NBA Gameday: Young Kings look to kick Spurs while they are down

NBA Gameday: Young Kings look to kick Spurs while they are down

The Sacramento Kings struggled Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, dropping their 42nd game of the season. Sunday’s task isn’t any easier as they travel to San Antonio to face the star-studded Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back.

First round pick Georgios Papagiannis had a breakout 14-point, 11-rebounds performance against the Thunder, setting new career-highs in both stats. The 19-year-old 7-footer out of Greece had played just 53 total minutes on the season before registering 22 against Steven Adams and the OKC frontline.

The Spurs are fresh off a 104-96 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday and they currently trail the Golden State Warriors by 2.5 games for the best record in the Western Conference. It’s a team built for a long playoff run centered around reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard and big man LaMarcus Aldridge.  

OPENING LINE:
Spurs by 14.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH:
Youth vs. Experience -- The Kings roll into the AT&T Center with three rookies and a second-year pro playing rotational minutes. While Papagiannis, Skal Labissiere, Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein have talent, they lack the experience of the Spurs veteran lineup. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have played together for the last 15 years and Kawhi Leonard, Patty Mills and Danny Green have played six or more seasons in San Antonio.

WHERE THEY STAND:
Kings: 27-42, third place in Pacific

Spurs: 52-16, first place in Southwest

INJURY REPORT:
Kings: SG Ben McLemore (personal) out, SG Arron Afflalo (personal) out, SG Malachi Richardson (right hamstring partial tear) out, F Rudy Gay (torn left Achilles) out for season.

Spurs: PG Dejounte Murray (groin) and SG Manu Ginobili (rest) are out.

SERIES HISTORY:
The Spurs have won nine straight over the Kings, including a 3-0 lead in the season series this year. During the Sacramento-era, San Antonio holds an 86-39 advantage and they lead the Kings 114-55 all-time.

QUOTE:
“Because I couldn’t get any playing time here, it was the best thing for me to through the whole year (in the D-League). It was a great opportunity for me. Great coaches, great players, great teammates, actually. They helped me everyday get better.” -Papagiannis on his experience with the Reno Bighorns

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.