Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics had been playing well even with the distraction of the trade deadline looming.Now that it's come and gone with his team still intact, Garnett will try to lead the Celtics to another win over the struggling Sacramento Kings on Friday night.After scoring 21 points in a victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, Garnett had a team-leading 24 in a 105-103 win over Golden State on Wednesday, including the tiebreaking jumper with 5.1 seconds left.Brandon Bass added a season-high 22 points as the Celtics improved to 2-1 on their eight-game road trip, which ends March 23 in Philadelphia.Garnett scored 12 in the fourth quarter while finishing one shy of his season high. He's averaged 17.6 points and 9.4 rebounds while shooting 56.4 percent in 11 games since taking over as the starting center for the injured Jermaine O'Neal."He's been unbelievable this run," coach Doc Rivers told the league's official website. "Since he's been at the 5, he's been absolutely sensational for us."Rivers' team overcame 18 turnovers and a 52.6-percent shooting performance from the Warriors on Wednesday to win for the eighth time in 10 games."It's good for the team. It's good for our confidence," forward Paul Pierce said. "It shows we can win when we don't play well. We played defense when it mattered. That's what was most important."Boston (23-19) will get to build on that effort with its top players still on the team after the team stayed quiet at Thursday's trade deadline. Point guard Rajon Rondo was one of those who was in trade rumors, most notably with the Los Angeles Lakers.Rondo has averaged 11.3 assists over his past 10 games and has totaled 41 in the last three meetings with Sacramento, loser of three in a row after a 2-0 start to its nine-game homestand.Boston has prevailed in eight consecutive matchups with the Kings, winning by an average of 17.0 points, but the past two in Sacramento were decided by a combined eight.The Kings (14-29), though, were beaten by a combined 38 points in their last two games. They gave up 40 in the third quarter during a 124-112 loss to Detroit on Wednesday, the most in any period this season."You're not going to win a game if you give up 40 points," rookie guard Isaiah Thomas said.Three Sacramento players topped 20 points in that defeat, including Jason Thompson with a season-best 21 and 15 rebounds. Thomas also scored 21, three shy of his career high.Tyreke Evans had a team-best 23 points but left in the fourth quarter after injuring his ankle on a hard fall. He's listed as day-to-day.His potential absence could be a big problem for a Sacramento team which has averaged just 84.1 points in the last eight meetings with Boston.The Kings have allowed an average of 115.0 points during their three-game skid after giving up 98 or fewer during wins over New Orleans and Dallas to start their homestand.
Draft night is over and done with and the Sacramento Kings filled plenty of holes in their roster for the 2017-18 season. They added a pair of young point guards and a small forward to help fill their two biggest roster needs. They also took a gamble on Duke’s Harry Giles with the 20th overall selection which adds depth in the post long term.
Step one of the summer calendar is done and now the focus shifts to free agency which begins July 1. The Kings have limited roster space, but truckloads of cap space to work with. The NBA has reduced their projected cap for the 2017-18 season to $99 million and the Kings are way below that figure. While the cap is more complicated than just a raw spreadsheet, here is a look at where the Kings currently stand.
2017-18 Salaries - $28.9 million
Projected Rookie Salaries - $9.7 million
Dead Money - $6.1 million
Total - $44.7
Sacramento opted out of both Anthony Tolliver’s $8 million contract ($2 million buyout) and Arron Afflalo’s $12.5 million ($1.5 buyout). They also waived Matt Barnes mid-season, stretching his salary for the 2017-18 season over the next three years ($2.1 million per season).
In addition to Tolliver, Afflalo and Barnes, Rudy Gay informed the team earlier this month that he opted out of his $14.3 million contract for this season and Langston Galloway walked away from a guaranteed $5.4 million to become an unrestricted free agent.
The Kings begin free agency roughly $54.3 million under the cap and after adding four rookies, they have just four standard NBA roster spots and two two-way contracts with the NBA’s G-League. They are also required to spend 90 percent of the $99 million, but they have the entire season to do so and they are allowed to redistribute any shortage back to their own players.
There is hope that European sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanovic will join this team this summer as well. Although he hasn’t played in the league, his contract is not restricted by the rookie scale. Early projections have him making anywhere from $5-10 million per season with Sacramento.
If Bogdanovic signs for the upper end of his projection - $10 million - the Kings would still have upwards of $44 million to spend, but just three roster spots to work with.
The team still has deficiencies to fill with the roster. Sacramento has two rookie point guards, but no veteran to show them the ropes. Garrett Temple can play in a pinch, but he is better at both wing positions.
Sacramento added Justin Jackson at the small forward spot, but they have little depth behind him and he could use time to develop. Temple can eat some minutes at the position and both Malachi Richardson and Bogdanovic can likely steal time at the three as well. A starting level player is needed, but the market is thin at the position.
There is hope that Skal Labissiere is the answer at the power forward spot, but with Tolliver waived, the team needs more at the position. Willie Cauley-Stein can play in spot duty, but a veteran stretch four is needed.
In addition to position of need, the Kings need more talent and veteran leadership on the roster. Temple is the only player over 30. Big man Kosta Koufos is 28 and everyone else on the roster is 24 and under when the season opens in October.
Expect the Kings to be active on the open market. They also make an attractive trade partner with their ability to absorb contracts. It should be a wild couple of weeks in Sacramento as the Kings look to improve their roster.
A rollercoaster rookie season for Buddy Hield has ended on a high note.
A very high note.
The Kings shooting guard was named to the 2016-17 NBA All-Rookie First Team on Monday.
Hield is joined by Milwaukee's Malcolm Brogdon, New York's Willy Hernangomez and Philadelphia's duo of Dario Saric and Joel Embiid.
The Kings acquired Hield in February as part of a trade that sent All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans.
Before the trade, Hield averaged just 8.6 points in 57 games with the Pelicans. But he stepped up his game once he got to Sacramento as he averaged 15.1 points in just 25 games with the Kings. In total, the No. 6 overall pick out of Oklahoma averaged 10.6 points and 3.3 rebounds during his rookie campaign.
Fellow Kings rookie Skal Labissiere received one First Team vote and five Second Team votes, finishing with seven total points.
The NBA All-Rookie First and Second Teams are shown below.