Kings

Why Kings' De'Aaron Fox likely walked away from Team USA opportunity

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USATSI

Why Kings' De'Aaron Fox likely walked away from Team USA opportunity

After two weeks of build-up, Saturday’s news that De’Aaron Fox had removed himself from the Team USA World Cup roster came as a shock.

According to Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes, the Kings point guard made the decision so he could “focus on [the] upcoming season with [the] goal of making [the] playoffs," which is great for Sacramento but also slightly confusing.

Fox had been nothing but all in on the experience throughout Team USA camp in Las Vegas two weeks ago and again this week in Los Angeles. Both on and off the record, Fox expressed excitement about the process and the potential of playing for Team USA.

Fox turned heads with his speed and shooting ability, and up until halftime of Friday night’s game against Spain, he looked like Team USA’s backup point guard behind Kemba Walker.

Following the 90-81 win over Spain at Honda Center, NBC Sports California spoke to Fox, and he said was honored to wear the Team USA uniform.

“It was definitely great to play against a different country. This was my first time doing it,” Fox said. “I definitely had a blast doing it.”

When asked if he was boarding a plane for Australia the next day, Fox, like the rest of the team, had yet to be notified of they were making the squad, and said, “We’ll find out.”

Team USA Gregg Popovich announced after the game that all 14 finalists vying for 12 roster spots would make the trip to Australia, to prepare for the tournament, which starts Aug. 31 in China.

After playing just six minutes against Spain, Fox had to have some apprehension over his situation with Team USA. Dropping everything and boarding the team plane means spending a minimum of 12 days in Australia, with the potential for another 17 days in China after that.

You need to be sure about what the commitment means before jumping in with both feet. Venturing on the road with no assurances of making the squad is a tall ask, but that’s exactly what Popovich and Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo asked of Fox and others Friday night. 

While the experience could help with Fox’s development — and likely already has — it also would put a tremendous amount of wear and tear on the 21-year-old. Just in airline flights alone, he’d be looking at close to 20,000 miles with Team USA.

With the Kings already booked on an October preseason trip to India, Fox would be committing himself to nearly 40,000 miles in the air over an eight-week period leading up to an 82-game regular-season schedule. Adding to the equation, the Kings will travel the third-most miles in the NBA this upcoming season, including two trips to both New York and Florida.

Kings swingman Harrison Barnes decided to stay with Team USA, but he also started the game against Spain, and has all but secured a roster spot as one of the longest-tenured players. Barnes also is a seasoned veteran who has been through this process before and knows what lies ahead.

[RELATED: Why Fox isn't upset at one national TV game]

In the end, it’s disappointing that Fox won’t be fighting for a gold medal with the national team, but he likely made the best decision for himself and the Kings.

The NBA schedule is a brutal, and Fox is expected to carry a huge load for his team this season as it attempts to end a 13-year playoff drought. Having fresh legs and a fresh mind when training camp opens in late September is a must.
 

Kings player profile: How good can Marvin Bagley be in sophomore season?

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USATI

Kings player profile: How good can Marvin Bagley be in sophomore season?

Vlade Divac took a huge gamble when he passed on Luka Doncic to draft Marvin Bagley with the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. Doncic went on to win the Rookie of the Year award, but Bagley showed flashes of brilliance, as well.

The final grade on this move will likely take years to resolve, but the Sacramento Kings feel very confident in their decision. Bagley is a perfect fit for the Kings' style of play and his potential is through the roof.

The 20-year-old will be asked to do a lot more in year two, although he’ll also need to show that he can stay healthy throughout an 82-game schedule. He has elite scoring and rebounding skills and an advanced game for a player moving into his sophomore season.

Can he lead the Kings in scoring? Can he be a perennial 20-10 player? Can he be a star? The answer to all of these questions is yes.

Strengths

Seldom does a one-and-done college player walk into the league with an advanced offensive game like Bagley. At 6-foot-11, 235 pounds, he runs the floor like a gazelle and he has low post moves of a 10-year vet.

He favors his left hand, but there are plenty of successful players with a dominant side. He has a half hook, a power move off the dribble and when he elevates in the lane, there isn’t a player in the league that can stop him.

For a rookie, the former Duke star had a remarkably compact shot chart. Bagley shot 69.1 percent at the rim on 256 shot attempts. From 3-10 feet, he knocked down 43.4 percent while shooting 95-of-219 from the field. Of his 706 shot attempts, 475 came inside of 10 feet.

While he didn’t take a ton of midrange jumpers, Bagley still managed to hit 40 percent on 135 attempts from 10 feet out to the 3-point line. He has a high release on his jumper and a refined shooting stroke.

The sample size was small, but there will come a time in Bagley’s career when he will be able to stretch the floor with a 3-point shot. He knocked down 31.2 percent on 96 attempts, although he was streaky during the season.

Despite his age and inexperience, Bagley still managed to get to the free-throw line 4.2 times per game, which was second on the Kings behind De’Aaron Fox. He has the potential to double that number as he becomes established in the league and gets more calls.

