Wenyen Gabriel could help his case this summer to join Kings full time


Wenyen Gabriel could help his case this summer to join Kings full time

SACRAMENTO -- Wenyen Gabriel set a high pick and rolled back toward the basket through a schematically opened lane. Semaj Christon’s pass hit the Kings' combo forward in stride, and a couple steps later, he ascended for an easy two-handed jam.

Gabriel’s textbook set-up and powerful finish kicked off an excellent summer league Monday night when the relatively raw two-way prospect flashed refined skill. He attacked the basket and scored efficiently. He worked buckets and smart passes out of the low post. He hit shots from beyond the arc. He rebounded outside his zone.

Gabriel was, in sum, the all-around factor the Kings hope he can be for their main squad. Gabriel finished a California Classic-opening victory over the Warriors with 22 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and an assist, a showing good enough to get a Tuesday off.

He sat during the Kings" 89-88 loss to the Miami Heat, but he'll prominently featured throughout a compacted summer league schedule here in Sacramento and in Las Vegas later this week and next.

More games like Monday's will make Kings brass think long and hard about changing his contract status this fall, bringing a two-way player to Sacramento full time.

“I’m trying to solidify myself in this league, and I’m trying to get better every day,” Gabriel said. “I’m going to play my heart out and give everything I’ve got and continue to improve as a player. We’ll see where that takes me.”

It could land him an exclusive deal with the Kings. Open spots exist at the bottom of this roster, with 11 locks and a few in flux at this stage of the offseason. There are too many conditionals involved in roster scenarios favorable to him to break it all down now, but giving one to Gabriel would glean a dynamic rotational piece who could develop into a productive NBA player.

Removing his two-way status would take away the 45-day time limit with the big club, and open a back-and-forth spot for a rookie in greater need of seasoning. It could expedite his progress, especially playing in seemingly Gabriel-friendly systems imported by new coach Luke Walton. Being a year older and wiser entering his second professional season has prepared him for big leaps.

“I’ve grown more as a player, and in my mentality,” Gabriel said. “This year does feel a lot different. I’m coming in with a different mindset, knowing what to expect gives me a different approach this time around.”

Gabriel was learning on the job, so last year’s G League stats don’t suggest he dominated the lower league. The 6-foot-9, 213-pound undrafted Kentucky product rarely started for Stockton, and averaged 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds over roughly 20 minutes per game. Despite being a two-way player, he never played a game for the Sacramento Kings.

Gabriel suffered a stress fracture in his ankle near the end of last season, and has been rehabilitating hard to prepare for this summer league.

Gabriel considers the last year a period of tremendous growth, and he’s now ready to show off in an important stretch of his career.

“I’m starting to get more comfortable out there,” Gabriel said. “Spending a year in the G League really helped me out with the transition from being a college player to being a pro. I got hurt [late in the year], and I spent a lot of time doing rehab. I have been putting a lot of work in, and I wanted to show well out here.”

[RELATED: Kings' Eric Mika, Kyle Guy stand out]

He started well Monday, but he must show consistency to warrant strong consideration for a full-time deal with the Kings. He has outlined how to do exactly that.

“I need to play to my strengths, use speed to my advantage and attack the glass,” Gabriel said. “Offensively, I need to shoot the ball well and use my touch, and focus on things I do well, as opposed to playing bully ball. That’s not my game. I need to use quickness and shooting ability and my ability to get out and run.”

How different factors on schedule will affect Kings in 2019-20 season

How different factors on schedule will affect Kings in 2019-20 season

82 games. 30 teams. It should be simple to make an NBA schedule that is moderately close to balanced.

But balance isn’t usually the case when it comes to the schedule and the Sacramento Kings, and there are plenty of reasons for the discrepancy.

For a team like the Kings, the release of the new schedule is an annual reminder that A) they play in a small market, B) they’ve missed the playoffs for 13 consecutive seasons and C) they play on the west coast.

When the 2019-20 regular-season schedule dropped a little over a week ago, there was a collective grown from Kings fans on social media that could be heard across the globe. A budding young team, fresh off their best season since the 2005-06 season, earned one nationally televised game (TNT or ESPN), and it wasn’t even on TNT.

A ninth-place finish in the Western Conference wasn’t worth more than one real nationally televised game. The Phoenix Suns, who finished at 19-63 last season, “earned” one TNT game.

Nationally televised games aren’t a barometer for how good a team is. Heck, the Charlotte Hornets got a single national game and they finished with an identical 39-43 record as the Kings last season, but lost their lone All-Star when guard Kemba Walker joined the Boston Celtics.

