Kings

As draft prep heats up, Kings front office getting respect around NBA

As draft prep heats up, Kings front office getting respect around NBA

It’s all about relationships. The NBA game is not just about who you are, but who you know. The Sacramento Kings have struggled with this issue over the past five or six seasons, but they appear to be turning the corner.

The first major addition was Vlade Divac, a former player known for his ability to bring a room together. But the Kings needed more pieces to the puzzle.

Last summer they added Ken Catanella as an assistant general manager to help support Divac and his growing team. Veteran NBA executive Scott Perry joined the fray following the 2016-17 season to help pull it all together.

Divac, flanked by Perry and Catanella, as well as holdovers Mike Bratz and Peja Stojakovic and the rest of the basketball operations staff, made their way to Chicago for the NBA’s annual Draft Combine for an all hands on deck approach. In past years, the Kings have had trouble getting consideration from elite prospects, let alone an interview with a top tier player. That all seems to be changing.

Not only did Markelle Fultz, the player most believe will go with the top overall pick, sit down with the Kings brass, Sacramento got the first crack at an interview with the guard from Washington. Perry, the team’s new executive vice president of basketball operations has ties to the Fultz camp, which is usually the way this all works.

According to a source inside of Fultz’ camp, the 19-year-old point guard would have no problems joining the Sacramento Kings if that’s how the cards fall. Fultz is a gym rat. His primary focus as a young man is basketball and Sacramento is an environment that allows a player to mature into his roll without the bright lights of the big city.  

“I think Sacramento is a good place to grow,” the source said.

Josh Jackson, another top five candidate out of Kansas, is represented by former All-Star and World Champion, B.J. Armstrong. Armstrong, a former teammate of Divac, isn’t counting out the Kings.

“Vlade and Scott Perry, they are as sharp as anybody in this league,” Armstrong told NBC Sports California. “They’re going to be fine.”

Armstrong spent the 1997-98 season as a member of the Charlotte Hornets with Divac and considers him, “One of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”

As for Perry, Armstrong said, “his track record of success speaks for itself.” Both Detroit natives, Armstrong said that he and Perry have known each other for years.

If the Kings found themselves in the top five, would Armstrong shy away from bringing Jackson to Sacramento for a visit?

“If other people see problems, we see enormous opportunity,” Armstrong told NBC Sports California about Sacramento.

Armstrong was clear - you come in the league as a player, but it is the prospects who strive to become professionals that succeed. Professionals can succeed anywhere.

“If you love to compete, there’s nothing to run away from,” Armstrong said.

Fultz will listen. So will Jackson. But that’s not where it ends.

“We have as a company (CAA), four or five guys that are going in the top 20,” agent Aaron Mintz told NBC Sports California. “They will all be going to Sacramento and we are very hopeful that the Kings will take one if not two of them.”

CAA represents Frank Ntilikina, John Collins, Donovan Mitchell and Luke Kennard, as well as plenty of others in this year’s draft.

“When you have good people who work hard and are passionate and honest, good things usually happen,” Mintz said of the Kings.

Like Armstrong, Mintz has known Perry for years. They have a relationship that is built on decades of trust. The fact that Perry is now with the Kings doesn't change that, either during the draft or when free agency opens on July 1.

“It’s not just the draft, even in free agency this is an organization our clients are going to look at,” Mintz said. “It’s a credit to Vlade, Scott and Ken.”

Sacramento offers a wide open opportunity at most positions. They have a young core in Buddy Hield, Skal Labissiere, Malachi Richardson, Georgios Papagiannis and Willie Cauley-Stein, but the point guard and small forward spots are there for the taking.

Kentucky’s De'Aaron Fox, another player expected to go in the top of the lottery, met with Sacramento over the weekend. He probably won’t make it to picks 8 or 10 where the Kings are projected to select, but even as a 19-year-old college kid, he can see the opportunity.

“They just feel like if they’re able to get a point guard, somebody who can run the team, they feel like they could do something special,” Fox told reporters after meeting with the Kings. “But like I said, that division is really hard. You’re going to have to have a point guard that’s ready to play every night to do something in that division.”

NBC Sports California has learned that there is a very good chance that Fox, Kennard, T.J. Leaf, Bam Adebayo, Dennis Smith and Hamadou Diallo will all visit Sacramento for pre-draft workouts. Ntilikina is still playing in the playoffs with his European team, leaving his draft workout status in flux.

The Kings plan to be aggressive over the next few weeks leading up to the draft. They will know more about where they stand Tuesday night following the NBA Draft Lottery. If the ping pong balls fall their way, the list of potential visitors to Sacrament is bound to expand.

Kings hire VP of professional development

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AP

Kings hire VP of professional development

It’s been a summer of change for the Sacramento Kings. A roster upheaval has 10 new players vying for minutes once training camp opens on Tuesday. The coaching staff has been bolstered and fresh blood was added to the front office in the form of analytics guru Luke Bornn and assistant general manager Brandon Williams. On Thursday, one more piece to the puzzle was brought in to help develop the team’s young core.

With the hiring of Galen Duncan as the franchise’s new Vice President of the Kings Academy and Professional Development, Sacramento is making a major investment in the future of their team.

