NBA Gameday: Kings visit Westbrook, Thunder looking for third straight win

NBA Gameday: Kings visit Westbrook, Thunder looking for third straight win

The Sacramento Kings are back at it Saturday afternoon, looking for their third straight win. They’ll face MVP candidate Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena in the first game of a back-to-back.

Skal Labissiere took a major step forward in his development in the Kings last game, dropping in a career-high 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting to go with 11 rebounds. The smooth shooting rookie out of the University of Kentucky is blossoming since the All-Star break and looking to build off his recent success.

The Thunder are in the thick of the playoff chase. They currently sit in the sixth spot in the Western Conference playoff chase, but they trail the Los Angeles Clippers by just a half game for fifth in the standings with just 14 games remaining in the season.

OPENING LINE

Thunder by 12.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Skal Labissiere vs. Domantas Sabonis -- Neither of these rookies may start the game, but expect Labissiere to get plenty of playing time after his breakout performance against the Suns. Sabonis started the first 64 games of the year for OKC, but has given way to veteran Taj Gibson over the last four contests. Taken with the 11th overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft, Sabonis is a highly skilled stretch four with range. Dave Joerger likes to match up his young players against players with similar experience. Expect these two to see a lot of each other in the Saturday matinee.

WHERE THEY STAND

Kings: 27-41, third place in Pacific

Thunder: 39-29, second place in Northwest

INJURY REPORT

Kings: SF Tyreke Evans (sore left ankle) out, Arron Afflalo (personal - not with team) out, Ben McLemore (personal - not with team) out, SG Malachi Richardson (right hamstring partial tear) out, F Rudy Gay (torn left Achilles) out for season.

Thunder: No injuries to report.

SERIES HISTORY

The season series between these two teams is knotted at 1-1 after the Thunder took down the Kings at Chesapeake Energy on Jan. 15. The Thunder hold a 141-85 all-time lead over the Kings and an 84-49 advantage in the Sacramento-era.

QUOTE

“I just want to give glory to God, that was him out there. I spent a lot of time before the game in prayer and came out here and just played. I just played hard and my teammates did a really good at finding me. Coach put me in a good situation to succeed.” -Labissiere after his big game against the Phoenix Suns

Kings head into free agency with money to burn, but limited roster spots

Kings head into free agency with money to burn, but limited roster spots

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.

Kings' Buddy Hield named to 2016-17 NBA All-Rookie First Team

Kings' Buddy Hield named to 2016-17 NBA All-Rookie First Team

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.