Never too high, never too low. It’s a simple statement, but one that can’t be ignored.
When the Sacramento Kings began the season 3-1, fans started reserving playoff seats in an arena that isn’t allowed fans. When the team dropped three straight, Marvin Bagley III, with the help of Marvin Bagley II, became public enemy No. 1.
With a win over the Chicago Bulls, the Kings are once again back in the good graces of the Kingdom. That is until they take the court again on Friday against a 1-6 Raptors team, and then all bets are off once again.
One of the key components to the victory over the Bulls was the play of Bagley, as well as starting center Richaun Holmes.
Coach Luke Walton really has no choice but to start Bagley and Holmes side-by-side on the front line. Bagley is a former No. 2 overall pick and a player with unlimited potential. Holmes is the biggest free-agent steal in the last decade or more of Kings basketball.
The problem is that neither has shown a consistent ability to space the floor, which on many nights, has completely gummed up the team’s offense. They are still working to build chemistry on the court, but an outline is beginning to form.
“We’re just going to continue getting better as we learn to play off each other and learn to play off our teammates,” Holmes said.
Chicago isn’t exactly a defensive juggernaut, so all analysis should be looked at through that lens. They rank 29th out of 30 teams in points allowed per game and 24th in defensive ranking.
Holmes destroyed the Bulls in pick-and-roll actions. He’s found instant chemistry with rookie Tyrese Haliburton, which is a pairing that must be explored further.
The 27-year-old center hit his first 10 shots and if not for a shot-clock beating 3-point attempts, he would have likely posted a perfect shooting night. He finished the night with 24 points on 10-of-11 shooting to go with eight rebounds and five assists in 30 minutes.
This is the third 20-point game for Holmes this season and he currently leads the NBA in field goal percentage at 69.2 percent.
Bagley isn’t off to the same start as Holmes, but his performance against the Bulls showed a window into who he can be as a player. In 28 minutes of play, Bagley scored 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He added 12 rebounds for his third double-double the season.
“Marvin is a load to handle,” Holmes said. “He’s so ridiculously talented. He draws so much attention from the defense.”
While he’s a third-year player, Bagley played just 13 games last season. His longest stretch of injury-free games was eight, which he matched in Wednesday night’s win. He’s having to learn on the fly and gain experience, while trudging through some of the drama brought on by outside influence.
“To have these types of games is just part of the process of building and the culture continuing to move in the right direction,” Walton said. “I was happy for him, but happy for the group mostly.”
There is a lot of pressure on the 21-year-old power forward, but he’s doing his best to push forward and be productive, which his teammates appreciate.
“We’re throwing a lot at him, he’s approaching it like a professional and we’re proud of the growth he’s making,” Harrison Barnes said.
Against Chicago, Bagley knocked down 3-of-5 from 3-point range and he is now shooting 35 percent from behind the arc on the year. It’s a very small sample size, but it’s almost a necessity for the Kings that Bagley space the floor if he and Holmes are going to work as a tandem moving forward.
“When he’s playing the four spot for us, just err on the side of being at the 3-point line for now, we need that spacing” Walton said. “He made a couple of threes and we’re going to continue to work with him on that development part of his game.”
Following the win, Bagley came back out on the floor with Rico Hines and Lindsey Harding to get additional shots up from the perimeter. He has a clean, refined stroke from outside and there is a chance he can become a reliable 3-point shooter.
Holmes and Bagley are still working out the kinks. They have a long way to go as a pairing on both the offensive and defensive end. The more they play on the court together, the better the chemistry will get.
It should be noted that the pair were healthy at the same time for just nine games last season. They were in the same starting five twice and they played a total of 24 minutes and 32 seconds together on the court.
The pair already has played a little over 125 minutes together through eight games this season and they are a +9.5 per 100 possessions.
It’s a work in progress, but there are signs that Holmes and Bagley can find common ground and potentially develop into something special for Sacramento. Patience and good health are needed, but this is a pair of high-energy players fit the style of play the Kings are trying to develop.