Kings

Troy Williams making strong bid for Kings' roster spot: 'You notice him'

Troy Williams making strong bid for Kings' roster spot: 'You notice him'

SACRAMENTO -- The NBA is all about opportunity. For young players trying to break into the league, it may only knock once or twice ever and it’s the player that seizes that moment that usually finds a home. 

Kings fans were reminded of this fact on more than one front Wednesday evening at Golden 1 Center. Late in the game, former Kings draft pick, Malachi Richardson, stepped onto the court for cleanup duty. Selected by Sacramento with the 22nd overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft, Richardson looked like a keeper midway through his rookie season and then he tore a hamstring muscle.

The injury lingered into the offseason of 2017 and then Richardson had another setback in Las Vegas Summer League. By the time he was ready to compete for minutes, the Kings had already moved forward with a different group of youngsters. 

Richardson’s opportunity had come and gone in Sacramento. He was shipped to the Raptors at the deadline later that season for Bruno Caboclo.

So far this season, Richardson has played in seven contests for a total of 35 minutes for Toronto. At 22-years-old, there is still time for him to make his mark in the league, but whether he gets another real opportunity to shine is unknown. 

While Richardson made a late appearance in the final two minutes against the Kings in the Raptors 114-105 win, another young player trying to secure a home in the league was adding to his highlight reel. 

The Kings inked Troy Williams to a two-way contract during the first week of the season and so far, he’s remained with the parent team and is making an impact. 

Against the Raptors, Williams scored seven points on a perfect 3-for-3 from the field, including a pair of huge dunks. He added three rebounds and two assists while playing tough defense in 14 minutes of action.

“It’s what they ask of me - just to be versatile, just to be athletic, just to defend multiple people,” Williams told NBC Sports California. “What I focus on is how I can help this team defensively before anything else.” 

The sample size is small, but through four appearances this season with Sacramento, the 23-year-old wing is producing at a high level and stealing minutes from players on the regular roster. He’s bringing an intensity to both ends of the floor while averaging 8.3 points on 66.7 percent shooting from both the field and the 3-point line.

“It’s hard, I’ll figure out what I want to do here in the rotation wise,” Dave Joerger said. “He comes in and he gives us some pop and I like that both defensively and offensively. He gets a couple of dunks, he gets a couple of cuts. You notice him and he makes an impact in that way.” 

After going undrafted out of Indiana in 2016, the 6-foot-7 small forward has moved from one team to the next looking for a chance to play. Signed originally by the Memphis Grizzlies, Williams is on his fifth team in three seasons, including stops with the Rockets, Knicks and Pelicans. 

“The right opportunity, the right fit, that’s with anybody, that’s everybody, especially people that took the road that I took, being undrafted,” Williams said. “You just get in where you fit in.”

He’s in a roster crunch in Sacramento, but that hasn’t stopped Williams from performing every time he steps on the court. 

As a two-way player, the Kings can use him for up to 45 days before having to make a decision on his future with the team. If he continues to earn rotational minutes and help the team, the decision will only get tougher for the Kings’ brass.

Sacramento currently has 15 players under contract. If they hope to add Williams to the regular roster, another player would have to be traded or waived. Luckily there is time to make a decision.

Kings Under Review: Marvin Bagley's breakout not enough in loss to Raptors

Kings Under Review: Marvin Bagley's breakout not enough in loss to Raptors

The final score doesn't quite tell the whole story. The Sacramento Kings were highly competitive for most of the game Tuesday evening against the Toronto Raptors. Playing shorthanded, they hung in tough against a very good Eastern Conference squad. 

A few mistakes here and there proved costly and for the second straight game, the Kings went home without a win. With the 120-105 loss to the Raptors, Sacramento is now 1-3 on their season-long six-game road trip. They'll have a few days to regroup and recover before taking on a struggling Grizzlies team Friday in Memphis.

The loss pushed the Kings back to the .500 mark at 24-24. Here are the positives and the negatives from the loss.

POSITIVE

Bagley Breakout

Marvin Bagley has been waiting patiently for his moment to start. The 19-year-old has been solid for most of the season, showing flashes of the athleticism and advanced offensive game that made him the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft.

With Nemanja Bjelica sitting out his first game of the season to rest, Bagley finally got his chance and he didn't disappoint. Sacramento's prized rookie went to work against the Raptors front line, finishing with a career-high 22 points on 10-of-20 shooting to go with 11 rebounds and two blocks.

The double-double was the sixth of the season for the former Duke star in 34 games. Coach Dave Joerger has used Bjelica to space the floor and open running lanes for De'Aaron Fox, but Bagley is the future at the power forward position for the Kings. His performance against Toronto shows that the future might be now.

