Buddy Hield

Poll: Kings’ Hot Start

The Kings have been one of the season’s biggest surprises so far, as they have jumped out to a 6-4 start. As a result of strong 3-point shooting, the league’s second fastest pace and development from several young players, the Kings have impressed many through their first 10 games.

This is a Kings team that hasn’t won more than 33 games in a season since 2007/08, so a strong start is certainly something that has caught attention. While the team hasn’t been overwhelming on either end of the floor (they are just about league average on both ends), they have gotten strong play from De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein and Nemanja Bjelica.

In his second season in the league, Fox has made major strides. Heading into the Kings’ loss to the Bucks on Sunday, Fox was averaging 19 points, 7.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, Hield is providing another capable scoring option, averaging 19.8 points per game while hitting 48.9% of his 3-pointers. Bjelica has been a great addition for the Kings, as his floor-spacing has been much needed in the starting lineup. So far, Bjelica is averaging 15.6 points per game while shooting a staggering 55.3% on 3-pointers. Finally, Cauley-Stein has improved as a rim-running big, averaging 16.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

However, teams have gotten off to fast starts only to fade throughout the remainder of the season. Most recently it was the Magic, who got off to an 8-4 start last season, only to finish 25-57. While that Magic team surprised many early in the season due to some unsustainable shooting, there are certainly ways for the Kings to fall back down to the bottom of the standings moving forward.

Perhaps the development from their young players, their key free agency additions and their style of play will lead them to more success than anticipated. What do you think? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments!

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Kings Exercise Options On Five Players

The Kings showed their commitment to the youth movement by exercising the rookie scale options on five players — guards De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, small forward Justin Jackson and big men Harry Giles and Skal Labissiere, according to a team press release.

Teams have until the end of the month to make rookie scale option decisions but Sacramento beat the deadline by nearly a week. The biggest salary commitment, due to his status as the fifth overall pick in the 2017 draft, goes to Fox. He’ll have a salary just shy of $6.44MM for the 2019/20 season. Hield’s fourth-year option will result in a $4.86MM cap hit.

Jackson’s third-year option is worth $3.28MM while Giles will make approximately $2.58MM. Labissiere’s fourth-year option will cost nearly $2.34MM.

All of those affirmative option decisions were expected with the possible exception of Labissiere’s contract. However, he’s off to a productive start this season, averaging 8.5 PPG and 4.7 RPG.

Fox is emerging as one of the cornerstones of the franchise, averaging 17.6 PPG, 6.6 APG and 1.4 steals through five games during his sophomore campaign. Hield is scoring at a 14.0 PPG clip thus far while making 43.2% of his 3-point tries. Jackson has posted 9.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 1.6 APG, while Giles is averaging 3.8 PPG and 3.0 RPG while working his way back from major knee issues.

You can find all the rookie scale option decisions around the league here.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Knight, Kings

There’s pressure on the Lakers to get a second star, but it’s far from urgent, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report writes. So long as the franchise continues to practice patience, they’ll remain flexible enough to have options.

As things stand, the club has $5.7MM in cap space. That figure could grow to as much as $15.5MM if the club waives and stretches Luol Deng‘s contract over three seasons. They can get as high as $22.8MM if they can unload the deal altogether with “at least a first-rounder attached,” Pincus says. That flexibility would make a Brandon Ingram-for-Kawhi Leonard swap financially feasible.

Of course the Lakers could wait to see if a different trade for a star beckons, as reports suggest with Jimmy Butler and as is at least borderline conceivable with Damian Lillard.

An alternative to making a move this season would be giving center Brook Lopez the Lakers’ remaining $5.7MM of cap space on a one-year deal, retaining all of their young players in an audition to see who best fits with LeBron James, then going out shopping for a star next summer.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division tonight:

Pacific Notes: Jordan, LeBron, Harris, Cauley-Stein

The lack of teams with ample salary-cap space this summer will present a tough choice for Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, as Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer explains. Jordan has a player option of $24.1MM this summer and multiple league executives told O’Connor he probably wouldn’t receive an annual salary approaching that on the open market. Some of the teams that will have cap room, such as the Nets, Hawks and Sixers, aren’t looking to add a veteran center at a high salary, O’Connor continues. It’s plausible that Jordan will opt in and take his chances on the open market in 2019, O’Connor adds.

