How Kings' loss to 76ers showed you can't count out NBA playoffs push

How Kings' loss to 76ers showed you can't count out NBA playoffs push

With less than a quarter of the season remaining, the Kings are scuffling a bit. After Friday's 123-114 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, they finished their four-game east-coast wing with three straight defeats. 

This isn't the script Sacramento had in mind. In a perfect world, the Kings would have slayed the Boston Celtics and 76ers on a back-to-back, and headed home with seven winnable games and a chance to jump into the 2019 postseason.

But the Kings didn’t beat the Sixers, or the Celtics on Thursday or the Washington Wizards a few days earlier. Despite defying expectations all season, the Kings are still two games under the .500 mark and a very distant ninth in the Western Conference standings.

With his team fighting to stay in the race and, maybe even more importantly, trying to avoid a major injury down the stretch, coach Dave Joerger turned to his second unit to play heavy minutes in Philly.

“I thought our second unit tonight was fantastic,” Joerger told reporters after the loss. “I thought we got the pace of the game up and down the court. We didn’t make a lot of shots.”

Marvin Bagley starred in limited minutes, scoring 15 points and grabbing six rebounds. Harry Giles put up numbers as well, hitting the Sixers for 12 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Yogi Ferrell pushed the pace. Corey Brewer continued to agitate and Bogdan Bogdanovic looked more like himself -- even if he still struggled with his shot.

The second unit outscored Philadelphia’s 51-24 on the evening, but it wasn’t enough. 

These are your 2018-19 Sacramento Kings. They might have a few stars, but that is something that will truly work itself out down the road. For now, this is a group of young players that can hit you with a big-league counter-punch, and is always in the game until the clock hits zero.

“We’ve got a young crew with good dudes who care about each other,” Joerger said. “We’ve got terrific chemistry. We like each other. We get along and we fight for each other.”

The “fight for each other” line stands out. Maybe the Kings were overmatched in Philly. Heck, the Kings’ starting point guard measured seven inches shorter than Ben Simmons, his All-Star counterpart. 

But Sacramento just doesn’t go away. The Kings don’t cash in a game, regardless of the odds. 

With 3:38 remaining, the Kings trailed by four points to a team with a 44-25 record, as well as two current All-Stars, one former All-Star and another starter averaging nearly 21 points and eight rebounds per game on the season. 

That team, not Sacramento, has been considered "underachieving" this season.

All five Sixers starters played 31 minutes or more. Four of the first-teamers played at least 34. 

That isn’t a blowout, it’s a battle against a quality up-and-coming team.

“We’re playing hard, we’re playing the right way, we’re playing together,” Joerger said. “The wins are going to come. Our guys are getting better all the time.”

Unfortunately for Joeger and his band of 20-somethings, the wins haven’t come as of late. In the high-stakes NBA, close just isn’t going to cut it. This isn’t horseshoes or hand grenades. 

“We’ve got to win, that’s the most important thing,” Marvin Bagley told reporters on Friday. “We’ve got to win, we’ve got to play hard.”

[RELATED: Kings falling in latest NBA Power Rankings]

The Kings aren’t returning home broken. They still have aspirations of making the playoffs, even if  that ship is in the harbor, loading up and almost ready to sail.

Sacramento has winnable games on the schedule. That's encouraging, considering the Kings have gone to the mat against some of the best teams the NBA has to offer and still battled to the finish. 

If you’ve watched the Kings play this season, you understand that they have a flair for the dramatic. When the odds are stacked against them, they are usually at their best. 

Maybe they don’t make the postseason, but a .500 season is still possible for the first time in nearly 15 years. Either way, the journey of this team is worth taking in each and every night. 

Kings player profile: How good can Marvin Bagley be in sophomore season?


Kings player profile: How good can Marvin Bagley be in sophomore season?

Vlade Divac took a huge gamble when he passed on Luka Doncic to draft Marvin Bagley with the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. Doncic went on to win the Rookie of the Year award, but Bagley showed flashes of brilliance, as well.

The final grade on this move will likely take years to resolve, but the Sacramento Kings feel very confident in their decision. Bagley is a perfect fit for the Kings' style of play and his potential is through the roof.

The 20-year-old will be asked to do a lot more in year two, although he’ll also need to show that he can stay healthy throughout an 82-game schedule. He has elite scoring and rebounding skills and an advanced game for a player moving into his sophomore season.

Can he lead the Kings in scoring? Can he be a perennial 20-10 player? Can he be a star? The answer to all of these questions is yes.


Seldom does a one-and-done college player walk into the league with an advanced offensive game like Bagley. At 6-foot-11, 235 pounds, he runs the floor like a gazelle and he has low post moves of a 10-year vet.

He favors his left hand, but there are plenty of successful players with a dominant side. He has a half hook, a power move off the dribble and when he elevates in the lane, there isn’t a player in the league that can stop him.

For a rookie, the former Duke star had a remarkably compact shot chart. Bagley shot 69.1 percent at the rim on 256 shot attempts. From 3-10 feet, he knocked down 43.4 percent while shooting 95-of-219 from the field. Of his 706 shot attempts, 475 came inside of 10 feet.

While he didn’t take a ton of midrange jumpers, Bagley still managed to hit 40 percent on 135 attempts from 10 feet out to the 3-point line. He has a high release on his jumper and a refined shooting stroke.

