Bogdan Bogdanovic

Can Kings sign both Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield to long-term contracts?

Can Kings sign both Bogdan Bogdanovic, Buddy Hield to long-term contracts?

Editor's note: This is the eighth installment of NBC Sports California's "20 questions facing Kings" series that will look into pressing matters for the team once the NBA returns.

In a perfect world, the Sacramento Kings would have taken a huge leap forward during the 2019-20 season and there would be no question about their core moving forward.

If the team hadn’t started 0-5, maybe things would be different. If Marvin Bagley hadn’t gone down in the first game of the season and then struggled with injuries throughout the year, or if De’Aaron Fox didn’t limp off the practice court with a severely sprained ankle in the second week of November, who knows where they would be.

Despite the rough start, injuries and a brutal stretch in December when they couldn’t seem to buy a win, the Kings stand at 28-36 on the season and they are still alive in the postseason chase, if the NBA season ever resumes.

Whether the league is able to salvage the season or not, the Kings have some major question marks this summer, with the biggest quandary being whether or not this team, in its current form, is good enough to compete for a playoff spot for the next 4-5 seasons.

If they are, then general manager Vlade Divac has an easy decision this summer. You match any reasonable offer for Bogdan Bogdanovic, extend De’Aaron Fox and look to bolster the rest of the roster through free agency and the draft.

If they aren’t good enough, then a few difficult decisions have to be made. First on that list might be whether the team can keep Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield long term.

Nuts and Bolts

Hield signed a new four-year, $86 million contract with incentives that can push the deal over the $100 million mark in October. He’ll make $26.4 million during the 2020-21 season, which is the highest single-season salary in Sacramento Kings history.

While it’s a big cap figure, the Kings managed to work in an eight percent decrease every season as both De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley come up for extensions. Hield will make $24.5 million in 2021-22, $22.5 million in 2022-23 and $20.5 million during the 2023-24 campaign.

After signing a three-year $27 million contract with the highest first-year salary of any rookie in league history in the summer of 2017, Bogdanovic is a restricted free agent this summer. The Kings have made re-signing the 27-year-old as their top priority and there is a real possibility that they will match any offer for his services.

With a weak free-agent crop, Bogdanovic very well could get a huge offer from a team, which would force the Kings to reevaluate their plans. But with the coronavirus pandemic throwing basketball-related income and the salary cap up in the air, there may only be room for one of these shooting guards long term.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Background

Bogdanovic was supposed to be the starting shooting guard entering the 2018-19 season, but a late summer knee issue cost him the first 10 games of the season and Hield played extremely well in his absence.

Hield walked into the 2019-20 season as the starter alongside Fox in the backcourt, but he wasn’t quite as effective as he had been in the previous season. Following a bad loss in Detroit on Jan. 22, coach Luke Walton made the decision to move Bogdanovic into the starting lineup and Hield to the bench. The Kings responded by going 13-7 over their next 20 games.

There are multiple reasons for the team’s surge, including Fox getting healthier, the emergence of veteran Kent Bazemore and the strong play of Harry Giles and Alex Len at the center position.

It should also be noted that Bogdanovic and Hield are close friends. The pair of shooting guards are also two of the hardest workers on the squad and both can be found working on their games at all hours at the team's practice facility.

The case for Hield

Buddy Buckets isn’t just a fun nickname, it’s an accurate depiction of who Hield is as a player. An elite shooter, Hield has the most 3-point makes of any NBA player through their first four years in the league and he took home the 3-point contest trophy at this year’s All-Star weekend.

Since heading to the bench, Hield saw a major uptick in most of his stats. In the 20 game stretch with the reserves, he posted 19.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 26.6 minutes per game. During this stretch, he played 7.8 minutes less per game, but his shooting numbers spiked dramatically, including his 3-point percentage, which jumped from 36 percent as a starter to 47.6 percent off the bench.

Long term, Hield looks like a perfect fit next to Fox in the starting backcourt. His ability to hit the 3-pointer opens the spacing for Fox to run free.

On the downside, Hield needs more work as a defender and while his assist numbers have improved, he needs to continue to find ways to create for his teammates.

