Nemanja Bjelica

Kings' Marvin Bagley prepared for any role coach Luke Walton needs

Kings' Marvin Bagley prepared for any role coach Luke Walton needs

After an impressive rookie season, big man Marvin Bagley is ready show the league just how good he can be in year two.

The 20-year-old power forward spent the summer working with development coach Rico Hines and he’s hit the weight room hard in preparation for the upcoming schedule. He's up to 240 pounds, six pounds heavier than his listed playing weight from a year ago.

Last season Bagley came off the bench for head coach Dave Joerger, starting just four out of 62 games on the season. While no official announcement has been made by new head coach Luke Walton -- it’s likely that Bagley will move into the starting lineup -- where they expect him to stay for a long time.

“All I can do is be ready, control what I can control, and trust that all the work that I’ve put in coming into the season,” Bagley told NBC Sports California about the possibility of starting this season. “I’m ready for whatever. It’ll be exciting if I get that chance. If I don’t, oh well, we’ll work with what we have. We’ll see what happens.”

The Kings have a deep roster. Last year’s starter, Nemanja Bjelica, played extremely well for the team. His ability to stretch the floor opened up running lanes for point guard De’Aaron Fox.

To keep the spacing, general manager Vlade Divac added veteran center Dewayne Dedmon on a three-year, $40 million contract. Dedmon knocked down a stellar 38.2 percent from 3-point range last season in Atlanta, which should not only give Fox room to drive but also open up space for Bagley to work in the post.

Dedmon is likely penciled in as a starter, but Walton will need Bagley to evolve his game to include the three-pointer if the Kings hope to keep the floor open when Harry Giles or Richaun Holmes come into the game.

Bagley showed promise from the perimeter in his rookie season, shooting 31.3 percent from distance on 1.5 attempts per game. He has good form from behind the 3-point line and should improve as a shooter as he develops his game.

“I’ve been shooting a lot of shots this past summer,” Bagley said. “You can expect to see a lot more threes, jumpers, but still being able to play my game, which is being aggressive, attacking and trying to draw fouls and getting to the line. It’s going to be an all-around game coming into the season and I can’t wait.”

In addition to getting up more shots from the perimeter, Bagley is going to have plenty of opportunities to crash the glass, especially with Dedmon playing on the perimeter on the offensive end.

As a rookie, the former Duke star averaged 7.6 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game. That equates to 10.8 boards per 36 minutes, but the Kings need more.

“I love getting the ball, rebounding, going to get it when nobody else feels like it,” Bagley said. “I’m going to keep continuing to grow and just build on it.”

Sacramento was hoping it drafted a star by selecting Bagley No. 2 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. He showed incredible potential in his rookie season and it’s likely he’ll be asked to play a much bigger role as a sophomore.

[RELATED: Why Kings star Hield believes he still has room to improve]

There are a lot of new faces on the roster. Adjustments will have to be made from everyone. The Kings are as deep as they have been in years, but Bagley is one of the cornerstones of what they are building.

“I’m excited to see what we can do with the team we have, how we play together,” Bagley said. “I think we’re going to be alright.”

Four rotation battles to watch as Kings prepare for 2019 training camp

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USATI

Four rotation battles to watch as Kings prepare for 2019 training camp

Training camp is almost upon us. Following Friday’s Media Day, the Sacramento Kings open their 35th season of basketball in the Capital City with an abbreviated camp at the team’s practice facility.
 
There are plenty of changes to the roster and an entirely new coaching staff, but the young core is intact. New head coach Luke Walton has plenty of players to work with. Maybe too many.
 
With just three days to evaluate the squad before the Kings head to India, training camp battles should be spirited.

Here is a look at some of the more intriguing positional fights as we approach the start of the 2019-20 season of Kings basketball.

Cory Joseph vs. Yogi Ferrell

Vlade Divac spent big money (3-year, $37 million) to bring Cory Joseph in to back up De’Aaron Fox. And in a surprise move, he retained Yogi Ferrell at the budget cost of $3 million for the season. Fox is going to play big minutes at the point, but what does that mean for Joseph and Ferrell?

Joseph is the defensive specialist and a steady hand off the bench. He has better size than Ferrell and plays a physical style. He’s also a nice fit next to shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic with the second unit.
 