POSITIVE

Bogi at the Three

Bogdan Bogdanovic is the Kings' most versatile player. He can score from anywhere on the floor. He is their best pick-and-roll player on the squad and he can play three or four positions on the court. He's also a player that doesn't mind starting or coming off the bench.

Anytime Iman Shumpert misses a game, Bogdanovic steps into the starting lineup. He changes the look and feel of the opening group, giving Joerger the ability to run more sets in a half court offense.

Against the Raptors, Bogdanovic carried the bulk of the distributing duties, finishing the night with 16 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and three steals.

POSITIVE/NEGATIVE

Resting Players

When Joerger made the decision to sit three of his starters, he did so without the knowledge that Kawhi Leonard would also rest for the Raptors. The instant reaction from fans was that the Kings were throwing away the chance to beat a shorthanded Raptors team, ignoring the fact that Toronto came into the game 11-2 on the season without their star forward.

Could the Kings have beaten the Raptors if they went in at full strength? Maybe. Then again, Maybe not.

Fox, Bjelica and Shumpert have all struggled mightily in the month of January. The hope is that a three-day respite will help reboot and recharge the trio. It might not work, but running the group into the ground on the second night of a back-to-back is a recipe for disaster. 

NEGATIVE

Ben McLemore's Mental Lapses

When you're given an opportunity at the NBA level, no matter how long you've been in the league, it's a chance to show your coaching staff you are ready. That is not what McLemore did Tuesday in Toronto.

While McLemore hit a few shots, scoring 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting, including a pair of makes from long range, he also made a couple of inexcusable mistakes.

With the Kings trailing by eight at the end of the third quarter, McLemore fouled Delon Wright on a 60-foot buzzer beating attempt. The replay clearly showed McLemore running down the court with his hand on Wright's arm. When the Raptors guard went to shoot the ball with .2 of a second remaining, it was an easy call.

Wright hit two out of three to push Toronto's lead back to double-digits heading to the fourth. In the fourth, he gave a tough foul to Norman Powell as flew in for a fastbreak lay up.

McLemore hasn't played much this season, but he can't make rookie mistakes like this in his sixth season in the NBA.

Marvin Bagley makes case to join starting lineup despite Kings' loss

Marvin Bagley makes case to join starting lineup despite Kings' loss

At some point, Marvin Bagley III is going to force Dave Joerger’s hand with his play. Sacramento’s head coach has been reluctant to start his prized rookie, instead choosing to go with 30-year-old Nemanja Bjelica at the power forward position.

There are reasons you start a player like Bjelica over an unproven rookie, but those reasons are starting to fade. The veteran forward is a high IQ player that stretches the floor with his jumper. He’s seldom out of position and he can stuff the stat sheet.

But over the last few weeks, Bjelica has struggled mightily and Bagley is starting to build momentum to move into the starting lineup with his energetic play.

With Bjelica taking an evening off to rest and recover on Tuesday evening in Toronto, Bagley picked up his first NBA start. The 19-year-old didn’t disappoint.

“I think I played pretty good,” the former Duke star told reporters following the game. “I made a couple of mistakes here and there, but that’s the part of being out there and learning and growing as a player.”

Bagley dropped in a career-high 22 points on 10-of-20 shooting in the Kings’ 120-105 loss to the Raptors. It was first time a Kings player has scored 20 or more in his first NBA start since Omri Casspi achieved the feat in Dec. 16, 2009.

He also added a game-high 11 rebounds to go with a pair of blocks in 38 minutes of action. His double-double was the first 20-plus point, 10-plus rebound double-double in a first career start for the Kings since Nov. 29, 1972, when Mike Ratliff dropped in 20 points and 19 rebounds against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Bagley continues to say the right things when asked about whether he would prefer to start or come off the bench. But he made it pretty clear with his play that he’s open to bigger role.

“I love playing and being out there,” Bagley said. “I’ll do whatever I can to help the team win. We came up short tonight, but every game I try and come out and play like it’s my last game.”

Taken with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, Bagley is a walking double-double. He’s missed 14 games this season with two separate injuries, but his ability to act as a primary scorer in the post adds a new dimension to the Kings’ offense.

Where Bjelica helps spread the floor, Bagley has an advanced offensive game down low. He also has incredible potential as a rebounder and he continues to lead the team in blocks per game.

Joerger’s cautious approach to the development of the talented young big was the right move. Bjelica’s play helped the team get off to a shocking start and he is a valuable piece to what the Kings are trying to do.

But the time is coming when Bagley will step into the starting lineup on a regular basis. It might already be here.