Editor's note: This is the ninth installment of NBC Sports California's "20 questions facing Kings" series that will look into pressing matters for the team once the NBA returns.
During the summer of 2019, which seems like a long time ago at this point, the Kings spent big money on Dewayne Dedmon because he was a player the team believed fit next to Marvin Bagley.
The plan dramatically backfired. Bagley went down with a broken thumb in the fourth quarter of the season opener. Dedmon never found his niche with the team and was sent packing at the trade deadline.
Instead of watching the combo of Bagley and Dedmon, Kings fans got to see a different pair of bigs find synergy on the court in Nemanja Bjelica and Richaun Holmes.
When Bagley did make it back from injury, he didn’t slide back into the starting lineup. In fact, he didn’t even spend much time at the power forward position.
Looking for the right combination of players, coach Luke Walton split time between Bagley and Holmes at the center position, rarely playing the two together in the same lineup.
With Bagley being the future and Holmes being another player the Kings can build around, something has to give. Can the duo play together, or are they an ill-fitting pair that will need to take turns in the rotation?
Nuts and Bolts
Dedmon received a three-year, $40 million contract from Sacramento, leaving only a two-year, $10 million “room mid-level exception” contract available for Holmes.
Despite Dedmon being off the books, the Kings can’t negotiate a new contract for Holmes until the summer of 2021, when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Bagley is in the second year of his rookie-scale contract. He’s eligible for an extension in the summer of 2021 and is under team control for another two seasons at a minimum.
Holmes already has gone on record saying he would love to stay in Sacramento long term, but a lot can happen in the span of a year.
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Why it works
If Holmes is the Kings’ starting center and Bagley is the starting power forward, the Kings have one of the most athletic four/five combos in the league.
Both are considered high motor players who can rebound, block shots and, depending on the play design, score.
Holmes prefers to play in the pick-and-roll and rarely works as a true back-to-the-basket post player. He scores on lobs, putbacks and, on occasion, he gets crafty with his push shot and extends outside of 10 feet.
Of Holmes’ 322 shot attempts this season, 186 came at the rim, where he shot 73.5 percent. He took a total of eight shots this season outside of 16 feet.
Bagley is more versatile as a scorer, but due to limited court time, he has yet to fully extend his range to the 3-point line at the NBA level. Where Holmes rarely dribbles the ball, Bagley can back his opponent down, take him off the dribble or elevate and shoot over the top.
Walton used both players at center, but they ran completely different plays much of the time. Holmes loves the two-man game and Bagley likes to flash to the lane, get position low and call for the ball.
On the defensive end of the court, Holmes is fluid in space, plays the pick-and-roll well and can even contest on the perimeter. He is the Kings’ best low-post defender, although he has issues on occasion against some of the bigger fives in the league.
Bagley still is a work in progress on the defensive end. He makes up for a lot of his technique issues by relying on pure athleticism, but he has potential as a defender as he gets more comfortable on the court.
While neither Holmes nor Bagley has the strength to hold off players like Nikola Jokic or Steven Adams, they are both super athletes that can switch and play either power forward or center.
Why it doesn’t work
There is a reason Walton has shied away from using Holmes and Bagley on the court together. The modern NBA requires spacing, which means you need as many perimeter shooters on the floor as possible.
With Holmes and Bagley both preferring to do their damage down low, they will clog the lane, where point guard De’Aaron Fox likes to attack.
There are decades worth of tape of teams playing with two bigs on the court at the same time, but the league has almost entirely gone away from this look in the last few seasons.
The plan always has been to put Bagley alongside a floor spacer, which is why Dedmon was brought in. Having a player like Bjelica on the roster has helped tremendously; if for no other reason, he gives the Kings a player-type to test with their other players.
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In his second season in the league with the Philadelphia 76ers, Holmes shot 35.1 percent from 3-point land on 1.4 attempts per game. He has been working on extending his range, but there is a difference between being able to hit a three on the practice court versus in a game. He has to become proficient enough from the perimeter that teams go all the way out to guard him.
Bagley shot 31.3 percent from distance as a rookie, but injuries have stopped him from finding his rhythm in year two. When Bagley does hit 3-pointers, it usually is as a trailer from the top of the key.
If either player can develop into a consistent threat, especially from the corner, it would dramatically help open the floor.
In addition to struggling from the perimeter, neither player possesses the ability to play-make for others on a consistent basis. When the season was put on ice, Holmes ranked 16th on the team in assist percentage and Bagley was 18th. To compound matters, starting small forward Harrison Barnes ranked 11th in assist percentage.
Can you put three players on the court together who don’t create opportunities for others? That might be a bigger issue than the lack of 3-point shooting.
Walton has no option but to try the pairing. Holmes is the team’s best interior defender and he earned the starting position. Bagley still is considered a building block for the franchise despite his injury setbacks. Both project as players that play 30 minutes or more per game for Sacramento.
The team needs to extend the range of both players, but they also should start using the pair in high-post situations to see if one or both has the ability to create.
Turning up the tempo also would help mask some of the issues. Both Holmes and Bagley are exceptional athletes who can get out and move in the open court. Holmes is more of a rim-runner than Bagley, but Bagley also can lead a break with his ball-handling skills.
If and when the league returns, it’s too late to experiment with Holmes and Bagley together now, especially if there are postseason implications for the Kings. But Walton has a tall task of finding ways to mask their deficiencies while molding these two during the offseason, because this should be the team’s starting frontline for the 2020-21 season.