Kings

20 Kings Questions: Can Richaun Holmes and Marvin Bagley play together?

20 Kings Questions: Can Richaun Holmes and Marvin Bagley play together?

Editor's note: This is the ninth installment of NBC Sports California's "20 questions facing Kings" series that will look into pressing matters for the team once the NBA returns.

During the summer of 2019, which seems like a long time ago at this point, the Kings spent big money on Dewayne Dedmon because he was a player the team believed fit next to Marvin Bagley.

The plan dramatically backfired. Bagley went down with a broken thumb in the fourth quarter of the season opener. Dedmon never found his niche with the team and was sent packing at the trade deadline.

Instead of watching the combo of Bagley and Dedmon, Kings fans got to see a different pair of bigs find synergy on the court in Nemanja Bjelica and Richaun Holmes.

When Bagley did make it back from injury, he didn’t slide back into the starting lineup. In fact, he didn’t even spend much time at the power forward position.

Looking for the right combination of players, coach Luke Walton split time between Bagley and Holmes at the center position, rarely playing the two together in the same lineup.

With Bagley being the future and Holmes being another player the Kings can build around, something has to give. Can the duo play together, or are they an ill-fitting pair that will need to take turns in the rotation?

Nuts and Bolts

Dedmon received a three-year, $40 million contract from Sacramento, leaving only a two-year, $10 million “room mid-level exception” contract available for Holmes.

Despite Dedmon being off the books, the Kings can’t negotiate a new contract for Holmes until the summer of 2021, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Bagley is in the second year of his rookie-scale contract. He’s eligible for an extension in the summer of 2021 and is under team control for another two seasons at a minimum.

Holmes already has gone on record saying he would love to stay in Sacramento long term, but a lot can happen in the span of a year.

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Why it works

If Holmes is the Kings’ starting center and Bagley is the starting power forward, the Kings have one of the most athletic four/five combos in the league.

Both are considered high motor players who can rebound, block shots and, depending on the play design, score.

Holmes prefers to play in the pick-and-roll and rarely works as a true back-to-the-basket post player. He scores on lobs, putbacks and, on occasion, he gets crafty with his push shot and extends outside of 10 feet.

Of Holmes’ 322 shot attempts this season, 186 came at the rim, where he shot 73.5 percent. He took a total of eight shots this season outside of 16 feet.

Bagley is more versatile as a scorer, but due to limited court time, he has yet to fully extend his range to the 3-point line at the NBA level. Where Holmes rarely dribbles the ball, Bagley can back his opponent down, take him off the dribble or elevate and shoot over the top.

Walton used both players at center, but they ran completely different plays much of the time. Holmes loves the two-man game and Bagley likes to flash to the lane, get position low and call for the ball.

On the defensive end of the court, Holmes is fluid in space, plays the pick-and-roll well and can even contest on the perimeter. He is the Kings’ best low-post defender, although he has issues on occasion against some of the bigger fives in the league.

Bagley still is a work in progress on the defensive end. He makes up for a lot of his technique issues by relying on pure athleticism, but he has potential as a defender as he gets more comfortable on the court.

While neither Holmes nor Bagley has the strength to hold off players like Nikola Jokic or Steven Adams, they are both super athletes that can switch and play either power forward or center.

Why it doesn’t work

There is a reason Walton has shied away from using Holmes and Bagley on the court together. The modern NBA requires spacing, which means you need as many perimeter shooters on the floor as possible.

With Holmes and Bagley both preferring to do their damage down low, they will clog the lane, where point guard De’Aaron Fox likes to attack.

There are decades worth of tape of teams playing with two bigs on the court at the same time, but the league has almost entirely gone away from this look in the last few seasons.

The plan always has been to put Bagley alongside a floor spacer, which is why Dedmon was brought in. Having a player like Bjelica on the roster has helped tremendously; if for no other reason, he gives the Kings a player-type to test with their other players.

[RELATED: Can the Kings keep both Bogi and Buddy on long-term deals?]

In his second season in the league with the Philadelphia 76ers, Holmes shot 35.1 percent from 3-point land on 1.4 attempts per game. He has been working on extending his range, but there is a difference between being able to hit a three on the practice court versus in a game. He has to become proficient enough from the perimeter that teams go all the way out to guard him.

Bagley shot 31.3 percent from distance as a rookie, but injuries have stopped him from finding his rhythm in year two. When Bagley does hit 3-pointers, it usually is as a trailer from the top of the key.

If either player can develop into a consistent threat, especially from the corner, it would dramatically help open the floor.

In addition to struggling from the perimeter, neither player possesses the ability to play-make for others on a consistent basis. When the season was put on ice, Holmes ranked 16th on the team in assist percentage and Bagley was 18th. To compound matters, starting small forward Harrison Barnes ranked 11th in assist percentage.

