-old, the 6-foot-11 center has plenty of miles left in the tank. Kanter’s averaging 14.4 points and 11 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per game, making him one of the better rebounders per minute in the NBA.

Twice in his career, Kanter has led the league in offensive rebounding percentage and his per 36 minute numbers on the glass are stunning. For a team like Sacramento that struggles to compete on the boards night in and night out, adding a player that averages 9.4 defensive rebounds and 5.5 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes makes a lot sense.

Kanter can also score at a high clip. He’s an instant offense player that boasts a career field goal percentage of 54 percent. The eight-year NBA vet is averaging a career-best 2.0 assists per game this season, but his primary focus has always been putting the ball in the bucket.

He prefers to play close to the rim, which might hurt the running lanes for De’Aaron Fox. But he would give the Kings a reliable scorer in the post for those times when the team struggles to score.

Of his 444 field goal attempts this season, 274 of those have come at the rim, where he shoots 67.9 percent. Another 107 of his field goal attempts come within 3-10 feet, leaving just 63 attempts outside of 10 feet.

More than a decade younger than Z-Bo, Kanter can get up and down the court and would likely split time with Willie Cauley-Stein at the center position.

On the downside, Kanter would further clutter an already packed front court, but with the deadline a little over four weeks away, the Kings still have time to rebalance their roster.

His presence would clearly affect the minutes of big man Kosta Koufos, but with the team transitioning away from two conventional bigs, it would likely impact the power forward position as well. Coach Dave Joerger is balancing minutes between Nemanja Bjelica and rookies Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III. He is also using Justin Jackson at the four in small ball lineups.

It’s a low risk deal for Sacramento. If Kanter doesn’t work on the court, they could easily move away from him during the second half of the season. Randolph hasn’t played a minute this season for the Kings and there is no plan to change that fact.

If it’s a straight up swap, the Kings would eat into their valuable free cap space for this season. If they are able to add a second player, like McLemore or even Koufos in the deal, it would keep the flexibility the team has worked hard for and open the possibility for additional deals between now and the Feb. 7 deadline.

Kanter isn't a perfect fit for the Kings, but he might a talent upgrade. He can rebound and he can score on the blocks. He would complicate things for Joerger and his staff, but as a short term rental and at a low cost, he might be worth the gamble.

Kings in position to redeem themselves after playoff stumble last year

Kings in position to redeem themselves after playoff stumble last year

SACRAMENTO -- Is it too early to scoreboard watch? Not if you’ve missed the playoffs 13 consecutive seasons like the Sacramento Kings.

After an emotional road trip that included a brutal overtime loss followed by two incredible wins in the final seconds of games in Dallas and Houston, the Kings looked tired Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center.

And then they looked like someone reminded them what a win would do for the team in the standings.

Behind a lively crowd, the Kings stormed back against the Oklahoma City Thunder and pulled off a come-from-behind 94-93 victory to move to 11-13 on the season.

With the Phoenix Suns losing on Wednesday, the Kings caught them in the standings. After an 0-5 start to the season, Luke Walton’s squad is now locked in a three-way for the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings with the Suns and the Thunder.

“It was hard, the first five games, especially after the Charlotte game at home,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said after hitting the game-winning 3-pointer with 17.3 seconds remaining. “It was really, really hard and we should never forget that feeling, especially right now when we feel good.”

Sacramento fans booed the Kings off the court following the team’s 118-111 loss to the Hornets on Oct. 30. There was confusion and anguish in the locker room, but the players accepted responsibility and came back out two days later and beat the Utah Jazz.

“We should use that as an experience, as an advantage and motivation,” Bogdanovic said of the dark times the team has already gone through this season.

The Kings aren’t counting their chickens before they hatch. They learned that lesson the hard way last year when they faded down the stretch in a season filled with promise.

After moving into the seventh and eighth positions on multiple occasions throughout the 82-game schedule, they dropped seven of their final 10 contests and finished nine games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

“Now we know how hard it is and how every game is important and we have to be locked in,” Bogdanovic insisted. “First game after a road trip was sloppy, like this one and we have to be locked in to play a much better game against New York.”

[RELATED: Fox feeling better, believes he's close to Kings return]

This is an important stretch of games for the Kings. They have climbed within two games of the .500 mark with games against the Knicks and Warriors on the docket. New York and Golden State have a combined 10-41 record on the season, but Sacramento is not in a position to look past anyone.

It’s really early to scoreboard watch. It was also really early when the Kings went winless to start the season.

Sacramento is motivated by the chase for the postseason. The Kings have a little taste of it now and a soft spot in the schedule. Let’s see how they react to the opportunity this time around.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 94-93 last-minute win over Thunder

Kings takeaways: What we learned in 94-93 last-minute win over Thunder

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- After two stunning road victories over the Mavs and Rockets, the Kings looked tired and disinterested for the better part of three quarters against the Thunder on Wednesday evening at Golden 1 Center. 

And then they woke up.

In another barnburner, Bogdan Bogdanovic knocked down a 3-pointer with 13.4 seconds remaining to give the Kings the 94-93 lead.

Oklahoma City isolated Chris Paul on Richaun Holmes on the final play and the Kings’ center locked down the future Hall of Fame guard as Sacramento escaped with its third straight win in dramatic fashion.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings shook off the rough start to stun the Thunder late to move to 11-13 on the season.  

Keep shooting

Hield has been streaky all season long and it was no different against the Thunder. The Kings’ leading scorer missed his first six shots before finally knocking down a triple to get things started.

He was spotty throughout the game until late when he kept Sacramento in it with one big shot after another.

Hield finished the night with 23 points, six assists and six rebounds. He shot just 9-for-24 from the field and 5-of-14 from long range, but the Kings needed a scoring punch and Hield kept firing until he found it.

A shot and a stop

Bogdanovic watched his fellow countryman Nemanja Bjelica drop in a 33-footer for the win Monday in Houston. He had a little magic of his own against a veteran OKC team. 

With the shot clock winding down, Bogi got his defender in the air, took a dribble and knocked down a huge shot from the left wing to give his team a one-point lead.

Moments later, it was the defense by Holmes that sealed the victory for Sacramento. Holmes finished the night with 10 points and seven rebounds, but he made his money with the stop to win it. 

[RELATED: Fox feeling better, believes he's close to Kings return]

Bagley back

After a 22-game absence with a broken thumb, power forward Marvin Bagley returned to action and played with energy. 

It wasn’t the performance the second-year big was looking for, but he managed to score 11 points and grabbed six rebounds in 23 minutes of action. 

One of the highlights for the former No. 2 overall pick was a play in the second quarter where he took the inbounds pass on one end, went coast-to-coast and scored over Steven Adams for the And-1. 

The Kings need Bagley to quickly integrate into the system and find his game after the extended layoff.