Kings

Marvin Bagley reminds Phoenix Suns what they passed on in 2018 NBA Draft

Marvin Bagley reminds Phoenix Suns what they passed on in 2018 NBA Draft

SACRAMENTO -- You could see it coming. It was only a matter of time before rookie Marvin Bagley III had a true breakout game. On Sunday afternoon, it finally came against the team that passed him over in the 2018 NBA Draft.

“Yeah, I love playing against the Suns, I don’t know what it is,” Bagley said with a smile.

Bagley was extremely vocal about his belief that he was the best prospect during the pre-draft process. Phoenix went a different direction, instead selecting Deandre Ayton, a one-time high school teammate of Bagley’s.

“It’s fun playing against Deandre and the whole organization, everybody involved,” Bagley said. “I got to meet them when I went for my pre-draft workout. I met a few of those guys so it was good competing against those guys and always beating them.”

Sacramento’s prized rookie finished the Kings' 117-104 win with a career-high 32 points on 10-of-15 shooting to go with seven rebounds. He attacked the Suns in the post, setting new bests for free throws and attempts when he went 11-of-13 from the line.

“He’s getting the time, he’s put in the work and it’s showing,” Willie Cauley-Stein said.

At 6-foot-11, Bagley can run the floor like a guard and he isn’t afraid to push the tempo and take the ball coast-to-coast. Where he really thrives is with his back to the basket.

“He’s making progress game-by-game,” Fox said. “He was out there comfortable, he was getting to his spots and just raising up.”

Bagley has started just one game so far this season for Sacramento. Coach Dave Joerger is using veteran Nemanja Bjelica as his starting power forward to stretch the floor. Bagley is improving as a perimeter shooter, but he needs more time to develop his range.

Fox was in a similar situation last year. Joerger brought him off the bench early in the season behind veteran George Hill. Watching and learning from the sidelines while playing against second team players helped Fox develop into the player he is today.

“I think it lets you learn the game a lot better instead of some people that are just thrown in the water,” Fox said. “For us, it definitely helped both of us. He’s going to continue to get better and the sky’s the limit for him.”

There will likely come a point in the season when Bagley makes his way into the starting lineup, but with the Kings entrenched in a playoff race, there’s no rush. He is getting plenty of touches with the second unit and since returning from injury, he is finding a niche with the team.

[RELATED: Kings swing for fences at NBA trade deadline, add depth to rotation]

Through five games in the month of February, Bagley is averaging 16.6 points and 9.4 rebounds in 28.6 minutes a game.

Bagley’s big night helped secure the Kings’ 30th win of the season. They finished their current homestand at 5-1 and they are in the thick of the playoff hunt in February for the first time in more than a decade.

Kings hit stretch run with versatile roster and plenty of veteran depth

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AP

Kings hit stretch run with versatile roster and plenty of veteran depth

In what looks like a minor roster move, the Sacramento Kings have inked Corey Brewer to a second 10-day contract. Brewer, 32, has yet to see action in a Kings uniform after signing his original deal on Feb. 8.

Why bring back Brewer if there isn’t a spot in the rotation? It’s about versatility.

While the 12-year NBA veteran has bounced around the league like a pinball over his career, he brings a tenacity on the defensive end that the Kings desperately need.

At 6-foot-9 and 185 pounds, Brewer can match up against twos, threes and fours in the modern NBA game. Whether it’s a five-minute stretch or locking down an elite player for 25 minutes, Brewer knows his role and takes pride at doing his job.

That seems to be the focus of the Kings’ acquisitions at the deadline. In a rebalancing of the roster, the Kings sent out Iman Shumpert, Justin Jackson, Skal Labissiere and Ben McLemore.

In return, they brought in Brewer, along with Harrison Barnes, Alec Burks and Caleb Swanigan. Where they lacked size before, they no longer do.

Barnes has quickly found a home as the team’s starting small forward, taking over Shumpert’s spot in the rotation. His ability to play the three and the four allows coach Dave Joerger to try new things and through three games, he’s played Barnes a team-high 36 minutes a night.

“We definitely got bigger, Harrison is a legit three and can slide to the four,” point guard De’Aaron Fox told NBC Sports California last week. “Other than that, we brought in some more shooting, guys that can score, put the ball in the basket. I think we got a little bit better.”

