The Kings ended one drought in the NBA’s annual showcase of first- and second-year players, but another continues.
Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic will be Sacramento’s first representatives in the Rising Stars Challenge since Isaiah Thomas in 2013. But the Kings still haven’t drafted a player who has performed well enough to be chosen since taking Thomas with the last pick in the 2011 draft.
The Kings have had lottery picks every year since then, and the latest, De’Aaron Fox at No. 5 overall, will have to wait another season for his shot.
Hield and Bogdanovic, both acquired in trades, were named to the World Team and will play the United States squad Feb. 16 during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
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Hield is from the Bahamas and Bogdanovic from Serbia.
“I’m happy for them,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “You know they’ve been working hard. To get recognized for the hard work you put in is always positive.”
While the Kings ultimately might add cornerstone pieces to the franchise through the draft, Bogdanovic and Hield give them two young players who have proven they can be valuable in an NBA rotation.
Hield came to the Kings last February from New Orleans as the key player in the DeMarcus Cousins trade. Bogdanovic’s draft rights were acquired during the 2016 draft (along with two picks that became Georgios Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere) from Phoenix as part of the deal that sent the eighth pick – Sacramento-area native Marquese Chriss – to the Suns.
Hield participated in the Rising Stars game as a rookie for the Pelicans last year. This year, he has been one of the NBA’s best 3-point shooters. He entered Thursday’s game against the Miami Heat shooting 43.8 percent from 3-point range, sixth in the NBA.
“It’s a great honor. I appreciate it a lot – teammates and everybody that helped me out there,” Hield said. “The vets that helped motivate me throughout the season even though it’s been an up-and-down season. It’s a great honor. You never take it for granted, to go to All-Star weekend and represent your team, your country, that’s a big thing too. So I’m motivated to go out there and have fun.”
Bogdanovic has become one of the Kings’ more reliable players as he’s become more accustomed to the NBA game. His 11.4 points per game are seventh among rookies.
Though the Kings have said they don’t see Bogdanovic, 25, as a normal rookie, there was still a learning curve for the former EuroLeague standout.
“I was surprised,” Bogdanovic said of being chosen for the Rising Stars game. “I was hoping, but now I’m really happy and excited to be there. It’s unbelievable, it’s something you can represent your team, your country. It’s awesome, just awesome.”
Fox entered Thursday averaging 10.4 points, a team-high 4.3 assists and 1.0 steals. He has started 28 games.