JaKarr Sampson shines light on huge hole with Kings' roster


JaKarr Sampson shines light on huge hole with Kings' roster

The NBA game is about mismatches. Good teams know how to exploit their advantages. Teams like the Sacramento Kings look for ways to hide their deficiencies. 

Sacramento came out of the offseason knowing they had an issue in their roster make up. The team lacked a combo forward that could handle bigger wings and also slide over to the power spot to challenge stretch fours. 

Rookie Justin Jackson was the only small forward on the roster listed above 6-foot-6 and he is slight of frame at 6-foot-8, 200 pounds. At the power spot, Skal Labissiere and Zach Randolph have plenty of skill, but guarding the perimeter is an issue.

Enter JaKarr Sampson.

Sampson signed a two-way contract with the Kings during the offseason, giving Sacramento the ability to call on the 24-year-old forward for up to 45 days during the season. Listed at 6-foot-9, 215 pounds, Sampson stepped up against 13-time All-Star and four-time league MVP LeBron James on Wednesday evening and made a tremendous contribution.

He finished the night with a modest six points, but his 16 rebounds and physical defense against James shined a light on the Kings' glaring hole in the roster. 

“JaKarr had been playing me tough all game,” James said of Sampson following the game. “I know him, he knows me from our summertime workouts back at St. V. But you know, big brother’s always going to have the last laugh.”

James came away the win. His Cavs team is fresh off two straight NBA Finals trips and they were riding a 12-game winning streak. They came into the night favored by 12.5 over Sacramento and barely escaped with the 101-95 victory. 

After playing for the Reno Bighorns earlier in the week, Sampson started and played 32 minutes for Dave Joerger. The argument could be made that the athletic forward didn’t play enough. 

When Sampson went to the bench at the 3:29 mark of the third quarter, the Kings held a five-point lead. He returned to a tie game with 6:34 remaining in the fourth. James scored 10 of his game-high 32 during that stretch and he found his range from the perimeter.

“I’m just happy to see him back at this level,” James said. “Works extremely hard, is a great competitor. I’m happy Sacramento is giving him an opportunity.”

There is something to be said about knowing your role. Sampson came into the night knowing that he needed to bring energy and physicality when going against James. His incredible rebounding night was just icing on the cake. 

“He was excited and he was up for the challenge,” Vince Carter said. “He’s aggressive, he has a high motor, he loves to play and he’s not really afraid.”

Sacramento doesn’t have another player like Sampson. He fits an immediate need for the ball club, but his contract status limits the way they can use him moving forward. With 15 players already on standard roster, the Kings would have to either trade or waive a player if they wanted to make a permanent spot for the St. John’s product. 

With only five veterans on the roster and commitments to 10 young players, nine of which were first-round selections, the Kings are in a difficult position.

Expect Sacramento to pick and choose their spots with Sampson. They have plenty of time to make a decision on his future with the team. For one night, he was the designated LeBron James stopper.

Bagley ready to get started in Sacramento: 'I've worked my whole life for this'

Bagley ready to get started in Sacramento: 'I've worked my whole life for this'

SACRAMENTO -- Welcome to sunny Sacramento, California, Marvin Bagley III. The Kings' prized rookie made his way to the Capital City following Thursday night’s draft. On Saturday afternoon, he dropped by Golden 1 Center for his first official media appearance.

While being flanked by his general manager, Vlade Divac, and his head coach, Dave Joerger, the 6-foot-11 big man was all smiles as he held up his new No. 35 Kings jersey.

“To know that I’m going to be in Sacramento, building something and just getting better as a player, it kind of gives me a chance to focus in and lock in on everything I need to get better at,” Bagley said. “I’m definitely excited.”

[WATCH: Marvin Bagley III's full introductory press conference]

Kings fans showed up in force to greet Bagley at the airport Friday afternoon and again at a "Music in the Park" gathering Friday evening. The passionate fanbase that is already embracing the 19-year-old rookie.

“The reaction from the fans everywhere I’ve been so far, it’s been great, it’s been great,” Bagley said. “It makes you feel good and it makes you want to work harder and get ready to go out and play in front of fans like that who have your back.”

