Kings

What is Kings' NBA trade deadline plan after disappointing first half?

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USATSI

What is Kings' NBA trade deadline plan after disappointing first half?

If Saturday’s five-player trade that sent Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan to the Portland Trail Blazers is any indication, the Kings are open for business and aren’t waiting around for the Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline to start overhauling the roster.

At 15-27, this is the right move. The Kings got off to a rough start and they currently are spiraling out of control as they make their way through the longest road trip on their schedule.

General manager Vlade Divac and his group need to be bold if they hope to hold their core together and perhaps build on it.

Here is how the roster shakes out with a little over two weeks before the deadline.

Untouchable

De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley

Fox and Bagley are completely off the board in any trade scenario, according to a source with knowledge of the Kings’ thinking. Fox is taking another step in his development in Year 3 and is the face of the franchise. Bagley has battled injuries throughout his two NBA seasons, but the Kings still believe in his talent and aren’t even close to moving on from the 20-year-old power forward.

Rather Keep

Richaun Holmes, Harrison Barnes

Holmes is the surprise of the 2019-20 season for the Kings. It took him four games to displace starter Dewayne Dedmon, and at two-years, $10 million, he’s one of the best deals in the league. He’s a hard worker and a high character guy and his age fits the current player arc.

While Barnes isn’t having his best offensive season, there is a reason why the Kings traded for him and then signed him to a four-year, $84 million contract. He’s a pro’s pro who rarely misses a game. The Kings can run him out on the court for 38 minutes a game and know they are going to get solid production at the small forward position.

Rather keep, but it's complicated

Bogdan Bogdanovic

Bogdanovic is a wild card for this team. They are just 2-9 when he misses a game, but are just 13-18 when he plays.

After paying Barnes and Buddy Hield over the summer and knowing that Fox and Bagley extensions are just around the corner, the Kings are going to have to scramble to keep everyone. Bogdanovic will be a restricted free agent on July 1, but he likes Sacramento, they like him and as long as the money doesn’t get completely out of control, the two sides would like to continue their union.

On the Block

Dewayne Dedmon

On paper, Dedmon was the perfect fit next to Bagley in the post. Poor shooting, high turnover rate and a general malaise cost the veteran center his starting job, and his decision to go to the press demanding a trade cost him $50,000.

The Kings would love nothing more than to find a taker for Dedmon and his three-year, $40 million contract. There are teams that have sniffed around, but no takers as of yet. Dedmon is owed $13.3 million next season, but the final year of his deal is guaranteed at just $1 million. Expect the Kings to do their best to move on from the 30-year-old big, even if they have to get creative.

Veterans worth keeping

Cory Joseph, Nemanja Bjelica

Joseph signed a three-year, $37.2 million deal to back up Fox and provide veteran leadership. Early season injuries cost Fox 18 games, leaving Joseph to play heavy minutes. While he isn’t the offensive weapon that Fox is, Joseph plays hard and has one of the longest current games played streaks in the NBA. He’s owed $12.6 million next season, with a $2.4 million buyout in the third year. If the right deal came along, the Kings would listen, but Joseph has been as advertised in his first season in Sacramento.

Divac and his staff went searching for a perfect frontcourt pairing for Bagley, but they may have had the guy they needed already on the roster. Multiple teams have scouted Bjelica and would love to take the 31-year-old Serbian off the Kings’ hands. He’s on a team-friendly deal with a club option for next season at $7.2 million. He’s far outplayed his contract and he’s tough as nails.

Would they listen?

Buddy Hield

Contract negotiations were contentious leading into the season, but Hield finally got his payday from the Kings. Injuries to Fox and Bogdanovic have forced coach Luke Walton to use Hield in ways that he’s not suited for and he hasn’t responded well to the challenge. While he’s still leading the team in scoring at 20.1 points per game, his shooting numbers have taken a massive dip and his turnovers have spiked.

