Summer question: What do the Kings do with all their big men?
Only so many minutes available
The Sacramento Kings complicated their frontline with the drafting of Marvin Bagley III. They took an already crowded and ill fitting group and threw another piece into the mix.
It was a move for the future, but it also puts the present on notice. Dave Joerger has his hands full of options and some tough decisions to make on playing time.
There is still time to make some adjustments via trade, but the offseason is quickly coming to a close. Here is a look at the team’s current options at the power forward and center position six weeks before training camp.
Marvin Bagley III
2017-18 NCAA Stats: 21.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, .8 steals, .9 blocks, 33.8 min
Bagley is the future and he is the present. At 19-years-old, the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft is expected to play major minutes in year one at both the four and the five. He’s long and athletic and should translate as a double-double machine at the professional level.
While Bagley is a versatile scorer and an above average rebounder, he struggled playing defense in his lone season at Duke. He’ll have to learn on the fly and will likely be paired with one of the Kings’ better defensive options in the post as he acclimates to the league.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Bagley isn’t playing significant time early in his rookie season either as a starter or as the first big off the bench. He’ll need time to develop, but he can really get up and down the floor and gives Sacramento a major scoring option up front.
2017-18 Stats: 12.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 steals, .9 blocks, 28.0 min
Nothing motivates a player to improve like a contract year. Cauley-Stein is unlikely to land an extension before the start of the season, which will make him a restricted free agent next summer.
The 7-footer out of Kentucky showed major improvement in his third NBA season, but he is still searching for consistency as a scorer, rebounder and defender. He started 58 games last year and will fight for a job with the first team heading into training camp.
Cauley-Stein has spent the last two seasons working with the current coaching staff. He knows the language and the plays. He can also get out in the open court and finish above the rim in the new, uptempo style the Kings hope to play this season.
2017-18 Stats: 6.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, .7 steals, 41.5% 3-point, 20.5 min
Bjelica showed up in the small forward rundown as well. He’s a combo-forward that will eat minutes at both the three and the four this season. He brings a refined skill set as a shooter, something Sacramento’s other bigs lack.
While not considered a great defender, Bjelica gives Joerger an option against both longer small forwards and stretch fours. He has a high basketball IQ and plays well as a team defender.
Bjelica’s presence fills one of the bigger holes in last season’s rotation. Having a big that can shoot opens the spacing for everyone else. He might only play 10-12 minutes a game at the four, but he’ll be in the rotation.
2017-18 Stats: N/A
After sitting out last season to build strength and recover from previous knee injuries, Giles made it through the summer league schedule unscathed. He’s a high motor player that looks every bit the part of a top level prospect.
Like Bagley, Giles will take time to adjust to the NBA level, but his intensity on the defensive end will likely earn him major minutes in his rookie campaign. He’s versatile enough and has the size to play either the four or the five.
Giles looked rusty and out of control at times, but he fits the mold of what the Kings are looking for going forward. It’s not hard to envision a starting frontline at some point that includes both Giles and Bagley.
2017-18 Stats: 8.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, .4 steals, .8 blocks, 20.7 min
Labissiere is in danger of taking a major step back in minutes played in his third NBA campaign. Still just 22-years-old, the Haitian-born big failed to take the leap that everyone expected last season. Now he’s in a dogfight for minutes.
Cauley-Stein, Bagley and Giles are likely to eat a lot of his time in the post, and Labissiere’s failure to adjust to the stretch four position caused the team to add to Bjelica in the offseason.
On the plus side, Labissiere is on an extremely team friendly deal for the next two seasons and is still young enough to make strides. He’ll have to take advantage of the opportunities he’s given and with Cauley-Stein, Koufos and Randolph all entering the final year of their contracts, he might be able to work himself into the long term plan in Sacramento.
2017-18 Stats: 6.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, .8 steals, .5 blocks, 19.6 min
A seasoned veteran, Koufos chose to opt in to the final year of his contract at $8.7 million this season. He’s always ready to play and brings both a defensive and rebounding presence when he steps on the floor.
At 29-years-old, Koufos has plenty of basketball left in him, but he’s on a team that is in a full blown youth movement. Cauley-Stein, Bagley, Giles and Bjelica are all likely to play rotational minutes early in the season, leaving Koufos and others waiting for an opportunity.
Barring a trade between now and mid-October, Koufos looks like organizational depth and veteran leadership. It’s possible he steals away minutes if Joerger starts searching for answers, which is likely to happen 10-15 games into the season.
2017-18 Stats: 14.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, .7 steals, .2 blocks, 25.6 min
Randolph was the Kings best offensive weapon on plenty of nights last season. But entering his 18th NBA season, the 37-year-old is not built for the style of play Sacramento hopes to install this year and his $11.7 million salary makes dealing him difficult.
Joerger relied heavily on the veteran big and taking away the security blanket might not happen overnight. Then again, the Kings have so many bodies at the power forward and center position that finding time for all of them is impossible.
At this point in his career, Z-Bo might have more value as a veteran mentor and potential expiring contract than an actual player. With the Kings going young, he might log a ton of DNP-CDs this season.
2017-18 Stats: 5.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, .6 assists, .2 steals, .6 blocks, 15.2 min
Davis got traded to the wrong team. A project big, the 21-year-old center had a few moments last season for Memphis, but he’s lost on a massive depth charter.
He’s owed just $1.5 million this season, which happens to be the same amount the Grizzlies sent to Sacramento as part of the trade that landed Garrett Temple in Memphis. It’s likely Davis is either waived or traded between now and the start of the season. The Kings have other needs on the roster and plenty of players that can fill his position.
Dave Joerger has said more than once that “the training wheels are coming off,” for this season. The young guys are going to get an opportunity to shine and there will be a battle for minutes at the power forward and center positions.
Cauley-Stein earned an opportunity to start on opening night with his play last season. Joerger will likely choose between two young players in Giles and Bagley as the second starter in the post. Giles knows the system after practicing with the team last season, but Bagley is the No. 2 overall pick.
Bjelica will play minutes at both the three and stretch four as a specialist player. Barring a shake-up in the roster between now and the start of training camp, the remaining bigs on the roster will fight for scraps and wait for their chance.
It’s a versatile group. Most of the players can play multiple positions, depending on the players on the floor around them. Training camp will answer a few questions and there is always a concern with injuries, but 96 minutes of play time only spreads so thin.