Building up to the draft, Bagley told his inner circle not to tell him where he was going. He wanted the moment to be a surprise.

“I was just anxious, I wanted to find out for myself,” Bagley said. “Hearing my name being called, it was kind of an outer body experience, I would say. I’ve worked my whole life for this.”

After bouncing around during his high school career and playing just one season at Duke, Bagley is looking for some stability. He’s moving his entire family out to California with him, including his two younger brothers, who will attend school in the Sacramento area.

Bagley is familiar with a few of the young players, including De’Aaron Fox and Harry Giles, who he played against on the AAU circuit. The trio spent a little bit of time together during the draft process while Bagley was visiting the Kings’ facility.

The plan is for the young Kings players to reconvene on Thursday for a mini-camp leading up to the summer league schedule. It’s a test run for what should be an interesting season of Kings basketball. 

Sacramento will continue to develop their young roster than now includes nine players on rookie-scale contracts. Bagley is expected to see major time in his rookie year as Joerger “takes off the training wheels” for this season.

Bagley likes the nickname MB3Five or MBIII, although he’s leaving it open for suggestions. He’s also been in the studio cutting a track or two.

“Music is a way to express myself,” Bagley told NBC Sports California.“A lot of people see me as a player, only on the court playing basketball. Music gives me a platform to kind of express myself and share my story of how I got here.”

Bagley is an engaging young man with tremendous upside. The Kings hope they landed a future All-Star level player with the second overall selection.

The rookie will make his debut in a little over a week at the California Classic at Golden 1 Center. The three-day tournament over July 2, 3 and 5 will feature the Kings summer league roster, along with teams assembled by the Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers.

Bagley is also schedule to play in the Las Vegas Summer League in the first week of July.

Divac explains why Bagley over Doncic was an 'easy choice' for Kings

Divac explains why Bagley over Doncic was an 'easy choice' for Kings

SACRAMENTO -- Deliberate. Calculated. Secretive. The Sacramento Kings held the NBA in suspense throughout the 2018 NBA Draft process. It wasn’t until Thursday morning that anyone knew for sure what Vlade Divac and his group were going to do and even then, there was a possibility of a last minutes swap.

With the second overall pick the Kings selected Duke big man Marvin Bagley III. According to Divac, Sacramento focused on the 19-year-old leaper early in the draft process.

“He’s a guy who works hard, wants to improve, learn, coachable, good teammate, checks all the boxes of what we want,” Divac said.

Bagley tore up the ACC in his lone season as a Blue Devil and has been vocal about his want to be the first overall selection. He reiterated that desire on his post draft phone call with Sacramento media members on Thursday.

“That’s just the kind of player I am, I have confidence in my game,” Bagley said. “I still think I’m the best player in the draft and I stand by that. I put a lot of work into it and I’m glad I’ll be able to show it with Sacramento and I’m super excited.”

With Bagley in tow, the Kings now have six big men, including veterans Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos, as well as young players Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and Harry Giles. It’s a crowded frontline that Divac will need to adress, or maybe not.

“He can play small forward,” Divac said of Bagley. “He can play 3, 4 and 5. Marvin’s a unique talent. He can play multiple positions.”

[RELATED: How Marvin Bagley fits with Kings]

Whether or not Bagley can play the wing is unknown at this time. He played primarily at the power forward and center position at Duke. At 6-foot-11, 234 pounds, he is a lean athlete and he shot nearly 40 percent from behind the 3-point line last season.

Much to the ire of plenty of Kings fans, Sacramento’s front office passed on Slovenian star Luka Doncic. When asked about the decision, Divac made it clear where his group ranked Bagley.

"Marvin, for us is better fit, better player. Great talent. So it was an easy choice for us," Divac said.

Bagley will land in Sacramento Friday morning. The Kings will introduce him to fans during Music in the Park at Cesar Chavez Plaza at 5pm.

He will meet with the media on Saturday for his introductory press conference, and according to Divac, fans won’t have to wait long to see him in action. The plan is for Bagley to see action in both Sacramento and Las Vegas summer league tournaments beginning in early July.