In his first season as head coach of the Sacramento Kings, Luke Walton made the bold and immediately divisive decision to move Buddy Hield to the bench in favor of Bogdan Bogdanovic in an effort to breathe new life into the team.
The move came just a season after Hield led the Kings in scoring with 20.7 points per game on 45.8% shooting from the field, including 42.7% shooting from 3-point range. Meanwhile, Bogdanovic averaged 14.1 points, 3.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and a steal per game in 70 appearances during the 2018-19 season.
It remains unclear if moving Hield to the bench was the right move for Walton to make, but the Kings have definitely benefited from the lineup change, as they went from 15-29 with Hield in the starting lineup to 13-7 with Hield on the bench. Their net rating also improved from -3.5 to +2.2 with Bogdanovic in the starting lineup.
Hield and Bogdanovic both had productive nights in the Kings’ scrimmage game against the LA Clippers on Monday, with Bogdanovic leading the way with a game-high 21 points on 7-15 shooting from the field, including 4-10 shooting from behind the arc.
With the Kings’ first meaningful game in almost four months slated for Friday, Luke Walton talked about Bogdanovic’s importance to the team’s postseason aspirations, and how the scrimmage games have helped everyone settle into their roles.
“I think the scrimmages were good for everybody: coaches, players, referees,” Walton said on Monday. “I think the more we get into playing live-speed, the more comfortable he’ll get, but if we’re going to have success out here, he’s going to have to be a big part of that. We’re going to need him to play well and play consistently well when these eight games start up.”
That’s not to say Hield won’t play a huge role in these seeding games, but the Kings know what they have in Hield, for better or for worse. Bogdanovic, in his third season in the NBA, is still growing, and he can be the X-Factor that Sacramento needs to break their 14-year playoff drought.
It all starts Friday.