Also around the Pacific Division:

  • The lack of elite, established players on their current rosters will make it tough sell for the Lakers and Clippers to land LeBron James this summer, Marc Spears of The Undefeated opines. The Lakers could sign two major free agents this summer, but the Clippers don’t have that much cap room, Spears notes. The Clippers may have hurt their cause to sign a top free agent by trading away Blake Griffin in the first year of his long-term contract, Spears adds.
  • Forward Tobias Harris has been traded three times during his career and he’s taken the latest one in stride, as he told Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders. Harris was the top player acquired by the Clippers in the Griffin blockbuster. “My first trade from Milwaukee to Orlando was a situation where I just wanted to prove myself to the league,” Harris said. “When I was traded from Orlando to Detroit, it was a situation where I wanted to help the team get to the playoffs, and that’s similar to this one here, too.” 
  • Willie Cauley-Stein establishing his market value is among the storylines surrounding the Kings the remainder of the season, according to James Ham of NBCSports.com. Cauley-Stein has to emerge as the defensive stopper he was in college and improve his rebounding to earn an extension this offseason, Ham continues. The development of the De’Aaron FoxBogdan Bogdanovic backcourt and the need for Buddy Hield to become a playmaker are some of the other things to watch, Ham adds.

Kings Notes: Inferiority, Fox, Caboclo, Hield

The Kings are about the most consistent franchise in the NBA over the last decade. However, for the unfortunate fans in Sacramento, the Kings have been consistently inferior, writes Phillip Reese of The Sacramento Bee.

On pace to win about 25 games this season, the Kings are right on target to finish in a familiar position in the standings. Sacramento has won between 22 and 33 games for the last eight seasons, and no other team has a lower standard deviation in wins or end-of-season rankings so far this decade.

Practically speaking, the Kings have finished no better than 21st and no worse than 28th, while teams like the Cavaliers (first – 29th), Magic (second – 30th), and Lakers (third – 29th) have finished both worse and far better. The next most-consistent team? The Spurs, whose superior consistency has seen then finish as high as first and no worse than ninth since the 2009/10 season.

There’s more out of Sacramento:

  • Known for being super quick, rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox is using that speed to catch up with his contemporaries after a slow start to his rookie season, writes Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. Often cited as a poor shooter, Fox’s shooting percentage (41.0) is now actually higher than fellow lottery picks/point guards Dennis Smith Jr. (39.4), Lonzo Ball (35.6), and Frank Ntilikina (35.0).
  • In another article for The Sacramento Bee, Voisin writes about how newly-acquired forward Bruno Caboclo, 22, received a strong endorsement from former NBA player and fellow Brazilian, Tiago Splitter“Bruno is a great player,” said Splitter. “He needs a team that gives him confidence, that lets him play and has some good leaders. He’s a good shooter, has long arms, and has a feel for the game. He’s an NBA player for sure. I wish him the best.”
  • For the second year in a row, Buddy Hield (Bahamas) represented Team World in the Rising Stars Challenge last night, and his team-high 29-point performance was capable in part because of a confidence surge after being moved to the bench, reports Erik Horne of The Oklahoman“I think coach making the decision to bring me off the bench was probably the best decision,” Hield said. “I think it’s good for me, to help me, slow down a little bit and let the game come to me.”

Pacific Notes: Johnson, Sarver, Lopez

The Clippers opted for flexibility by turning down the third-year option on Brice Johnson‘s rookie contract, Elliott Teaford of the Orange County Register writes.

Team president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank says that the decision was made because the Clippers didn’t have a full body of work on which to base Johnson’s value. The 23-year-old North Carolina standout has played in just six games over the course of his NBA career, two of them this past week.

We still think Brice is a talented player,” Frank said. “There wasn’t a great body of work due to some difficult circumstances, obviously, with the back injury. This year, we have great depth at his position.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Contrary to a Washington Post report that suggested Suns owner Robert Sarver was looking to sell the franchise, the executive has “zero interest” in cashing out, Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic writes. Sarver bought the team for $401MM in 2004 and it’s now, per Forbes, valued north of $1B.
  • A move to the second-unit may have helped Buddy Hield find his rhythm with the Kings. Kyle Ramos of the team’s official site discussed the sophomore’s solid showing off the bench on Wednesday.
  • Often the subject of trade rumors, Brook Lopez wasn’t particularly surprised to find out that the Nets had traded him to the Lakers last June, Greg Logan of Newsday writes. He was, however, excited. “I’m a huge Magic Johnson fan, so having him around — to be a little fan boy — it’s awesome for the little kid Brook inside,” Lopez said.

Kings Exercise 2018/19 Options On Five Players

The Kings have picked up 2018/19 rookie scale options on five players, the team announced today in a press release. The moves will add about $14MM in guaranteed salary to Sacramento’s books for the ’18/19 season. Here are the options exercised by the club in advance of today’s deadline:

None of these decisions comes as a real surprise. With the exception of Hield – who was the centerpiece in the trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans – all of these players were drafted by Vlade Divac and the current Kings management group.

