Kings

Kings Under Review: Rookie bigs continue to shine in blowout win over Bulls

Kings Under Review: Rookie bigs continue to shine in blowout win over Bulls

SACRAMENTO -- You could feel the relief walking into the Kings' locker room Sunday evening. After a brutal 1-3 road trip, the Kings needed some home cooking and a dysfunctional opponent to take their frustrations out on.

That is exactly what they found in the Chicago Bulls.

After a sluggish start in the first quarter, Sacramento pounded the Bulls, leading by as many as 37 points on their way to a 129-102 blowout victory. Five players scored in double-figures for the Kings and another three scored eight or more as they snapped their three-game losing streak and picked up their 21st home victory of the season.

Sacramento moved back to within one game of the .500 mark at 34-35. Here are the positives and the negatives from the win:

POSITIVE

Marvin Bagley is healthy

You never know how a player is going to respond to an injury. Bagley is quickly showing that he has no ill effects from the knee sprain that cost him five games and he's ready to compete.

The rookie big attacked the Bulls with a variety of moves, but he's more than just a young player with an advanced offensive game. Bagley has a motor that won't stop and he continues to improve with every opportunity.

Against the Bulls, the 20-year-old dropped in 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting and added nine rebounds in just 21 minutes of action. 

Injuries have cost Bagley 19 games this season. He needs to work on his body in the offseason and extend his range, but this is a top-tier talent that is ready to explode on the scene as a sophomore.

POSITIVE

Harry Giles has a streak

Giles has strung together double-figure scoring in six of the last nine games, but that's not the streak we are talking about. Despite his age, Giles can be down right mean and nasty, which is something the Sacramento Kings need.

He picked up his fourth technical of the season against Chicago for an exchange with Robin Lopez and the rookie big almost got tossed against the Celtics two games ago.

An energy player on your roster that doesn't mind mixing it up on occasion is a must and Giles is that guy.

Against the Bulls, he posted 16 points, six rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal. He's turning into a big time rotational player for Sacramento and looks like a future front court partner for Bagley.

POSITIVE

Fox sets the table

De'Aaron Fox has taken a tremendous leap in his second NBA season. He looks like a star in the making and for Sacramento. He's become the player that sets the tempo of the game.

Chicago isn't the Celtics or the 76ers. They aren't even as good as the Wizards. But they are still an NBA team with plenty of talent.

Knowing his team needed a win, you could see Fox pushing the tempo on every possession and when the Bulls started to bend, the Kings' starting point guard helped put them away.

Fox walked into last summer with a long list of items he needed to improve on. He'll do the same this summer, but now the list is shorter and more specific.

POSITIVE

34 wins

The Kings don't usually get four positives, but when you steam roll a team and take care of business early, you receive praise.

This seems like an odd item to celebrate, but the Kings picked up their 34th victory of the season on Monday evening. This is the first time since the 2007-08 season that the Kings have reached the plateau.

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

Sacramento isn't where they want to be. They were hoping to be closer to the playoff pack down the stretch. But with 13 games remaining in the season, they have an opportunity to pick up plenty of more wins and possibly even make a run at the .500 mark for the first time since Rick Adelman stepped away following the 2005-06 season.

Progress should be celebrated.

Why NBA journeyman Corey Brewer hopes he found steady home with Kings

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USATSI

Why NBA journeyman Corey Brewer hopes he found steady home with Kings

Corey Brewer has been around the NBA. 

The Kings are the eighth team the journeyman forward has suited up for in his 12-year career, and the ninth organization he's been a part of overall. But after finishing the 2018-19 season in California's capital, Brewer hopes he has found a more permanent home. 

“Just being around these young guys has been fun,” Brewer told the Kings' website. “Just being able to help them as best I can, and knowing how good they can be and how good they’re going to be.”

After Sacramento traded Iman Shumpert ahead of the deadline, Brewer gave the young Kings team some much-needed veteran leadership. The 33-year-old signed a pair of 10-day contracts in January, before signing with the team for the remainder of the season in February. 

“He’s been good for us,” point guard De’Aaron Fox said back in February. “When he gets on the court, you know what he’s going to bring.”

