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.
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.