Hield is under contract for the next four seasons, although he begrudgingly signed his extension and has been vocal about being underpaid. He has also made it known that he sees himself as a starter in the NBA and isn’t excited about the possibility of being a long term sixth man.

The case for Bogdanovic

The Kings’ most versatile player, Bogdanovic can play the one, two or three. He can score at all three levels and he is the team’s best playmaker outside of Fox, especially in half-court sets.

Bogdanovic struggled coming out of the gate and had a series of leg issues that cost him 13 total games. When the season went on hiatus, Bogdanovic was just starting to settle into his role alongside Fox in the backcourt.

Playing off the ball takes some getting used to, but Bogdanovic seemed to be finding his rhythm. He isn’t the pure scorer that Hield is, but he’s still a quality perimeter shooter. While Bogdanovic struggled from long range after the initial move to the starting lineup, he shot 41 percent from deep over his last five games on 7.8 attempts per game.

Like Hield, Bogdanovic isn’t a lockdown individual defender, but he’s solid in team defense and has one of the highest basketball IQs on the Kings’ roster.

One of the primary reasons coach Luke Walton cited for moving Hield to the bench was to allow Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica to play more minutes together. The two play together for the Serbian national team during the offseason and they have a nice chemistry.

The Kings have a team option on Bjelica for next season at just over $7 million per year and there is a good chance that he returns. But the long term goal of the team is to get Bagley back in the starting lineup, which would once again break up the tandem.

Prediction

Having multiple quality players at the same position isn’t a bad thing and if the Kings can keep Hield and Bogdanovic happy long term, they should try to hold onto both players, at least for now.

If the Kings can stay healthy, there is always a chance that Walton reverses course and turns back to Hield with the starting unit, especially next season if Bagley can stay on the court. Sacramento will need as many shooters on the floor as they can get to help keep the spacing right.

[RELATED: Ibaka, Kings: Could this be the perfect fit?]

Unfortunately, the league’s salary structure is about to go through a massive transformation. With losses already piling up in the 10’s of millions for every club, there might not be room to expend $40+ million a year on one position.

Despite the contract and Hield’s ability to knock down the 3-point shot, Bogdanovic will likely come in at a less expensive rate and is more versatile. If the team has to choose, they should probably go with the player that can play multiple positions and act as a primary ball-handler, whether it’s with the first or second team.

Kings 20 questions: Will Buddy Hield trade happen this offseason?

Kings 20 questions: Will Buddy Hield trade happen this offseason?

Editor's note: This is the seventh installment of NBC Sports California's "20 questions facing Kings" series that will look into pressing matters for the team once the NBA returns.

Buddy Hield walked into the 2019-20 season with a new contract and plenty still to prove. But even before the coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown, the year had not gone as planned for the Kings’ flashy shooting guard.

After signing a huge contract extension in the offseason, Hield struggled to start the season. He looked more like himself late in the year, but not before he already had lost his starting job and a little bit of the moxie that had made him so good the season before.

General manager Vlade Divac has stated publicly that he believes his squad is better than their record, but he’ll need to get creative to keep the team together.

With other pressing needs, is there a chance the Kings look to trade Hield?

Nuts and Bolts

Hield got his payday in October. He’ll start a fresh, four-year, $86 million contract next season, with a starting salary around $26.4 million and incentives that can push the contract well over the $100 million mark overall.

The consensus around the basketball world was that Hield’s contract was a good deal when he signed it, especially since it declines in value by eight percent per year.

But the NBA has been turned on its head due to the coronavirus. No one will know the true impact on basketball-related income until much later in the year.

Why would the Kings consider trading Hield?

This is complicated. First and foremost, Hield lost his starting job to Bogdan Bogdanovic midway through the season. While Bogdanovic didn’t set the world on fire as a starter, the Kings finished 13-7 in the 20 games with him in the starting five before the shutdown.

If the move is permanent, paying a player $26.4 million to come off the bench is a steep price, especially with the salary cap potentially crashing and the need to pay both Bogdanovic and De’Aaron Fox this summer.

In addition to his salary, Hield might also have ruffled some feathers around the organization over the last year. He was boisterous and became a distraction during his contract negotiations in training camp, and Hield has not been shy when it comes to being disgruntled about his move to the bench.

