(AP) -- While the Detroit Pistons have played well enough to move back into the Eastern Conference playoff mix in the Eastern Conference, struggles on the road against the West threaten to derail their momentum.Those woes have yet to extend to Sacramento.The Pistons continue a five-game trip Wednesday night when they visit the Kings.Detroit (15-27) has slowly turned things around after a miserable start, recording 11 of its 15 wins since the start of February.With four wins in six games, the Pistons have climbed back into the fringe of playoff contention. They are currently 11th in the East, three games behind New York and Milwaukee, which are tied for the final spot.However, the next few weeks could be difficult for Detroit, which lost 105-90 at Utah on Monday to open a five-game road tip against Western Conference opponents. The Pistons have lost 17 straight road games - five this season by an average of 15.4 points - versus teams from the West.Detroit, which has also dropped four straight on the road overall, plays eight of its next nine away from home.If there's a silver lining for the Pistons, it's that their last road victory versus the West came at Sacramento, a 100-94 win Nov. 14, 2010. They've won their last three road games against the Kings, and the last four overall meetings in the series.The Pistons let the Jazz connect on 7 of 11 3-point attempts and shoot 54.2 percent overall during Monday's loss. Detroit managed to close within two points of the Jazz in the fourth quarter despite those numbers, but Utah ended the game on an 18-3 run.Rodney Stuckey led the Pistons with 29 points while Greg Monroe added 14 in the defeat."We just weren't executing on the offensive end coming down the stretch," Monroe told the Pistons' official website. "Tonight definitely didn't turn out how we wanted it to. We have to go watch some tape, see what we did wrong, but we have a lot more games left on this road trip."After Wednesday, Detroit will visit Phoenix, the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver to close its trip. The best opportunity to win on the swing may come versus Sacramento (14-28), which has the second-worst record in the West.The Kings have lost six of eight and two straight, including a 115-89 home loss Tuesday to a Golden State team playing short-handed after trading Monta Ellis."We thought because they didn't have Monta Ellis and stuff, we thought it was going to be easy on ourselves," said Sacramento's Tyreke Evans, who had 16 points. "I thought we just stopped playing. They just got whatever they wanted."Tuesday's loss dropped the Kings to 2-2 on a franchise-record nine-game homestand, which had opened in promising fashion with wins over New Orleans and Dallas. They've been outrebounded in all four games while allowing opposing teams to shoot 50.3 percent.The Pistons defeated the Kings 114-108 at home Feb. 17, when Stuckey scored 36 points and Tayshaun Prince added 22 and 10 rebounds.
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.