Hield’s contract status is complicated. He signed a four-year, $86 million extension during training camp, but he currently is making $4.9 million under his old deal. Dealing him before July 1 almost is impossible under the current collective bargaining agreement. Hield's bouts with inconsistency, specifically on the defensive end, have frustrated plenty of folks in Sacramento and his decisions to go public with internal matters haven’t helped his case.

The magnifying glass only gets hotter when he starts making $26.4 million next season. 

Expiring contracts

Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver, Yogi Ferrell, Harry Giles

The Kings now have a variety of expiring contracts to work with, including the massive $19.2 million owed to Bazemore that they picked up in the deal with the Blazers. Tolliver is a veterans minimum player who makes $2.6 million and Ferrell is in the final year of his deal that pays him $3.2 million this season. Bazemore and Tolliver are slightly complicated because they were just acquired, but there still is a chance they can be moved, although as individual pieces.

In addition, the Kings have Harry Giles and his $2.6 million contract for this season. The team declined his fourth-year option, making him an unrestricted free agent after the season and limiting their ability to re-sign the 21-year-old big. Giles' contract limitations move with him, making his contract more of an expiring deal than a trade asset.

Additional assets

In addition to players, Sacramento also has a massive stash of second-round selections, including four in 2020, three in 2021 and a total of 13 over the next six seasons. They also own all of their own first-round selections moving forward, although it would take a blockbuster to get them to move one of them. The Kings also have an open roster spot that can hold value under the right circumstance, and rookie Justin James is on a minimum scale deal, although he is well-liked and is unlikely to be moved.

[RELATED: What Bazemore, Tolliver trade means for Kings]

Conclusion

Expect the Kings to be active and in asset collection mode. The season has not gone as planned, at all. They’ve made moves at the deadline the last few seasons and they've already started the activity this year. The Ariza deal opened up some new avenues and the team would love to move on from Dedmon and his contract, as long as it doesn’t hamper the franchise long term.

Lastly, despite the poor showing this season, the Kings still are just five games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference with 40 games remaining. There still is enough time for Divac to swing for the fences and try to change the team's fortunes this season.

Kings show playoff dreams are premature with blown opportunity in OKC

Kings show playoff dreams are premature with blown opportunity in OKC

Playoffs? Are we talking about playoffs?

The Sacramento Kings haven’t given up on the notion of snapping the franchise’s 13-year postseason drought. But losses like the one against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night make the talk, well, nothing more than talk.

If you want to be a playoff team, you can’t blow 19-point third-quarter leads. You can’t turn the ball over in crucial moments, and when you get a late 3-point opportunity and no one is within 15 feet of you, you have to hit the shot.  

Sacramento had the playoff-bound Thunder on the ropes. OKC has been one of the best teams in Western Conference since November. The Kings had them in their clutches and then the Thunder dictated the final 19 minutes of the game.

That is exactly what a playoff-bound team does. They measure the will of their opponent and they adjust accordingly. 

The Kings aren’t a playoff team today, although they still have an opportunity to become one. If that is the goal and what the team is entirely focused on in the final 24 games of the season, they can’t have let-downs like they did in the final quarter and a half against the Thunder.

“Disappointing loss,” Luke Walton told media members following the team’s 112-108 defeat. “We gave a really nice effort. Give Oklahoma City some credit. They really picked up that defensive intensity. We didn't do a good enough job of keeping our composure from the third quarter on. We had our chances, but unfortunately, we couldn't find a way to close that out. Give them a lot of credit. That's a really good team over there.”

There are no more moral victories. If the Kings lost to the Thunder in a wire-to-wire tight ballgame, that’s one thing. But to have a team like this on the ropes and not give the knockout blow? 

Those moments are over. The Kings have a stack of shoulda-coulda-woulda games from the first 50 games of the season. From here on out, when they have a lead, they need to finish the game off or stop talking about that “P word” they don’t quite understand.