According to the team’s official press release, “Duncan is responsible for implementation of the Kings Academy program, a developmental, player-centric curriculum aligning multi-faceted organizational philosophies and ideals to help athletes mature into well-rounded professionals. Under Duncan’s oversight, Kings Academy will augment on-court progress with access to practical material and experiences that help balance on-court priorities and personal responsibilities with opportunities to become impactful contributors in the community.”

After 10 years with the Detroit Lions, Duncan is making the jump to the NBA game. He’s already had a taste of the league, working with the league office as part of the NBA Rookie Transition Program.

With five rookies and another four sophomores on the roster, the Kings are investing in a seasoned mentor and life coach. Armed with a Ph.D. in health psychology from Walden University, Duncan will aid the players in everything from finding an apartment to dealing with the stress of life as a 19-year-old millionaire with no experience paying a bill.

“My passion has always been sports,” Duncan told NBC Sports California. “Sports has done wonderful things for me. I don’t care what level they’re at or how much money they make, I think there is something to learn and I have something to teach.”

With the Lions, he brought incoming rookie classes through everything from etiquette courses to teaching them how to tie ties. His goal is to transform a group of young men into professionals, who just happen to be professional athletes.

It’s not just about making a polished product for the media and general public. Duncan will work with players on a variety of personal issues, including money management, dealing with family and professional on-court performance.

“Unfortunately, sometimes family can be your worst enemy,” Duncan said. “But if structured correctly and if nurtured, I think the education goes beyond just the player. I think you have to educate the family as well about what they’re doing.”

The transition to the NBA game will be interesting for Duncan. He comes from a game where the incoming rookie class can be anywhere from 10-15 players. He hasn’t dealt with 19-year-olds at the NFL level and guaranteed contracts are new as well, but the job is very similar.

Sacramento has always had a support staff to help with the transition to the NBA game, but the addition of Duncan is a new level of commitment by the team. They have a huge group of young players and they are making an investment into their futures and the future of the franchise. It’s a clear step in the right direction.

Kings finally get to unleash highly skilled weapon Bogdan Bogdanovic on NBA stage

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AP

Kings finally get to unleash highly skilled weapon Bogdan Bogdanovic on NBA stage

The legend of Bogdan Bogdanovic grows. After another deep run against European competition, the 25-year-old shooting guard is headed for the NBA with plenty of fanfare.

Bogdanovic and his Serbian teammates fell short of the ultimate goal of winning EuroBasket 2017. Goran Dragic and Team Slovenia took home the gold, pulling away from Serbia for the 93-85 victory in the finals on Sunday.

Dragic scored a game-high 35 points in 28 minutes of action, giving Bogdanovic a taste of what the competition will look like on a nightly basis in the NBA. Bogdanovic led Serbia with 22 points on 9-of-21 shooting, but he struggled from long range, knocking down 2-of-11 from behind the international 3-point line.

The Kings acquired Bogdanovic from the Phoenix Suns, along with the rights to Georgios Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere for Marquese Chriss on Draft night 2016. Phoenix had failed multiple times in their attempts to bring the sharpshooter over from his Turkish league team after taking him with the 27th overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Vlade Divac couldn’t get Bogdanovic to come over for last season, but he found traction early this summer and added the talented wing as part of his July shopping spree.

After dominating league action overseas, Bogdanovic became the highest paid rookie in NBA history, signing a three-year, $27 million deal with Sacramento. He’ll make close to $9.5 million in his first season in the league, more than double what fifth overall pick, De’Aaron Fox, is scheduled to make.   

Bogdanovic walks into a crowded situation in Sacramento. He’ll compete for minutes with Buddy Hield, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson at the shooting guard position. Both Hield and Temple worked under coach Dave Joerger for parts of last season, but the Kings front office is very high on their European import.

Listed at 6-foot-6, 205 pounds, Bogdanovic has great size for the two and he might even be able to shift to the small forward spot for short stints. He is not the defender that Temple is and Hield might have an edge on him as a volume scorer, but Bogdanovic has an advantage over both players in versatility.

He’s a highly skilled offensive weapon that should make an immediate impact on the floor. He spent plenty of time manning the point guard position for Serbia and can even act as the primary ball handler. Bogdanovic is blessed with an extremely high basketball IQ and he’s shown advanced playmaking skills, both with Fenerbahce and the Serbian national team.

Bogdanovic can light it up from distance, having knocked down 43 percent of 3-pointers this season for Fenerbahce, but he’s not just a catch and shoot player. He hit 50 percent from the field overall using a variety of moves to create space. He has a killer crossover and step back jumper, a nice floater in the lane and he is fearless going to the rack.

Where he has the biggest advantage over his competition is in the pick-and-roll. Bogdanovic uses hesitation dribbles and crafty maneuvering to create looks for both himself and his bigs moving to the hoop. He also has nice court vision and is an unselfish distributor.

If Bogdanovic’s European game translates to the NBA, Sacramento has a rotational player and possibly much more. He’ll likely struggle on the defensive end initially, like most rookies coming into the league, but he plays with effort and has solid instincts.

Joerger has a lot to work out during training camp and the early season. He has multiple bodies at every position and the competition for minutes is going to be intense. While it’s early to make predictions, it appears that Bogdanovic will have a substantial role as the Kings enter year one of their rebuild.