Lastly, while Hield is an elite 3-point shooter, he struggles with other aspects of the game. He’s improved as a defender, but still has moments where he struggles. He doesn’t create for others like Bogdanovic does, and his penchant for mistakes at inopportune moments drew the ire of coach Luke Walton on multiple occasions.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Can Hield regain his starting spot?

Hield and Bogdanovic are two of the closest players on the Kings’ roster. They vacationed together in Serbia two summers ago and Hield has credited Bogdanovic with helping him take huge strides as a player.

Walton repeatedly has said that a significant reason he made the move with Hield heading to the bench and Bogdanovic sliding into the starting lineup was due to the continuity between Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica, who played together on the Serbian National team during the offseason.

With Marvin Bagley likely moving back into the starting lineup to start the 2020-21 season, there is potential for both Bogdanovic and Bjelica to pair up with the second unit next year.

Bogdanovic’s free-agent status could play a role in this decision as well, but the third-year guard is a top priority for the Kings when free agency begins. The league has been turned upside down, but that likely won’t change the Kings’ intention to retain the versatile wing.

Would there be a taker for Hield’s contract?

Hield has made 846 career 3-pointers through 308 games, which is an NBA record. He boasts a career shooting percentage of 41.1 percent from 3-point range and he is one of the top perimeter shooters in a league that currently values the triple over everything else.

If the Kings were to consider dealing the 27-year-old shooting guard, there will be takers. They would have to take back multiple contracts, but they should be able to find value if they choose to put him on the block.

The brilliance of a declining scale contract will help the Kings as well. Hield makes plenty of money, but his contract was not outlandish for a player with his skillset before the global pandemic shook the basketball world.

Prediction

This is a tough one.

Hield is well-liked amongst his teammates, and his work ethic is legendary. But his penchant for making noise when he doesn’t get his way complicates matters.

[RELATED: Mermuys shares Kings' secrets in video coaching series]

The league is about to go through the most difficult stretch of its existence. A team like the Kings already has lost millions in gate revenue and missed concert and event opportunities. There is no guarantee that the season or any sort of normalcy can be saved in the 2020 calendar year.

Hield should be a perfect backcourt fit with Fox, and the Kings have plenty invested in his development. There is a good chance that the Kings give this version of the team one more season to develop with the hopes that a core of Fox, Bogdanovic, Hield, Bagley, Harrison Barnes and Richauan Holmes is better than their 2019-20 showing through 64 games.

Hield’s ability to shoot is not easily replaced, even in a guard and wing-heavy draft. At a minimum, Hield should get another season to make it all work, but nothing is guaranteed with the current state of the league.

Kings' Jesse Mermuys running video coaching clinics during NBA pause

Kings' Jesse Mermuys running video coaching clinics during NBA pause

During the 2011 NBA lockout, Sacramento Kings coach Paul Westphal would go to local gyms and teach basketball 101 to Kings season ticket holders. Groups would sit in chairs with notepads as the Hall of Fame player diagrammed basic sets.

With the NBA once again on hiatus, this time due to the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered all professional sports, the Kings have turned to assistant Jesse Mermuys to do a similar, although updated version.

“I want to make sure you guys know that in this unique time, that your Kings family is with you, that we’re in this together and part of the reason we’re doing this is to just share our love of basketball and provide some joy for you guys,” Mermuys explained.

A holdover from coach Luke Walton’s Los Angeles Lakers staff, Mermuys knows the playbook well.

In his first video, Mermuys breaks down the Kings’ pick-and-roll offense.

In video No. 2, the Kings’ assistant jumps to transition offense.

And in the final video, Mermuys looks at an end-of-game sideline out-of-bounds play that they used to free up Nemanja Bjelica for a 32-foot 3-pointer in the Kings’ win over the Houston Rockets on Dec. 9, 2019.

[RELATED: Kings' biggest NBA draft busts since moving to Sacramento]

The videos dig deep into a few technical aspects of the Kings’ schemes. Known for his positivity and non-stop energy, Mermuys is a great host for the film series. In the third episode, he even brings in Bogdan Bogdanovic from his home to help add context to Bjelica’s game-winner.

Whether you’re looking for a basketball fix, trying to take in some extra coaching knowledge for your rec team or looking to improve your overall understanding, Mermuys is sharing some trade secrets.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]