Like Barnes, Burks is extremely versatile on both ends of the court. He can play some point, move over to the two and in a pinch, slide down to the three in smaller lineups. He also allows Bogdan Bogdanovic an opportunity to catch his breath and play off the ball for stretches.

“With Alec, we have a smart, veteran player who can do a little bit of everything,” Bogdanovic told NBC Sports California. “He knows how to play.”

Burks is still getting acclimated to the speed and pace the Kings play at, but he has been a steadying influence when he’s played. Like Barnes and Brewer, he understands that it’s the little things that sometimes mean the difference between winning and losing at the NBA level.

For a team that walked into the trade deadline with major needs, Vlade Divac and his staff did a nice of job of filling gaps. They brought in multi-positional veterans that might make a two or three game difference in the standings during the stretch run.  

“That’s what the NBA is, kind of position-less and guys that are able to everything on the floor,” Fox said.

[RELATED: NBA Power Rankings 2019: Standing of every team at All-Star break]

The Kings have talked about position-less basketball for a while, but their roster through the first half of the season wasn’t anywhere near as versatile as it is today.

With just 25 games remaining, there isn’t a lot of time to let the pot simmer. Joerger needs to quickly find a way to put the pieces to his new puzzle together. It’s a tall task, but Divac delivered him a group of solid veterans that understand their roles and what it takes to get to the next level.

As Kings rookie Marvin Bagley surges, is starting role on the horizon?

As Kings rookie Marvin Bagley surges, is starting role on the horizon?

The time is coming. Whether it’s this week or two weeks from now or the start of next season, young big man Marvin Bagley III is going to work his way into the Kings’ starting lineup, where he could reside for the next decade or so.

His talent is undeniable, and he continues to show flashes of brilliance. His 32-point, seven-rebound performance against the Phoenix Suns last week comes to mind.

But the stretch run is here, and for the first time in more than a decade, the Kings are playing for more than just lottery balls. In most seasons, this is when Sacramento usually turns the team over to players like Bagley for crucial developmental time on the court.

With just 25 games remaining and Sacramento just a game back of the eighth seed, coach Dave Joerger is still trying to balance the future and the present. Yet It’s becoming more and more clear that the future and the present are one in the same.

Over the first six games of February, the game is slowing down for Bagley, and he’s playing his best basketball of his rookie season.

Since returning from a knee injury in early January, the former Duke star is posting 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game off of Joerger’s bench. In February’s first six games, those numbers jump to 15.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in 27.7 minutes per game.

Bagley’s ability to score in the post gives Sacramento’s high-octane offense a new wrinkle. As his shot selection improves and he develops as the roller in the two-man game, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft is only going to get better.

“He has a special talent, nobody can block his jumpshot,” teammate Buddy Hield said last week. “He’s gifted and I just want to see him succeed at the highest level.”

In Sacramento’s equal-opportunity offense, having a big body to feed in the post is a nice luxury. It also doesn’t hurt that Bagley is one of the best rebounders on the team, especially on the offensive end.

“He jumps so high, it doesn’t matter what anybody does,” point guard De’Aaron Fox said. “Just pick a spot, get to it and be able to just rise up.”

[RELATED: Webber confident Kings are headed for brighter days]

With Bagley stepping up his game, veteran Nemanja Bjelica has seen a reduction in court time. After carrying the team through stretches early in the season, the former Euroleague MVP struggled in January.

Bjelica has bounced back a bit in February, averaging nine points on 38.1 percent shooting from 3-point range in 18.8 minutes per game. Bagley has taken some of his playing time, but newcomer Harrison Barnes has seen time at the four as well.

Joerger has been clear throughout the year that Bjelica’s shooting ability opens the spacing on the floor for Fox and the team’s up-tempo style. The addition of Barnes at the deadline may give Joerger even more flexibility with his rotations.

Bagley has been shooting with the guards following practice, and he’s pushed his 3-point attempts to nearly two per game during February.

The rookie is shooting just 27.3 percent from behind the arc on the month, and 25.5 percent on the season. If teams don’t have to defend Bagley on the perimeter, it complicates things for the Kings’ offense.

If the Kings were struggling, it’s likely that Bagley would already be starting. With the team in the thick of the playoff race, Joerger has a tough decision to make about if or when Bagley assumes his position with the opening group.