Kings

Here is Lonzo Ball's biggest NBA challenge

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USATI

Here is Lonzo Ball's biggest NBA challenge

Living up to the hype is a tall task. UCLA’s Lonzo Ball walks into a room to a warmed up crowd. His father, LaVar Ball, has already spouted superlatives to anyone and everyone that will listen. It’s not often you come across a college basketball player with his own town crier. 
 
Underneath the Big Baller Brand and the overpriced shoes is a 19-year-old point guard with limitless potential. At some point, the player is going to have to hand his father one of his prized, “Stay in Yo Lane” t-shirts and kindly ask him to give him some space. 
 
Ball is the best pure point guard in the 2017 NBA Draft, but there is plenty of room for improvement. He needs to work on his body. His perimeter shot is unorthodox to say the least. But the lead guard out of Chino Hills, California is a magician with the ball and has bonafide star potential.
 
THE POSITIVES 
 
Great size for the position at 6-foot-6, 190-pounds, Ball looks right over the top of opposing guards. He can sling a pass with either hand and he even plays off the ball on occasion. He looks for the outlet pass on almost every possession and he never stops surveying the court. 
 
While he often has the ball in his hands, he doesn’t over dribble. He’s not an all controlling guard like Rajon Rondo. At UCLA, he often took a pass from a teammate and moved it without a single bounce. Following the pass, he repositions himself on the court and looks for the pass back, often orchestrating the offense with the ball never touching the floor. 
 
Ball isn’t just an elite passer. He shot the lights out at the NCAA level, knocking down 73.2 percent from 2-point range and 41.2 percent from behind the arc. It’s hard to imagine him coming close to those numbers at the NBA level with the speed and length of the opposition, but he’s more than just an assist man. 
 
He is also an excellent rebounder for his position, grabbing 6.0 rebounds in 35.1 minutes per game. He tracks the ball in the air and is in constant motion. He doesn’t mind contact or mixing it up with the trees, although he needs to add weight and strength if he is going to continue this trend at the next level. 
 
On the defensive end, Ball plays the passing lanes and collapses on perimeter shooters. He has quick hands, posting 1.8 steals per game in his lone season in college. He falls asleep on occasion and he will need to get stronger to compete with NBA guards, but the basics are there. He won’t be a one-on-one stopper, but he should be fine as a team defender. 
 
In the locker room, Ball was clearly one of the leaders at UCLA, despite his standing as a freshman. His teammates spoke glowingly about him, as did head coach Steve Alford. He isn’t vocal, but his ability to run the show was evident. 
 
THE NEGATIVES 
 
Body language and physique need work. His default stance is a concave chest with hands on hips. He is wiry, but still has the frame to add plenty of weight while retaining his flexibility. 
 
Ball isn’t overly athletic and his foot speed will be an issue against quick guards. He has defensive potential, but it is based on his instincts and high basketball IQ more than his physical tools. 

Although it goes in at a remarkable clip, Ball’s shot is odd. He brings the ball low and fires from the left side of his face. It’s Kevin Martin-esque, but without the trickiness. Whether he’ll have the space and time to get his shot off at the NBA level is a huge question mark. 
 
He also isn’t particularly creative as a scorer. Ball relies heavily on the transition game to get his stats. In the half court, he prefers the pass over the shot in pick-and-roll opportunities. His long range shot goes in and he scores well at the rim, but he lacks a mid-range game. 

While most basketball execs are saying that they don’t see an issue with LaVar Ball, there has to be a concern that the family brand is a bad fit for certain NBA cities. If Lonzo isn’t getting the opportunity to shine, it’s hard to imagine his father not popping up on televisions around the country to give coaching advice. 
 
PROJECTION 

Ball draws comparisons to plenty of players. He needs to do more to earn the Magic Johnson or Jason Kidd parallels, but a better shooting Ricky Rubio is a good starting point. He should have no problem running an NBA team and he has the ability to make the players around him better. 

The Kings would jump all over Ball if he fell to the fifth overall selection, but that isn’t likely to happen. He won’t work out for the Boston Celtics, who hold the top overall pick. If the Lakers don’t select him at No. 2, his prefered location, Philly would have to give him a hard look at three.

 

Marvin Bagley continues to showcase star potential in win vs. Mavs

Marvin Bagley continues to showcase star potential in win vs. Mavs

SACRAMENTO -- The Marvin Bagley III era of Sacramento Kings basketball is upon us. He can hit you with a spin move, rise over you for a half hook and on Thursday evening at Golden 1 Center, he starting dropping in 3-pointers.