The sample size was small, but there will come a time in Bagley’s career when he will be able to stretch the floor with a 3-point shot. He knocked down 31.2 percent on 96 attempts, although he was streaky during the season.

Despite his age and inexperience, Bagley still managed to get to the free-throw line 4.2 times per game, which was second on the Kings behind De’Aaron Fox. He has the potential to double that number as he becomes established in the league and gets more calls.

As a rebounder, Bagley crashes the glass and isn’t afraid to go outside of his zone for the board. He has an incredible second leap, which helped him finish the season tied with Kosta Koufos for the best offensive rebounding percentage on the squad.

Bagley averaged 7.6 rebounds per game in 25.3 minutes. That equates to 10.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is a good start for a rookie. As he gets stronger and learns the NBA game, that number has a chance to improve dramatically.

On the defensive side of the ball, Bagley was better than advertised. He has work to do as a team defender and he was vulnerable from the perimeter, but he held his opponent to minus-1.3 percent on 2-point attempts and minus-3.1 percent inside of six feet. He also averaged a block per game. 


Bagley can’t go right. He’s really good with his left, but his inability to use both hands may limit his ability to reach his highest potential. He also missed 20 games with two separate knee injuries.

As a scorer, Bagley is a force to be reckoned with, but he has plenty of room to grow. If he can extend his range out to the 3-point line, he can open the floor for everyone else. He could also get stronger and do a better job of fighting through contact, but at 20-years-old, it will take time to grow into his body fully.

Sacramento moves the ball around well and everyone has an opportunity to get involved. Of the regulars, Bagley ranked last in assist percentage at just 5.9 percent. In fact, only Troy Williams, Ben McLemore and B.J. Johnson averaged a lower percentage on the team.

Bagley is going to draw double-teams and he needs to do a better job of finding his teammates and not forcing his offensive game. He finished the season with just 62 assists and that isn’t going to cut it. 

While Bagley did a nice job on the offensive glass, he has plenty of room to grow on the defensive side of the court. He posted a defensive rebound percentage of 15.5 percent, which is about half of what elite rebounders average. The Kings need Bagley to post double-figure rebounding numbers on a nightly basis if they are going to move up in the standings.

Like the rest of the young players on the Kings' roster, Bagley needs to improve on the defensive side of the ball. He often gets lost in rotations and is slow as a help defender. The makings of a good defender are there, but it will take time for him to develop.

Path to Improvement

Add minutes.

Bagley is an offensive star in the making, but he needs to get bigger and stronger if he hopes to stay healthy and play 30-35 minutes a game. He’ll likely move into the starting lineup alongside Dewayne Dedmon on the frontline, which should be a solid combination.

He likely spent the offseason further refining his shot, which will help him stretch the floor for Fox and others. It also will help him stay on the court longer as the Kings turn to players like Harry Giles and Richaun Holmes, who have less range.

While he is the focal point of the offense, he needs to move the ball and keep others involved. Averaging just a single assist per game might work in Year 1, but eventually, his teammates will key in on the issue.

Bagley has an incredible motor and the size and athleticism to be an elite rebounder. He needs to hit the defensive glass and impact the game on both ends of the floor.

[RELATED: Bogi named to 2019 FIBA World Cup team]


The sky’s the limit for Bagley. He was limited in his first season by injury and a lack of minutes, but it’s likely the training wheels are coming off in Year 2.

A perfect fit for the Kings’ style of play, Bagley is expected to take a huge leap. Conservative numbers have him posting 18-19 points and nine rebounds per game as a sophomore, but there is a chance for even bigger numbers than that, especially if he can get to the line more frequently.

Luke Walton will have the Kings flying up and down the court and there will be plenty of touches to go around. Bagley will score on the break due to his speed and athleticism, but he also also be a huge part of the team’s half-court offense.

He’ll need to work on the defensive side of the ball, especially when Walton turns to switching, but he is a high-effort player that should catch on quickly.   

Bagley should lead Sacramento in rebounding and there is a possibility for him to be the top scorer as well. He has All-Star potential and if his first season was any indicator, it won’t take long for him to become a go-to option for the Kings.

Kings' Bogdan Bogdanovic named to 2019 FIBA World Cup All-Star team


Kings' Bogdan Bogdanovic named to 2019 FIBA World Cup All-Star team

On the Sacramento Kings, Bogdan Bogdanovic is the fourth or fifth name in the pecking order.

But at the recently concluded 2019 FIBA World Cup, the Kings reserve wing was the talk of the tournament.

In eight games for Serbia, Bogdanovic averaged 22.9 points on 55.6 percent shooting from the field. His 183 total points were the most scored by any player in the global tournament held in China.

For that, Bogdanovic was named to the 2019 FIBA World Cup All-Star team.

Bogdanovic was joined on the team by Magic guard Evan Fournier, Suns guard Ricky Rubio, Raptors center Marc Gasol and former NBA player Luis Scola.

The Kings and their fans are hoping Bogdanovic can carry his strong play into the 2019-20 NBA season.

[RELATED: Can Bogdanovic bring stardom back to Kings?]

After finishing with a 39-43 record last season, the Kings have aspirations of making the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Sacramento is expecting big things from De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley and Harrison Barnes.

But if Bogdanovic emerges as another star, the Kings would be tough to deal with on a nightly basis.