Kings

Kings continue to balance development, winning in surprise season

Kings continue to balance development, winning in surprise season

SACRAMENTO -- Coming into the 2018-19 season, the Kings' plan was to develop the young guys. That idea had to be augmented early in the campaign when Sacramento decided to make winning a priority as well.

This isn’t an easy task for Dave Joerger and his staff. Balancing a roster filled with young players has its challenges, especially when games matter.

It hasn’t always been pretty. There have been plenty of ups and downs, but through 69 games, the Kings have not only fought to stay in playoff contention, but they are identifying a core that they can build around for the long haul.

The starting backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield was the first to make the leap, but there are others on the rise as well.

[RELATED: Fox believes Kings 'growing,' details franchise's next step]

Bogdan Bogdanovic has struggled as of late, but he looks like a long-term fixture in the rotation. The Harrison Barnes addition at the deadline brought in another young body and Willie Cauley-Stein has had moments for the Kings.

It doesn’t end there for Sacramento. Down the stretch of the season, the young duo of Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles are forming a fierce frontline for the future.

Giles struggled with foul trouble early in the year, but he’s continued to improve as the season has progressed. Joerger has slowly increased his role with the team and he’s answered the call.

“I’m starting to come into myself,” Giles said following Sacramento’s win over the Bulls on Sunday. “Just taking my time, patience. It’s all starting to come along for me. It took some time, but it’s right where I want to be. [I’m] making the right steps and I’m just going to keep going with it.”

After redshirting last season, the former Duke product has shown statistical improvement every month this season. In March, he’s taking his game to the next level, posting 11.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 19.9 minutes per game.

Giles has cleaned up a lot of his early mistakes, especially on the defensive end. He hasn’t had a breakout rebounding game, but he’s showing flashes as a passer and shot-blocker.

Taken with the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, Bagley came into the league with all kinds of fanfare. He’s lived up to the hype in year one, although injuries have set him back twice.

Bagley hit his stride in February, averaging 17.5 points and 9.4 rebounds in 29.2 minutes per game before going down with a left knee sprain.

Against Chicago, he totaled 21 points and nine rebounds in just 21 minutes as he continued to work through a minutes restriction with the Kings’ medical staff.

As good as they’ve been individually, the two 20-year-olds are showing signs of some incredible chemistry. They are making reads and cuts and they are looking for each other.

“There’s a lot of times where Harry could have gone up and scored a basket, but he decided to pass, and there are times where I could have had a bucket to score, but I see Harry and return the favor,” Bagley said. “We’re just playing off each other and having fun with it at the same time.”

Giles is the lunch pail guy. He’s physical and making his presence felt. Bagley is the scorer with the jaw-dropping athleticism and advanced offensive game. Both play with intensity and have big-time motors.

“I feed off of all my teammates, that’s what I try to do,” Giles said. “But with Marvin, he just brings so much energy so it’s not hard to feed off of him. I think he’s an easy guy to play with, especially for me.”

[RELATED: Kings' Giles explains the origins of the 'Litty Committee']

The pair has been together for just part of one season, but they have an opportunity to develop into something special. They both need to get stronger in the offseason and the sooner they are able to extend their shooting range, the better.

“It’s the start of something that can be -- who knows,” Giles said. “It’s our first year. We’ve had some success, but we have to take it with a grain of salt, knowing that anything can happen.”

Anything can happen, but if Giles and Bagley put in the work and make a jump anywhere close to what Fox and Hield accomplished, the Kings have the foundation of a winner.

De'Aaron Fox roasts Fran Fraschilla over Zion Williamson, Duke tweet

De'Aaron Fox roasts Fran Fraschilla over Zion Williamson, Duke tweet

De'Aaron Fox isn't here for Fran Fraschilla's college basketball takes.

After Zion Williamson thanked the program in a video announcing his intention to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft, Fraschilla sent out a tweet noting how much he believed playing for Duke helped the phenom build his brand and profile.

Well, Fox didn't agree with the notion that Duke had a lot to do with boosting Zion's worth, and he threw some shade at Fraschilla in a NSFW tweet.

In fairness, both sides have a point to make.

