Marvin Bagley

Kings notes: De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield flash skills in loss to Rockets

Kings notes: De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield flash skills in loss to Rockets

It was a track meet from the opening tip Saturday night in Houston. The Rockets looked like an inspired team after a rough start to the season, running over the Kings over for a 132-112 win

Houston rained down 3-pointers at a startling clip, and when it wasn't burying the 3-ball, it was finishing at the rim. James Harden dropped in a game-high 34 points, and Chris Paul added 24 points and nine assists in the Rockets' win.

The Kings had plenty of chances, but their inability to slow the Rockets' offense cost them any chance at a win.

Here are six notes as the Kings fell back to .500 on the season at 8-8.

Buddy scores

After failing to reach the 20-point plateau for four consecutive games, Buddy Hield found the basket against Houston. The third-year guard posted 23 points on 10-of-17 shooting to go with seven rebounds and two assists.

Hield has taken a few games to adjust to Bogdan Bogdanovic's return, but the Kings' second-leading scorer should be just fine.

How good is Fox? 

In his second season, De’Aaron Fox has put the NBA on notice. Not only is he a Most Improved Player candidate, he should be in the discussion for an All-Star bid.

Against a future Hall of Famer in Chris Paul, Fox finished with 19 points and three assists in 25 minutes of play. He can’t control whether his teammates hit open jumpers, but if he’s playing 36 minutes per night, the Kentucky product is putting up nearly 21 points and eight assists.

Bogdan impactful

Bogdanovic completed the second biggest step in his recovery from offseason knee issues. First, he made his way back to the court. On Saturday, he completed his first back-to-back and should be cleared for regular duty ASAP.

The Serbian-born wing finished Saturday's game with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting and added five assists in the loss. He’s ready for stage three, which is returning to the Kings' starting lineup.

Play me

Marvin Bagley struggled against the Grizzlies and clearly was outplayed by fellow rookie Jaren Jackson. Bagley had a bounce-back game in Houston, finishing with 16 points and eight rebounds in 27 minutes.

[RELATED: Kings deny report that coach Joerger, front office have disconnect]

Bagley is a talent, but he needs time to figure out the defensive end. There will be a point this season when he jumps ahead of Nemanja Bjelica in the Kings' starting rotation, but he first needs to show activity on both ends of the floor.  

The disappearance of Willie Cauley-Stein 

If nothing else, Cauley-Stein has been consistent this season. Often times, he’s been extraordinary. Against Clint Capela, Cauley-Stein was less than serviceable.

Cauley-Stein shot 1 of 9 from the field and finished with three points and five rebounds in 18 minutes. It’s possible he was winded on the second night of a back-to-back, but he can’t have nights like this if he hopes to cash in this summer.

Play some D 

The Kings struggled to contain the Rockets from the early stages of the game. In the end, Sacramento couldn’t stop penetration, struggled with the pick-and-roll and allowed Houston to shoot as many 3-pointers as it could muster.

The Kings gave up 132 points on 56.8 percent shooting, and allowed the Rockets to hit 20 of 47 from long range. It’s hard to stay in a game when your opponent outscores you 60-33 on 3-pointers. Sacramento's defense has to get better, especially against top-tier teams.

Kings should take long look at changing their plans for 2018-19 season

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USATSI

Kings should take long look at changing their plans for 2018-19 season

The Philadelphia 76ers call it “The Process.” Others call it a rebuild or asset collecting. Some might even call it tanking.

For more than a decade, the Sacramento Kings have been on a perpetual road to nowhere, gambling on the NBA draft and, more often than not, coming up empty. 

Excuse the sample size, but things appear to be turning in Sacramento’s favor.

Four years in, Willie Cauley-Stein looks like a ball player. The acquisition of Bogdan Bogdanovic's draft rights is paying off. Buddy Hield has become more than just a scorer, and De’Aaron Fox looks like a top-tier player

The Kings appear to have a core group of young players to build around, and we haven’t even mentioned rookies Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III, or young players with potential, such as Justin Jackson, Frank Mason and Skal Labissiere.

At 8-6, there is a buzz around the Kings for the first time in years, and it’s probably time to start looking long and hard at the short-term and long-term plan for this franchise.

[RELATED: In Year 3, Kings have unleashed Buddy Hield into way more than a scorer]

The initial idea coming into the season was to leverage the team’s $11 million in salary-cap space and bevy of expiring contracts. Sacramento planned to facilitate transactions for other teams around the league with the hopes of replacing the 2019 draft pick the Kings lost via trade.  

Sacramento was mentioned in deals surrounding Jimmy Butler, but only as a third team willing to take on a contract. The Kings can wait for another deal like that to materialize and potentially land a non-lottery level draft selection in exchange for a bloated contract. 