Making it to a national audience is nice, but it has no value in the win/loss column. A deep dive into the Kings’ schedule shows a few issues that might actually affect the team’s ability to compete for a playoff spot.

Sacramento is tied for the third-most miles traveled on the season, hitting the 50,000-mile mark, not including the 17,000-plus round-trip miles the team will venture on their trip to India during the preseason.

A further breakdown shows that travel is an issue for a lot of teams out west. Here is a breakdown of miles traveled by conference, with the west shown in red and the eastern conference shown in black.

Ten of the top twelve teams in miles traveled are Western Conference clubs. You could write it off as a geographical issues. Nine of the bottom ten teams in miles traveled are from the Eastern Conference, including the seven teams with the fewest amount of miles traveled.

Stangely, both Los Angeles teams travel the fewest miles on the season out of any Western Conference team. The Lakers also rank first in total nationally televised games, including TNT, ABC, ESPN and NBA TV with 43 contests. The Clippers are tied for third with 38 games on the national schedule.

Teams like the Pelicans, Thunder and Mavericks, who are geographical centered on the map of the United States, ranked third, fourth and fifth in miles traveled by Western Conference teams.

Some of the glaring issues with the Kings’ schedule centered around at least one anomaly. The Kings typically make a single trip to Florida, playing both the Magic and Heat during the same swing. This season they make two trips to Florida, which helps rack up the miles.

On the plus side, the Kings do not have a single six-game road trip this season and even their five-game trip is spaced out over 10 days.

Another way to break down the Kings’ chances this season is to look at strength of schedule. Using Las Vegas projected win totals and over/under lines, Sacramento plays the sixth-most difficult schedule in the NBA with a projected win total against of .513.

A lot of that has to do with the Kings’ division, where they’ll face the Clippers (projected 54.5 wins), Lakers (projected 50.5 wins) and Warriors (projected 49.5 wins) four times each. The only break is that they also play the Suns four times, although even Phoenix is projected to win 29.5 games, an increase of more than ten wins from last year.

Normally there is an early moment in the schedule you can point to that the Kings have to survive. There are a few of those this season, including the early Oct/Nov schedule, as well as an extremely difficult month of April.

Sacramento has the 10th-most difficult opening month of the campaign with a projected winning percentage against of .523. The schedules for December, January and March are all manageable, including a stretch with 10 out of 12 games at home during mid-Dec. and early Jan.

Their pre All-Star break versus post All-Star break schedule is close to even, but their finish in April is brutal. In the final month of the season, the Kings face a barrage of quality Western Conference opponents with a combined projected with total of .555.

The Kings’ April is the third-most difficult final month for any NBA team. Sacramento finishes the season with a back-to-back against the Lakers at Staples, followed by the season finale at home against the Warriors.

There is one last crazy chart to look at. If you break down the rest advantage for every NBA team, the Kings actually have a fairly balanced schedule. They play 20-22 games with a rest advantage and 20-22 with a rest disadvantage. The remaining 38-42 games are even.

Overall, the Kings travel too much, their final month of the season is brutal and they aren’t going to be highlighted on any national networks this season. They need to get off to a fast start and have a buffer down the stretch if they are going to survive the final month of the season and snap their long playoff drought.

[RELATED: Why Kings' Fox likely walked away from Team USA chance]

None of this is unexpected. Despite a breakout season, the Kings are still the Kings when it comes to a national audience, distance traveled and strength of schedule. The only way to break the cycle is by winning games and forcing the league to take notice.

H/T to both Jared Dubin and Ed Kupfer for graphic breakdowns via Twitter.

How Kings' De'Aaron Fox celebrated signing contract with current agent


How Kings' De'Aaron Fox celebrated signing contract with current agent

It's common for adults to celebrate big moments in life with an alcoholic beverage.

But what if you just turned 21 years old and you don't drink alcohol?

That's exactly what happened to Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox in February when he signed the paperwork to hire family friend Chris Gaston as his new agent.

“We took a whiskey shot, and it was disgusting,” Fox recalled to's Corban Gable.

The bad whiskey experience happened during NBA All-Star Weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Gaston admitted that he was nervous about walking through a crowded hotel with the contract. The shot of whiskey might have been to steel their nerves as much as it was to celebrate their pact.

Fox is a rising star and is set for a big payday. The Kings hold a team option worth $8.099 million for the 2020-21 season.

[RELATED: Why Fox likely walked away from Team USA]

But you can expect Fox, Gaston and the Kings to start talking about a long-term extension sooner rather than later.

Just don't expect them to celebrate by downing shots of whiskey.