Kings look for Tyreke to add some punch

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Kings look for Tyreke to add some punch

(AP) -- The Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors have scuffled in recent years as two of the NBA's worst teams. This season looks no different.

Both will look for improved defense as they try to snap slumps Wednesday night, with the Kings hoping to avoid a fourth straight loss while handing the Raptors an eighth in a row on the road.

The clubs are in last place in their respective divisions after going a combined 55-87 last season. Neither team has finished with a winning record in any of the past five seasons.

Both currently rank toward the bottom of the league in points allowed, with Toronto giving up 101.9 per game and Sacramento 100.5.

The Kings (4-12) are fresh off allowing their highest point total of the season in a 116-81 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. In suffering the most lopsided defeat in series history between the Pacific Division foes, Sacramento forced just five turnovers and let Los Angeles shoot 54.7 percent.

"It was very frustrating," said Jason Thompson, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds. "They were pretty much getting anything they wanted on the offensive end, and we obviously didn't make it better by not scoring in the beginning. We got ourselves into a hole that we couldn't get out of."

Even as they've struggled, the Kings have usually boasted a potent offense, averaging 99.4 points over the last three seasons. But Sacramento is scoring 93.6 per game this season - its lowest mark since 1997-98.

The Kings' 34 first-half points Saturday were a season low.

"We didn't really come out with any energy," said DeMarcus Cousins, held to eight points and six boards. "And it showed."

The Raptors (4-14) also suffered from a slow start in their last game, falling behind 61-44 in the first half Monday at Denver. They cut the deficit to one with 2:18 left but could not take the lead, losing 113-110 after DeMar DeRozan missed a 3-pointer as time expired.

"We made a commitment in the second half to play defense the whole time," said point guard Kyle Lowry, who scored 12 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter.

"We have to play like we did in the second half in the first 24."

That was the opener of a five-game trip for Toronto, which is 1-10 in road games. The current seven-game slide away from home is the Raptors' longest since dropping their final eight road games of the 2010-11 season.

They're 2-13 all-time in Sacramento, allowing an average of 105.5 points.

The Kings' offense could be tougher for the Raptors to slow down if Tyreke Evans returns. He practiced Monday after sitting out two games with a bruised left knee, and coach Keith Smart told the team's official website he expects Evans to play. He's averaging 20.5 points in four career games against the Raptors, including 29 in a 98-91 win at Toronto on Jan. 11 in the teams' only meeting last season.

Cousins posted 21 points and 19 rebounds in that game, but he has only one double-double in his past nine games after ranking sixth in league last season with 36.

How the four Kings rookies fit in heading into 2017-18 season

How the four Kings rookies fit in heading into 2017-18 season

SACRAMENTO - The Sacramento Kings swung for the fences during the NBA Draft Thursday night. They filled holes, took a gamble and might have even come away with a steal or two in their four selections. There are major roster questions that still have to be answered in free agency or through trade, but here is a look at how the new faces fit into the current situation in Sacramento.

De’Aaron Fox, point guard, University of Kentucky
Sacramento let it be known early that Fox was a target. The speedy point guard put on a show in his lone season in Kentucky, averaging 16.7 points, 4.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 29.6 minutes per game. He’ll need to improve his 3-point shooting (24.6 percent) to keep defenses from sagging off and clogging his running lanes, but his mechanics are sound.

According to Vlade Divac, “De’Aaron is our future.” Whether the team will look to add a veteran presence is still in question. Veterans Darren Collison and Ty Lawson have spoken about their willingness to return as a mentor, but Fox is expected to play major minutes in his rookie season as the Kings look to turn up the tempo.

Fox is a big time athlete with great size for the position. Standing a little over 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-6.5 wingspan, the left handed point guard projects well on both ends of the floor. He’ll need to add weight to his 170-pound frame, but the Kings have a strong strength and conditioning team that has been working overtime all summer building on last season’s draft class.

With both Collison and Lawson entering free agency unrestricted, Fox is likely the Kings starter on Day 1.

Justin Jackson, small forward, University of North Carolina
Jackson tested the draft waters a year ago and decided to return to the Tar Heels for one more season. The gamble paid off as Jackson and his North Carolina teammates rolled through the NCAA tournament and were crowned champs.