At 20-years-old, there is no telling where the ceiling is for the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. Since returning from injury, five games ago, he’s been on fire, despite dealing with a minutes restriction.

“It was just a matter of time before I was able to show out and just go out and play,” a confident Bagley said following the Kings’ 116-100 victory. “Play without thinking and just play basketball. Whenever I’m playing like that I just play free and I’m not worried about mistakes.”

For the third straight game, the former Duke star posted 20 points or more for Sacramento, finishing with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting. He added 12 rebounds four the 14th double-double of his rookie campaign and blocked four shots as well.

Suiting up for the first time against fellow rookie, Luka Doncic, Bagley looked fresh and ready for the challenge. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, Doncic looked every bit the part of a rookie who has had to carry the scoring load for his team all season. The Slovenian-born guard finished the night with just 13 points on 4-of-19 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.

Following the game, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle raved about the Kings’ rookie.

“Bagley is terrific,” Carlisle told reporters following the game. “He’s much improved. Shooting the three consistently, so he’s a big problem.”

While Bagley knocked down the 3-ball at the college level, it was in limited attempts. Since joining the Kings, he’s taken a cautious approach when it comes to hoisting from the perimeter, shooting just 69 3-pointers through his first 51 games.

Tuesday against the Nets, Bagley shot and made two 3-pointers. On Thursday versus the Mavs, he looked confident in his five attempts, hitting a career-best three makes from behind the arc.

“It’s just a progression,” coach Dave Joerger said. “I’ve never told him not to, I’ve asked him that I prefer if the ball comes from inside the line where you’re getting your momentum going forward.”

For Bagley to take the next step in his progression and move into the starting lineup, the Kings need him to at least be a threat from the perimeter. If opposing defenses have to stay with him behind the 3-point line, it keeps the lanes open for De’Aaron Fox to attack the rim.

“He’s a special talent, man,” Buddy Hield said. “Sometime you don’t even run a play for him. He just gets our misses and puts it back in. That’s what comes with a special talent. He’s just going to keep growing and getting better. He’s still not to his potential.”

[RELATED: What we learned from Kings' win over Mavs]

In 10 games since the All-Star break, Bagley is averaging 20.1 points and 8.9 rebounds in 27 minutes per game. He’s quickly living up to the hype and showing improvement at almost every step.

With just 11 games remaining in the season, Bagley would like to end on a high note. The Kings need him to continue to develop his perimeter skills during his first real offseason and build some up his strength for the grueling 82 game NBA schedule.

Kings takeaways: What we learned from bounce-back win over Mavericks

Kings takeaways: What we learned from bounce-back win over Mavericks

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- Needing a win to move on from Tuesday’s epic collapse against the Nets, the Kings played with pace, shared the ball and hit their shots Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks.

Buddy Hield hit his shots, De’Aaron Fox put on the jets and both Marvin Bagley and Willie Cauley-Stein posted doubles to help push the Kings to a 116-100 victory.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings moves within a game of .500 at 35-36 on the season.

Bagley vs. Doncic

The Kings took a beating in the national media when they selected Bagley with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. The rookie big continues to show why he was worthy of the pick.

The 20-year-old power forward struggled with his shot at times, but still managed to notch 22 points on 8-for-16 shooting to go with 12 rebounds and four blocks. He was active on both ends of the floor and made a tremendous impact on the outcome of the game.

Luka Doncic was the player many thought the Kings would select at two. When the Kings passed, Dallas moved up to select the talented guard out of Slovenia. Doncic struggled with his shot, shooting just 4-of-19 from the field to finish with 13 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

While they didn’t match up against each other often, both look like top-level young players.

Returning to form

After failing to break the 20 point mark in three straight games and posting just eight in the Kings’ loss to the Nets on Tuesday, Hield woke up against Dallas.

Sacramento’s leading scorer hit 7-of-13 from long range to finish the night with a team-high 29 points.

Hield is the barometer for this team. When he plays well, the Kings are tough to beat.

Revenge game

Justin Jackson played rotational minutes throughout the first half of the season with the Kings before heading to the Mavericks with Zach Randolph in exchange for Harrison Barnes at the trade deadline.

He returned to his old stomping grounds Thursday evening and looked pumped up against his former team. The 23-year-old wing was active and hit his shots, scoring 19 points on 9-for-16 shooting for Dallas in 32 minutes of action.