It’s a perfectly reasonable plan coming into the season, but at some point, Vlade Divac and his group might need to reconsider their approach.

With the team playing well and the roster still incomplete, this might be a season when the Kings consider buying instead of selling.

There are high-budget teams around the league that are struggling and on the hook for major tax bills. There also are teams around the NBA looking to clear space for next summer’s bonanza where nearly half the league can become free agents.

The Kings can sit on their nest egg. They have upwards of $60 million in cap space come July 1, and they can dip their toes into free agency like the other 20-plus teams around the league with money. 

Or they can go out, leverage their position as the only franchise in the league with cap space, and start looking for the right deal to help this team win more games now. What is the right deal? That’s complicated. 

Any trade should involve a player who is on the same age arc as the majority of the current roster. Whether that player is locked into a long-term contract or still is working through their rookie scale deal, it shouldn’t matter to the Kings. 

These types of players come at a premium, and the Kings likely will have to absorb a substantial additional contract. 

[RELATED: Kings’ De'Aaron Fox shares reason behind his improved 3-point shooting]

December 15 is a major date to watch in the NBA. It’s the point in the season when players who were signed over the summer are allowed to be traded, and it usually sparks some movement around league. 

It’s also the point when most teams have an understanding of who and what they are in regards to the standings. A team that came in with high expectations and spent accordingly during the offseason might be willing to chat if their season has gone sideways. 

The Kings are in a rare position. They have a ton of power around the league as the only team with any measure of cap space. They can clear up even more room by waiving veteran players on expiring deals or adding them in a package while taking back longer-term contracts. 

The plan to acquire future assets made sense coming into the season, but at this point, the Kings should look long and hard at changing their stance and getting coach Dave Joerger and his squad a piece or two to help improve the club. 

Two positives, two negatives from Kings' 14-point loss to Nuggets

Two positives, two negatives from Kings' 14-point loss to Nuggets

Sacramento stunned the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday evening, but they looked like a completely different team Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets in a 126-112 loss

The final score doesn’t tell the whole. Denver let off the gas and coasted home in what could have been a major blowout. Sacramento competed early, but their inability to stop runs is an issue.  

Here are two positives and two negatives from the 14-point loss on the road.

POSITIVES

Bagley figuring it out

Part of being a rookie is making mistakes and trying to learn from them. Marvin Bagley is improving every time he steps on the floor, but maybe more importantly, he is saying the right things.

"Every chance I get to be on the court and learn, I'm taking that," Bagley told reporters in Denver on Tuesday. "I can't take it for granted. I gotta give it my all every time I step out on the floor, no matter what the score is. I love playing this game, and I think I'd be cheating myself if I didn't go as hard as I possibly could. ... That's just my mindset going into every game."

In addition to giving a the perfect answer in postgame, the 19-year-old rookie scored a career-high 20 points, grabbed a career-high nine rebounds and blocked a career-high five shots. That’s a lot of career-highs. 

Sophomore challenge

The Kings are packed with young players and at times, some of them get forgotten. Justin Jackson and Frank Mason aren’t garnering the same fanfare of a De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley or Harry Giles, but on Tuesday, they put up big numbers for Sacramento.

Jackson caught fire early, knocking down 7-of-11 from the field and 3-of-5 from deep to finish the game with 17 points, three rebounds and three assists. When he’s making his shots, he tends to be more engaged in the action on both ends of the court.

Mason, a healthy scratch on Sunday, took advantage of his opportunity against Denver, posting 14 points, seven assists and five rebounds in 27 minutes of action. So far, the former Kansas star has put up really good numbers in limited minutes. Mason is showing he’s ready to compete, he just needs his number called.

These two might not see major time every game, but when they get chances, they have to find a way to make an impact on the game.

NEGATIVES

Fox has a let down game

After tearing through his first three opponents, De’Aaron Fox struggled against the Nuggets, scoring just six points on 2-of-8 shooting with four assists. The 20-year-old point guard is adjusting to life as a team leader and main target of the opponents game plan.  

Fox is being asked to carry a huge load this season and sometimes he won’t be able answer the bell. He’s a smart player and should be able to make adjustments along the way, but over an 82 game schedule, every player has a few duds.   

Harry Giles is struggling

Kings fans have been waiting for a year to celebrate the arrival of rookie Harry Giles. He’s healthy and seeing game action, but the 20-year-old has yet to find his footing in the league. 

First it was foul trouble and now Giles is having difficulty on both ends of the court. This is going to be a long process. Giles sat out most of his senior year in high school, played 300 minutes at Duke and then missed all of last season rehabbing his body with the Kings.

There is no substitute for game action and Giles has missed a ton of it. He has moments of brilliance that shows his potential, but he’s going to need time to develop.