[RELATED: Walton must improve defense for Kings to win]

In 24 games with the Kings, Brewer averaged 4.1 points and 2.5 rebounds in just under 15 minutes per. His impact was particularly felt on the defensive end, as Kings.com writer Alex Kramers noted, where Sacramento gave up 4.1 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor,

Brewer can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but it sounds like he doesn't have much intention of signing anywhere else. 

Do Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox make a case for NBA's Most Improved Player?

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USATI

Do Buddy Hield, De'Aaron Fox make a case for NBA's Most Improved Player?

Locked out of the offseason awards since Tyreke Evans took home the Rookie of the Year trophy in 2010, the Sacramento Kings have two legitimate candidates this season for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.

It’s a crowded field, but with the Kings drawing a lot of attention this season with their strong play, both Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox will receive consideration. One of the pair may even take home the trophy.  

The case for Buddy Hield

Coming out of Oklahoma, Hield walked into the NBA as a known scorer. In year three, he cemented himself as one of the premier shooters in the league.

After earning a starting role coming out of training camp, Hield instantly settled in next to De’Aaron Fox in the Kings’ backcourt. He showed improvements across the board, but his real leap came as a scorer.

Hield showed a 7.2 points per game increase over his previous season, jumping from 13.5 points per game as a sophomore to 20.7 in year three. He also set new career highs in rebounds, assists and minutes played.

Known for his ability to knock down the long ball, Hield hit 278 3-pointers, which is the seventh highest single-season mark in NBA history, and a 102-make increase over his previous best season.

Hield increased his 3-point attempts by 2.8 per game while seeing his percentage barely drop from 43.1 to 42.7 percent. He became the Kings’ most consistent scoring threat and he hit big shots all season long.

The case for De’Aaron Fox

Fox posted a decent rookie campaign last year, but he took a massive leap as a sophomore. Not only did he improve, but the 21-year-old point guard became the face of the Kings’ franchise, which showed a shocking 12 game improvement in the standings.

Like Hield, Fox took steps forward in almost every facet of his game. His scoring average jumped from 11.6 points per game as a rookie to 17.3 in year two. He improved his 3-point percentage from 30.7 to 37.1 percent and his overall field goal percentage from 41.2 to 45.8 percent.

As a rookie, Fox posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.4-to-2.4. Despite the Kings cranking up their pace from 29th in the league to fifth, Fox successfully improved his assists to 7.3 per game while barely increasing his turnovers to 2.8.

Fox finished the season in the top 10 in both assists and steals and he looks like a player that can take another leap forward in his production. He has elite potential on both ends of the court, which bodes well for Sacramento.

Primary Competition

-Pascal Siakam had a tremendous season for the Toronto Raptors, and his team’s win total, although expected, may play a role in his candidacy.

Siakam jumped his scoring average from 7.3 points per game to 16.9 and added a career-best 6.9 rebounds per game. He went from a back end of the rotation player to starting 79 games on a 58-win team. He gets added points for being a late first-round selection.

-D'Angelo Russell went from bust to the leader of a surprise playoff team in Brooklyn. It’s a riches to rags to riches story for Russell who made himself a lot of money with his play this season.

Russell posted his best season as a pro, finishing the year averaging 21.1 points and seven assists per game while leading the Nets to a 42-40 record

-Montrezl Harrell found a home alongside Lou Williams coming off the Clippers bench. The 25-year-old undersized center bullied opposing bigs, helping lead Los Angeles back to the postseason.

Harrell averaged career-highs in points (16.6), rebounds (6.5), blocks (1.3) and minutes (26.3). He also shot 61.5 percent from the field and routinely dunked on his competition.

-Jon Collins slipped to the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and he’s making plenty of teams regret that decision.

The high flying power forward increased his scoring average from 10.5 points as a rookie to 19.5 as a sophomore. He made a similar jump as a rebounder, grabbing 9.8 rebounds compared to 7.3 in year one.

Collins flourished in Atlanta’s uptempo style, although the Hawks won just 29 games.

[RELATED: Bjelica recounts long road from Serbia to NBA]

Prediction

Both Hield and Fox have a strong case to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Hield elevated his game to become one of the game’s elite shooters while Fox developed into a floor general.

If one of the two is going to win the award, Fox might have the advantage. He is the face of the franchise and his ability to change the game with his speed helped multiple players post-career years in Sacramento.