Kings Blog

Kings close by beating Rockets. How will next season go for Hield, Cauley-Stein, vets?

Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein, right, is fouled by Houston Rockets guard R.J. Hunter (2) on Wednesday at Golden 1 Center.
Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein, right, is fouled by Houston Rockets guard R.J. Hunter (2) on Wednesday at Golden 1 Center. hamezcua@sacbee.com

The Kings closed the 2017-18 season with a 96-83 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday at Golden 1 Center.

With the Minnesota Timberwolves reaching the playoffs with a win Wednesday, Sacramento (27-55) now owns the NBA's longest postseason drought at 12 seasons.

Willie Cauley-Stein led the Kings with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Buddy Hield scored 14 points.

Gerald Green led Houston (65-17) with 31 points as Houston rested most of its key players heading into the playoffs with the NBA's best record.

Here are three takeaways looking toward next season:

Hield could be Sacramento’s leading scorer

The second-year guard improved in his ability to pass and willingness to defend as the season progressed.

Those attributes should keep him on the floor more and will give him the chance to average around 30 minutes next season. That kind of consistent time could make him a player who can be counted on to average around 20 points next season.

Cauley-Stein’s career direction could be defined

The third-year center expects next season to be his breakout campaign. Many players view Year 3 as that season, but Cauley-Stein has maintained that would be next season for him.

It better be, as Cauley-Stein would become a restricted free agent after next season if he doesn’t come to terms with the Kings on an extension in the offseason.

Cauley-Stein wasn’t the double-double machine some would like him to be (he had 12 this season), but if he can become a player that’s close to that, he’ll be in line for a big payday.

What becomes of the veterans who kept it classy?

Vince Carter, Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos and Zach Randolph all accepted the Kings’ plan to sit them in favor of younger players.

That doesn’t mean they liked it, but they didn’t complain.

Carter will be a free agent. Randolph is under contract for next season, while Temple and Koufos have player options.

Will the vets that return be in the rotation all season or will they finish next season? Or will they be relegated to sitting out games as part of a youth movement again?

That does not include Iman Shumpert, acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline and who is expected to exercise his player option.

How the Kings blend veterans with their young players will be something to watch next season.

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