Can you put three players on the court together who don’t create opportunities for others? That might be a bigger issue than the lack of 3-point shooting.

Prediction

Walton has no option but to try the pairing. Holmes is the team’s best interior defender and he earned the starting position. Bagley still is considered a building block for the franchise despite his injury setbacks. Both project as players that play 30 minutes or more per game for Sacramento.

The team needs to extend the range of both players, but they also should start using the pair in high-post situations to see if one or both has the ability to create.

Turning up the tempo also would help mask some of the issues. Both Holmes and Bagley are exceptional athletes who can get out and move in the open court. Holmes is more of a rim-runner than Bagley, but Bagley also can lead a break with his ball-handling skills.

If and when the league returns, it’s too late to experiment with Holmes and Bagley together now, especially if there are postseason implications for the Kings. But Walton has a tall task of finding ways to mask their deficiencies while molding these two during the offseason, because this should be the team’s starting frontline for the 2020-21 season.

Kings' Kent Bazemore could envision staying for 'next couple of years'

Kings' Kent Bazemore could envision staying for 'next couple of years'

On Jan. 22, the Sacramento Kings were absolutely embarrassed on the road by a less-than-stellar Detroit Pistons team by a final of 127-106. You could tell that changes were coming before the final horn sounded.

That was the sixth straight loss for the Kings and their season looked like it was over.

When the team came out for the next contest in Chicago, Bogdan Bogdanovic had replaced Buddy Hield in the starting lineup and Kent Bazemore became a bigger piece to the rotation.

Acquired just days earlier in a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers, Bazemore instantly became the high-energy catalyst off the bench the Kings hoped they were getting when they signed Trevor Ariza to a two-year, $25 million contract.

Sacramento responded to the changes in the rotation and finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the league, winning 13 of its final 20 games.

In 21 total games with the Kings, Bazemore, 31, averaged 10.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 23.5 minutes per game. He was a disruptive force on the defensive end and his energy on the court was contagious.

A free agent at the end of the season, Bazemore will have plenty of options on the open market. His ability to defend multiple positions and provide an offensive spark when needed earned him a massive four-year, $70 million deal in the summer of 2016.

It’s unlikely that Bazemore comes anywhere near that figure again this offseason, but he believes he has found a new home in Sacramento and this isn't the first time the veteran has voiced that opinion.

“This is definitely a place that I can see myself play for the next couple of years,” Bazemore said during a Zoom call with the media on Friday. “With a team with so much promise, I definitely want to be a part of that.”

General manager Vlade Divac has plenty of decisions to make during the upcoming offseason, but bringing Bazemore back for another tour of duty makes too much sense. He’s still young enough to play substantial minutes and his ability to play both the two and three allows coach Luke Walton to slide Harrison Barnes to power forward for long stretches.

[RELATED: Barnes keeps word, won't shave beard until Kings hit .500]

The NBA’s salary structure is bound to take a big hit with the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world. Sacramento likely will have to take a wait-and-see approach to the offseason, which includes decisions on free agents Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harry Giles and Alex Len.

In just a quarter of the season, Bazemore has proven his worth and the Kings aren’t done quite yet. Sacramento has eight games remaining to try and earn a shot at the playoffs. If Bazemore hadn’t come along when he did, it’s very unlikely the Kings would be in this position.

Harrison Barnes keeps word, won't shave beard until Kings hit .500 record

Harrison Barnes keeps word, won't shave beard until Kings hit .500 record

Committed.

Harrison Barnes showed up for the latest edition of the Kings' Zoom call with the media still sporting his playoffs-or-bust beard. The Kings’ forward stopped shaving in mid-December, committing to letting it grow until the Kings reached the .500 mark.

“The beard is good, I think it’s plateaued a little bit,” Barnes said. “That’s been nice from a management perspective. But I think I’m excited to hopefully shave it off when we make the playoffs and keep going from there.”

At the time of Barnes' pledge, the Kings were 12-14 and facing a three-game road trip in Charlotte, Indiana and Memphis. Sacramento would go on to lose all three...and then five more to fall 10 games under .500 at 12-22.

[RELATED: Kings' Marvin Bagley, family stayed focused on hoops during NBA hiatus]

True to his word, Barnes let it grow, although he’s modified the rules slightly. He now has a .500 or playoffs mantra, which could possibly get him off the hook.

A .500 record would take an 8-0 stretch by the Kings in the Orlando bubble restart. Looking at their schedule, that is going to be difficult. But a 5-3 stretch might be enough to sneak into the play-in game, which couldbe grounds for a good shaving.

This decision was a bold move by Barnes. While the Kings have the most talented and deepest roster they’ve had in years, the franchise also is riding a 13-year playoff drought.

If the Kings don’t make it and Barnes stays true to his word, he might be able to near James Harden's beard length by the start of next season. Should that be the case, he really could use a Game 1 win to put the team over the .500 mark.