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.
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.”
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.