In addition to winning it all, Jackson showed major improvement in his junior year under Roy Williams. The 22-year-old wing posted 18.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 32.2 minutes per game. Jackson’s biggest improvement came as a perimeter shooter where he converted 36.8 percent of his 3-point shots, compared to just 29.2 percent as a sophomore.

Like Fox, Jackson needs to add strength and weight to compete in the NBA for 82 games a season. He is a wiry athlete that stands 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, but he weighed in at just 201 at the Draft combine (up from his 192 a season ago).

As of today, Jackson is the only true small forward on the Kings roster. They have options in Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson, but they will likely address the position in free agency or through trade. Jackson will play minutes as a rookie, but how many will be determined by how quickly he can adjust to the NBA level. He’s a mature scorer and he has defensive potential, but he will likely begin his career in a reserve role, at least initially.

Harry Giles, power forward/center, Duke University
There was a time when Giles ranked amongst the very best of high school player in the country. A series of bad breaks led Giles to tumble down the draft board where the Kings were more than willing to gamble at the 20th selection.

You can take his numbers at Duke and throw them out the window, he was never truly healthy in his time with Coach K. Standing 6-foot-10.5 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, the 232-pound big has an incredible frame. Unfortunately, the frame is supported by two surgically repaired knees.

Giles tore his ACL in both knees as a prep athlete in separate incidents and he needed a third procedure to clean up one of his knees last year. If there is good news here, it is that both knees were damaged in contact injuries, as opposed to the knee giving out in a non-contact situation. The scope that occurred later is also not out of the norm as the body attempts to adjust to the changes in the joint.

Like the Duke medical staff, the Kings will need to show patience in years one and two as Giles continues to heal from the series of surgeries. The Kings knew the risk of drafting the talented 19-year-old and they also know that players like Danny Manning, Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin went on to have very successful careers after bilateral ACL tears.   

Don’t expect Giles to play major minutes in year one, but the Kings fell in love with his talent in a pre-draft workout in Sacramento. The team has a bevy of bigs, including Skal Labissiere, Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos and Georgios Papagiannis. This is a risk/reward pick for the future. If Giles can get right, he could be the best big man taken in the 2017 NBA Draft and maybe even a lot more than that.

Frank Mason III, point guard, Kansas University
Despite collecting a room full of trophies in his senior year at Kansas, Mason slid to the early second round where the Kings shunned trade offers and pounced. Like Fox, the high-flying guard was a major target of the Kings, even coming to Sacramento twice for visits before draft night.

The 23-year-old Wooden Award winner dominated in his final season under Bill Self, averaging 20.9 points, 5.2 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 36.1 minutes a night. He even shot 47.1 percent from behind the arc on 4.8 attempts per game. At 6-foot, 189-pounds, the biggest knock on Mason is his lack of size. He makes up for that with power and a 41-inch vertical.

Sacramento is in a tough situation when it comes to their point guard position. Fox was a no-brainer at number five and Mason is an NBA ready contributor at pick 34. But can they walk into a season with two rookies manning the point guard position? 

It’s possible. The Kings have Temple on the roster, who can steal some minutes, but Fox and Mason make an intriguing thunder and lightning pairing that should be a lot of fun to watch. Don’t be shocked if Mason earns a spot in the rotation in training camp and plays solid minutes in a sparkplug role off the bench as a rookie.

Purge of veterans continues as Kings waive Arron Afflalo

Purge of veterans continues as Kings waive Arron Afflalo

SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings continued their purge of veteran contracts Friday afternoon. NBC Sports California has confirmed that the team opted out of the second year of Arron Afflalo’s 2-year, $25 million deal. They will instead pay the shooting guard a $1.5 million buyout, saving $11 million and allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Afflalo, 31, posted 8.4 points and 2.0 rebounds in 25.9 minutes per game. The 10-year NBA veteran played in 61 games, including 45 starts for the Kings last season while shooting 41.1 percent from behind the arc.

The former UCLA star is the second Kings veteran to have his option declined, joining Anthony Tolliver in the ranks of unrestricted free agents. Both Rudy Gay and Langston Galloway have chosen not to exercise player options with the team as the franchise turns to a youth movement.

Garrett Temple and Kosta Koufos are the only remaining players players on the Kings’ roster with more than two years experience in the league. Sacramento will enter free agency with upwards of $55 million to spend in free agency once they sign their four rookies from Thursday evening’s NBA Draft.