Cauley-Stein, the only player of the bunch whose 2018/19 option is on the fourth year of his rookie contract, will be eligible for a contract extension during the ’18 offseason, and will reach restricted free agency in the summer of ’19 if he’s not extended next year. The other four players are on track to be RFAs in 2020 if their fourth-year options are picked up next offseason.

All of this year’s rookie scale team option decisions can be tracked right here.

Kings Notes: Hield, Bogdanovic, Labissiere

Shooting guard Buddy Hield isn’t afraid of putting up shots, even the occasional ones that leave Kings fans scratching their heads. That’s just something head coach Dave Joerger will have to work with if it means keeping the prolific deep threat in a rhythm, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes.

I’m a shooting guard, so I’m trying to get as many shots as I can get,” Hield, who joined the Kings in the midseason trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans last year, said. “They call me thirsty on the team. They say I’m thirsty because I’m always trying to get a shot up.”

Jones notes that Hield’s teammates don’t consider him selfish so they aren’t afraid to keep feeding him the ball if it means that he might get hot from the perimeter and change the outlook of a game.

I’ve been reining him in, making him play the way we want to play,” said Joerger in his second year at the helm of the Kings. “[…] But then for certain guys at any moment you give them a little more latitude, and I think he’s one of those guys.

There’s more news from Sacramento:

  • After sitting out the first three games of the season, Bogdan Bogdanovic‘s status for Monday’s game against the Suns has been upgraded to probable, the team announced on its website. If he plays, it’ll be the 25-year-old draft-and-stash rookie’s NBA debut after signing the largest rookie contract in league history.
  • It won’t be long before the Kings turn to Skal Labissiere as more of an offensive weapon, James Ham of NBC Sports writes. The 21-year-old sophomore has already made substantial improvements over the course of his young career.
  • Despite how impressive De’Aaron Fox looks in his rookie season, it’s unlikely that the Lakers regret drafting Lonzo Ball, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes in a question-and-answer with readers. Los Angeles knew exactly what they were getting in Ball and there’s a good choice that both end up becoming All-Stars.

Pacific Notes: Kings, Ball, Warriors, Jordan

The decision to remove DeMarcus Cousins from the equation has brought a sense of happiness and hope around the moribund Kings franchise, Nick Zappulla of RealGM opines. The pieces are now in place for a quick turnaround via the acquisition of Buddy Hield in the trade with the Pelicans along with four promising rookies taken in the draft, particularly floor leader De’Aaron Fox and forward Harry Giles, Zappulla continues. Big men Skal Labissiere and Willie Cauley-Stein showed progress once Cousins was removed from the picture and the club also brought in three veteran free agents to facilitate the development of the young players, Zappulla adds.

In other items regarding the Pacific Division:

  • The league’s television partners certainly have Lonzo Ball fever, as evidenced by the Lakers’ 35 nationally-televised games next season, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register notes. That’s the fifth-most national broadcasts among all teams despite the franchise coming off a 26-win season. Much of it can be attributed to lottery pick Ball, both for his passing skills and the hype-man routine of his father LaVar, Oram adds.
  • The Warriors’ center rotation is unlikely to change next season despite the presence of some promising young players at the back end, Anthony Slater of The Athletic opines. Zaza Pachulia will continue to start with JaVale McGee backing him up and David West getting minutes there at the start of second quarters, according to Slater. Damian Jones, who was inconsistent in summer-league play, or rookie Jordan Bell could force their way into the rotation at some point, Slater adds.
  • Center DeAndre Jordan realizes the Clippers won’t be the same team without Chris Paul, but expects point guard additions Patrick Beverley and Milos Teodosic to keep the franchise among the best in the West, Jovan Buha of ESPN.com reports. “Those guys are going to come in and play their style of basketball, and it’s going to be fun,” Jordan told Buha.

Brogdon, Saric Headline 2016/17 NBA All-Rookie Teams

The NBA has announced its All-Rookie teams for the 2016/17 season, with Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon and Sixers forward Dario Saric headlining the First Team. Brogdon and Saric were the only two players who were unanimously named to the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team.

Here’s the full breakdown of this year’s All-Rookie squads:

First Team:

Second Team:

Brogdon, Saric, and Embiid are the finalists for the 2016/17 NBA Rookie of the Year award, which will be announced later tonight during the league’s TV broadcast on TNT.