As a rebounder, Bagley crashes the glass and isn’t afraid to go outside of his zone for the board. He has an incredible second leap, which helped him finish the season tied with Kosta Koufos for the best offensive rebounding percentage on the squad.

Bagley averaged 7.6 rebounds per game in 25.3 minutes. That equates to 10.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, which is a good start for a rookie. As he gets stronger and learns the NBA game, that number has a chance to improve dramatically.

On the defensive side of the ball, Bagley was better than advertised. He has work to do as a team defender and he was vulnerable from the perimeter, but he held his opponent to minus-1.3 percent on 2-point attempts and minus-3.1 percent inside of six feet. He also averaged a block per game. 

Weaknesses

Bagley can’t go right. He’s really good with his left, but his inability to use both hands may limit his ability to reach his highest potential. He also missed 20 games with two separate knee injuries.

As a scorer, Bagley is a force to be reckoned with, but he has plenty of room to grow. If he can extend his range out to the 3-point line, he can open the floor for everyone else. He could also get stronger and do a better job of fighting through contact, but at 20-years-old, it will take time to grow into his body fully.

Sacramento moves the ball around well and everyone has an opportunity to get involved. Of the regulars, Bagley ranked last in assist percentage at just 5.9 percent. In fact, only Troy Williams, Ben McLemore and B.J. Johnson averaged a lower percentage on the team.

Bagley is going to draw double-teams and he needs to do a better job of finding his teammates and not forcing his offensive game. He finished the season with just 62 assists and that isn’t going to cut it. 

While Bagley did a nice job on the offensive glass, he has plenty of room to grow on the defensive side of the court. He posted a defensive rebound percentage of 15.5 percent, which is about half of what elite rebounders average. The Kings need Bagley to post double-figure rebounding numbers on a nightly basis if they are going to move up in the standings.

Like the rest of the young players on the Kings' roster, Bagley needs to improve on the defensive side of the ball. He often gets lost in rotations and is slow as a help defender. The makings of a good defender are there, but it will take time for him to develop.

Path to Improvement

Add minutes.

Bagley is an offensive star in the making, but he needs to get bigger and stronger if he hopes to stay healthy and play 30-35 minutes a game. He’ll likely move into the starting lineup alongside Dewayne Dedmon on the frontline, which should be a solid combination.

He likely spent the offseason further refining his shot, which will help him stretch the floor for Fox and others. It also will help him stay on the court longer as the Kings turn to players like Harry Giles and Richaun Holmes, who have less range.

While he is the focal point of the offense, he needs to move the ball and keep others involved. Averaging just a single assist per game might work in Year 1, but eventually, his teammates will key in on the issue.

Bagley has an incredible motor and the size and athleticism to be an elite rebounder. He needs to hit the defensive glass and impact the game on both ends of the floor.

[RELATED: Bogi named to 2019 FIBA World Cup team]

Projection

The sky’s the limit for Bagley. He was limited in his first season by injury and a lack of minutes, but it’s likely the training wheels are coming off in Year 2.

A perfect fit for the Kings’ style of play, Bagley is expected to take a huge leap. Conservative numbers have him posting 18-19 points and nine rebounds per game as a sophomore, but there is a chance for even bigger numbers than that, especially if he can get to the line more frequently.

Luke Walton will have the Kings flying up and down the court and there will be plenty of touches to go around. Bagley will score on the break due to his speed and athleticism, but he also also be a huge part of the team’s half-court offense.

He’ll need to work on the defensive side of the ball, especially when Walton turns to switching, but he is a high-effort player that should catch on quickly.   

Bagley should lead Sacramento in rebounding and there is a possibility for him to be the top scorer as well. He has All-Star potential and if his first season was any indicator, it won’t take long for him to become a go-to option for the Kings.

Kings' Bogdan Bogdanovic named to 2019 FIBA World Cup All-Star team

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AP

Kings' Bogdan Bogdanovic named to 2019 FIBA World Cup All-Star team

On the Sacramento Kings, Bogdan Bogdanovic is the fourth or fifth name in the pecking order.

But at the recently concluded 2019 FIBA World Cup, the Kings reserve wing was the talk of the tournament.

In eight games for Serbia, Bogdanovic averaged 22.9 points on 55.6 percent shooting from the field. His 183 total points were the most scored by any player in the global tournament held in China.

For that, Bogdanovic was named to the 2019 FIBA World Cup All-Star team.

Bogdanovic was joined on the team by Magic guard Evan Fournier, Suns guard Ricky Rubio, Raptors center Marc Gasol and former NBA player Luis Scola.

The Kings and their fans are hoping Bogdanovic can carry his strong play into the 2019-20 NBA season.

[RELATED: Can Bogdanovic bring stardom back to Kings?]

After finishing with a 39-43 record last season, the Kings have aspirations of making the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Sacramento is expecting big things from De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley and Harrison Barnes.

But if Bogdanovic emerges as another star, the Kings would be tough to deal with on a nightly basis.