Injuries are part of the game, but the Kings are feeling the burn early in the 2019-20 season. During the Kings' 116-97 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, coach Luke Walton was forced to go young early and often.
Justin James flashed his athleticism and unbridled energy. Wenyen Gabriel had a nice moment or two and DaQuan Jeffries scored his first NBA bucket.
There was also a Harry Giles sighting, which came way too late in the game.
Giles is lost in the shuffle of a heavy front line. Richaun Holmes has been an incredible find for Sacramento. Nemanja Bjelica is playing extremely well, the Brooklyn game being an outlier.
Harrison Barnes is playing minutes at the four, and the Kings also invested heavily in Dewayne Dedmon during the offseason.
So far, Dedmon has been a tremendous disappointment for Sacramento. He’s shooting just 37.5 percent from the field, in large part due to his 21.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
The advanced numbers are just as bad for the 30-year-old center. He has posted an offensive rating of 95 and a defensive rating of 107.2 for a net rating of negative-12.2. Dedmon’s assist percentage is down and his turnover percentage is sky-high. And if you are a fan of player efficiency rating (PER), Dedmon’s has gone from 16 last season to just 7.1 this year.
In all fairness, Dedmon was supposed to pair with Marvin Bagley as an inside-outside combo, but that lasted all of one game before Bagley broke his thumb.
Walton also has been forced to get creative with De’Aaron Fox’s long-term absence due to an ankle sprain. Bagley should be back on the court in a week or so, but Fox is likely out of action until after the New Year.
Already trying to reinvent the Kings' system of play, Walton has done a very nice job of pushing the right buttons and also making tough decisions.
Replacing Dedmon with Holmes isn’t one of those moves that usually goes over well with a front office. Holmes signed a two-year, $10 million deal in the offseason, which pales in comparison to the three-year, $40 million Dedmon received.
But Walton made the move and hasn’t looked back. Since joining the starting lineup 10 games ago, Holmes is averaging 29.3 minutes a night and posting 11.9 points, nine rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
All of this brings us back to Giles.
Vlade Divac made a tough decision not to pick up the fourth year of Giles’ rookie-scale contract in late October. He had his reasons for the move, but the Kings’ general manager also hasn’t closed the door on the 21-year-old big.
When Walton inserted Giles into the lineup in the second half against the Nets, the dynamic on the floor instantly changed. Despite playing limited minutes over the last four years, Giles sees the floor in a way that Holmes and Dedmon can’t.
Giles doesn’t have Holmes’ athleticism or understanding of the pick-and-roll game. He also doesn’t have Dedmon’s shooting ability or experience. But when injuries hit and you need a player you can run your entire offense through in the high post, Giles is uniquely qualified on the Kings’ roster.
Against Brooklyn, Giles made passes that no other Sacramento big could. The movement and flow of the team completely changed. Despite playing just 28 minutes on the season coming into Friday, Giles called for the ball and directed his teammates all over the court.
Giles missed training camp with knee soreness. He also sat for the first eight games while getting back into game shape. At this point, he still is searching for his rhythm, but he needs to be on the court to work through the kinks.
Walton is still learning his players and trying to fit all the pieces together, but it might be time to turn to Giles for his reserve minutes at the five. Giles will make mistakes. He’ll force an occasional shot. He’ll pick up a few fouls that frustrate you. He’ll try to thread the needle on a pass that has no chance.
But Giles will also make a big defensive play, grab a rebound, hit a 20-foot jumper, attack a player like De’Andre Jordan in the post, bring toughness to the team and open the spacing back up with Fox on the shelf.
If the goal is to win, you have to go with the nine or 10 players that give you the best chance. It’s probably time to see if Giles fits into that group.