A year ago, Williamson was a YouTube dunking sensation, but questions about his overall skill level remained. But during his lone season in the spotlight at Duke, Williamson showed he was more than just a highlight-reel dunker, and has all the skills necessary to be the No. 1 overall pick.

However, Williamson should've had the ability to go straight to the NBA out of high school if he wanted. He still would have been a top-10 pick, and a lucrative shoe contract would have followed shortly after his name was called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

[RELATED: Fox responds to comments about MIP candidacy]

We'll give the win to Swipa.

Kings awards: Handing out end-of-year accolades for 2018-19 season

Kings awards: Handing out end-of-year accolades for 2018-19 season

The Sacramento Kings failed in their ultimate goal of making the postseason, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t have a very good year. The Kings finished the season at a surprising 39-43 and they stayed in playoff contention much longer than anyone expected.

Perhaps more important than the final outcome of the season, many of the young Kings players took major strides forward in their development. The core turning potential into production, making the future bright in Sacramento.

With the season in the books, here is NBC Sports California’s take on the end of year accolades for the team.

MVP -- Buddy Hield

Coming into training camp, Hield wasn’t expected to start. A late summer knee injury cost Bogdan Bogdanovic time, opening the door for a breakout season from the former Oklahoma star.

Known for his work ethic, Hield became more than just a scorer in his third NBA season. He improved as a defender, posted a career-high in assists and rebounds, and showed an ability to hit big shots.

Hield also led the team in scoring, finishing the year averaging 20.7 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists in 31.9 minutes per game. He flourished from behind the arc, posting the seventh most made 3-pointers in a single season in NBA history with 276 makes.

The 26-year-old shooting guard took a leap from potential sixth man to near All-Star and his energy on the court was infectious.

De’Aaron Fox is in the running for this award as well, but Hield gets the nod for his consistency throughout the entire season.

Most Improved Player -- De’Aaron Fox

Fox and Hield should both draw votes for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. As far as the Kings’ team goes, it’s close, but with Hield taking home the MVP, Fox gets the MIP.

Statistical jumps from year one to year two is expected in the NBA, but Fox’s leap stands out. He bumped his points per game from 11.6 to 17.3. He increased his assists from 4.4 to 7.3, with just a .4 increase in turnovers per game. He also shored up one of his biggest weaknesses, improving his 3-point percentage from 30.7 to 37.1 percent.

In addition to all of his statistical achievements, Fox became a leader in year two and appears ready to expand his game even farther in year three.

Defensive Player of the Year -- De’Aaron Fox

Fox wasn’t just a force leading the Kings’ uptempo offense. He showed incredible improvement as a defender in year two, especially in late-game situations.

The 21-year-old point guard has tremendous upside as a two-way player. He finished the season in the top 10 in the league in steals at 1.6 per game and as he gets stronger and more mature, there is plenty of room for growth.

Willie Cauley-Stein gets an honorable mention here. He led the team in defensive real plus/minus and defensive win shares. He put up a solid season, posting career-highs in both rebounds and blocks.

Biggest Surprise -- Nemanja Bjelica

A late addition to the roster, Bjelica stepped into the starting lineup and made a tremendous impact on the Kings, especially early in the season.

The 30-year-old out of Serbia almost went back overseas before signing a three-year deal with the Kings. He posted career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and minutes played, and shot over 40 percent from behind the arc.

Bjelica struggled for a stretch in the middle of the season, but he finished strong. His ability to help space the floor was a major bonus for the team and he was a better rebounder and defensive player than expected.

[RELATED: Fox responds to comments about his most improved candidacy]

Rookie of the Year -- Marvin Bagley

This isn’t exactly a fair category. Marvin Bagley was the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft and his only competition for the award was a redshirt freshman who had played a total of 300 minutes over a three-year period.

Don’t get me wrong, Harry Giles was very impressive, especially in the month of March after he got his sea legs. Giles looks like a rotational player at a minimum, with the possibility to jump into the starting lineup down the road. But he’ll need time to develop after missing crucial development years.

Bagley jumped off the page from the moment he stepped foot on the floor. He needs to get stronger and build his overall skill base, but the 20-year-old power forward averaged 14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and a block in 25.3 minutes per game.

A pair of knee injuries cost Bagley 20 games and plenty of momentum. A summer to work out the kinks should do wonders for the former Duke star.