Yes, the Kings played without De’Aaron Fox. Yes, they played without their starting center Richaun Holmes and forward Marvin Bagley has played a total of 13 games on the season. Those are reasons why you get destroyed by 20. 

At some point, the club has to take responsibility for the fact that they are in contention for a playoff berth for the first time in over a decade and that means stepping up when the chips are down.

Bogdan Bogdanovic can’t shoot 4-of-14 from the field. He can’t miss crucial shots and he certainly can’t step out of bounds or give the ball away off the dribble in crunch time. 

Buddy Hield can’t ask why he’s getting pulled from a game after committing offensive fouls, turning the ball over in fast break opportunities and missing wide open 3-pointers that could have changed the outcome of the game. 

Nemanja Bjelica can’t start the game 6-for-6 from the field and finish with nine shot attempts and Harrison Barnes can’t wait until the fourth quarter to score 10 of his 21 points. 

It takes a team effort to win each and every night in the NBA and the Kings are still trying to find their rhythm.

If Sacramento wants to change the conversation regarding their team and their franchise, they have to take advantage of every opportunity. They can’t give up a 19-point second half lead or get into the bonus three minutes and 37 seconds into the fourth quarter, and expect to win. 

Sacramento will get another opportunity to claw within three games of the No. 8 seed on Friday night when they face a depleted Grizzlies team. The Kings aren’t out of the chase, but they have to take advantage of every game.

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One loss to the Thunder may just be a hiccup in the Kings’ push to the postseason. It could also be the reason they aren’t in the playoffs. 

No more excuses. Win the games you should, and when you have a team on the ropes, put someone on the canvas and don’t let them get back up.

Kings takeaways: What we learned in brutal 112-108 loss to Thunder

Kings takeaways: What we learned in brutal 112-108 loss to Thunder

BOX SCORE

The win that got away.

In shocking fashion, the Sacramento Kings built a 19-point third-quarter lead on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder. And then they gave it all back.

The Thunder hit the Kings with a 15-0 run late in the third to cut Sacramento’s lead to just one heading to the fourth. It was all OKC in the final 12 minutes as the Kings got in early foul trouble and watched the game slip away at the line.

With the 112-108 victory at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Thunder moved to 37-22 on the season and strengthened their position as the fifth seed in the Western Conference standings.

Here are three takeaways as Kings’ three-game win streak comes to an end and they fall back to 10 games under .500 at 24-34 on the season.

The collapse

With 7:03 remaining in the third quarter, Nemanja Bjelica knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Kings a 78-59 lead. From that moment on, it was a wild barrage by the Thunder. 

Sacramento didn’t score again in the quarter until Harry Giles hit a pair of free throws with 26.6 seconds remaining. The Thunder stole the momentum and trailed just 82-81 heading to the fourth after a 22-4 run. 

The Kings’ inability to hit the simplest of shots hurt. The fact that they allowed the Thunder to drop 22 points in seven minutes was completely unacceptable.

Bjeli ache

Bjelica had a quiet game against the Warriors on Tuesday evening, scoring just one point in 27 minutes of action. That is not the player that showed up in OKC.

The Kings’ starting power forward hit his first six shots against the Thunder, including four triples. He faded a bit down the stretch for Sacramento, but he still finished with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting to go with nine rebounds.

Bjelica is one of the unheralded saviors for the Kings this season. With Marvin Bagley playing just 13 games, Bjelica has held down the fort and provided the Kings with an elite shooter at the four. 

Bigs go big

Giles and Alex Len came to play against NBA strong man, Steven Adams. 

Giles got it going early, scoring 15 points in the first half. Foul trouble took him out of the game for much of the second half, but he was effective in his 24 minutes of action, scoring 19 points to go with eight rebounds in the loss.

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Len went to work as well. In his third game with the Kings, he managed to score 11 points and grab 11 rebounds in 21 minutes of action for his first double-double with the Kings. 

With no return date set for starting center Richaun Holmes, this pair is providing a spark for Sacramento.