SACRAMENTO -- Marvin Bagley shot to the post, pinned his man down and raised his hand to call for an entry pass. He was too late. Harry Giles had already established his footing in the high post, taken the ball and began assessing his options.
Bagley, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA draft is a walking double-double. Taken with the 20th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Giles is the brash, jack of all trades. This is 40 percent of your new Sacramento Kings second unit.
The tandem is turning heads with their play and giving the team a glimpse into what the future might look like.
“They are amazing, they are doing a great job and they are learning. They keep improving, they keep getting better,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said. “Both of them are hard workers and that’s what we need from them. They are doing a tremendous job.”
It’s a bold move to play the two rookies together. After playing limited minutes over the past three years due to a series of knee issues, Giles is just 20 years old. Bagley, 19, could still be a freshman in college if he didn’t petition the NCAA to enter a year early.
“They’ve got to learn somehow and they’re getting the time to experiment with their game and learn, and to see how this league operates,” Willie Cauley-Stein said.
Both former Duke Blue Devils, the plan is to let the pair grow together and build chemistry. Their contrast in style complements each other and they are quickly learning how to work together on the court.
“They’re both getting better individually, but they both look great playing together,” De’Aaron Fox said. “They know each other's tendencies.”
Since returning from a injury that cost him 11 straight games, Bagley is working himself back into shape. He’s averaging 10.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game over the four-game stretch, including a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double Monday against the Trail Blazers.
A top flight athlete, Bagley continues to show signs of star potential. His ability to rise up and shoot over the opposition in the lane is elite, as is his capacity to rebound in a crowd. He’s becoming a go-to scorer in the post, which gives the Kings an element they sorely need.
Giles is back in the rotation after a couple of stints in the G League. He’s adjusting to the speed of the game and finally finding a way to stay out of foul trouble. Giles had a breakout game in the team’s win over Detroit, which showed a lot of the improvements he is making.
“I told him, you’re still setting hard screens, now you’re setting more legal screens that are still hard and you’re not moving,” coach Dave Joerger said. “You’re in a stance defensively and your IQ is going up and your experience is going up so your communication is more effective.”
Where Bagley is an offensive force, Giles is equipped with elite court vision and a flare for the highlight reel pass. Giles is also active and physical on both ends of the court.
“When you add Harry and you add that vision at the high post, as well as the finishes in low post, I think it just calms us down,” Iman Shumpert said.
He can hit a jumper, take his opponent off the dribble and his jump hook is coming along nicely. Like Bagley, he can rebound at a high clip, but their contrasting styles are easy to spot.
“We’re going to need each other moving forward,” Bagley said. “It’s great having somebody who’s passionate like that, wants to win, who plays hard out there on the court at the same time as you.”
The two have started competing for rebounds, which is fun to watch. Bagley goes high for the boards, while Giles outpositions his opponent and snares the ball with his oversized hands.
For a team that ranks in the middle of the league in rebounding, the young duo is adding an ingredient that was missing before.
Both have a confidence level that comes from being elite prep prospects. They want to be on the court and they expect to succeed.
Joerger is slowly giving the pair a longer leash. He likes the early returns, but also has a vision for where they could be in a year or two. It takes patience and a lot of coaching to develop players, and bigs usually take a little longer than guards and wings.
In the modern NBA, you have to space the floor. Neither Bagley nor Giles have fully developed their 3-point shot, which makes things complicated for the coaching staff.
“Marvin’s a post up threat, Harry’s a post up threat, both of them are pretty good at the elbows,” Joerger said. “But if you kick them out to the perimeter, their dude ain’t running out with them at this point. That’s one of those, ‘not yet’ deals.”
There are stretches in the game where the coaching staff is running completely different play sets to help compliment the strengths of the young duo. The versatility of players like Bogdanovic, Yogi Ferrell and Justin Jackson helps out during these times.
Joerger, like most people, sees the talent level of the two and the team has a plan for how to get them to the next level. But patience is needed, not only from the team, but from the fanbase and the players themselves.
“Both of them are capable and both of them are improving their skills on the perimeter,” Joerger said. “I think that’s one of the things that everybody likes about their talent.”
It’s a long journey and Bagley and Giles are just starting to write their NBA stories. They are giving the league a small taste of what is to come.