Ferrell is the spark plug and a fan favorite. He can fill up the basket in a hurry and his speed fits Sacramento’s style of play.
 
The Kings added Tyler Ulis on the cheap for organizational depth and to help out with the G League team.
 
Prediction: Walton has plenty of tough decisions to start camp, but this isn’t likely one of them. Joseph will play the bulk of the backup minutes to start the season. Ferrell will be an emergency scorer off the bench. The late addition of Ulis gives Divac the flexibility to make a move during the season if another team is looking for point guard depth.

Bogdan Bogdanovic vs. Buddy Hield

Bogdanovic would have been the starter at the shooting guard position to open last season if a late summer knee injury didn’t slow him down. Buddy Hield seized the opportunity and posted a breakout 2018-19 season.

With a new coaching staff comes a renewed question about the position. Bogdanovic is the more versatile of the two players. He can play multiple positions, play on and off the ball and is one of the team’s best playmakers.
 
Hield is a flamethrower from the perimeter. He’s hit over 600 3-pointers in his first three seasons in the league and he led the Kings in scoring last season at 20.7 points per game.
 
Prediction: Both of these players figure heavily into the Kings’ plans, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Hield is a perfect complementary player next to Fox in the starting lineup. Bogdanovic can act as the primary scoring option with the second unit.
 
Hield is in line to play 32-34 minutes per game, but Bogdanovic won’t be far behind, especially after his breakout performance at the FIBA World Cup. Who starts is likely a foregone conclusion, but which one of these players Walton turns to in crunch time might still be up for debate. 

Trevor Ariza vs. Nemanja Bjelica

No, Trevor Ariza and Nemanja Bjelica don’t play the same position. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t fighting against each other for a spot in the Kings’ rotation.
 
With Harrison Barnes’ ability to play forward positions and Walton needing to steal time for Bogdanovic at the three, there might only be room for one of these veterans to see time on the court.
 
Ariza inked a 2-year, $25 million deal during the summer, although the second season isn’t guaranteed. He played big minutes last season for both the Suns and Wizards, but at 34-years-old, he’ll be asked to take a step back from the 34.1 minutes he averaged last year.
 
Bjelica started 70 games for the Kings last season and his ability to stretch the floor and do the little things helped the team win ball games. But Marvin Bagley is the future and the present at the four.
 
Prediction: You can’t play everyone. Walton will likely use a combination of both of these players early in the season. But with Barnes, Bogdanovic and Bagley all needing big minutes, something will have to give.
 
Ariza is the more versatile of the two and has a track record as a better defender. He’ll likely get the nod when the dust settles and Walton cuts his rotation down to a manageable 9-10 players in the first few weeks of the season.

Harry Giles vs. Richaun Holmes

The backup center position is an interesting clash. The Kings have been in love with Harry Giles from the moment they selected him with the 20th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Richaun Holmes was really good in his limited minutes last season with the Phoenix Suns.

Giles is a feisty big with a high basketball IQ and an ability to control the offense. He’s still a work in progress after missing major time in high school and college due to knee injuries, but he remained relatively healthy last season and he showed major signs of growth throughout his rookie campaign.
 
Holmes is a pick-and-roll specialist and a rim runner in the Kings’ uptempo offense. His advanced stats for last season were stunning, especially on the defensive end.
 
Prediction: Both of these young bigs play with a chip on their shoulder and it would be fun to watch them battle alongside each other for short stints. That’s unlikely to happen because neither can space the floor at this point in their careers.
 
Sacramento has invested plenty of time in Giles, but it’s a new coaching staff in Sacramento. He’ll likely get the first look, but Holmes is hungry. With starter Dewayne Dedmon’s injury history, Walton will need both of these players at some point.

How Kings' versatility at forward gives Luke Walton plenty of options

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How Kings' versatility at forward gives Luke Walton plenty of options

What a difference a year makes.

Sacramento entered the 2018-19 season without a starting level small forward and the power spot was taken by a rookie and an unknown free-agent acquisition. Fast forward 12 months and the Kings have all kinds of options when it comes to the forward rotation.

Head coach Luke Walton has a stable of serviceable players to choose from. He also has a variety of player types, which should help him adapt his rotations to adjust to the opposition or create mismatches of his own.

Injuries play a role in every season, but the Kings are as deep and versatile at the forward position as they have been in years. 

Here is a look at the group of players Walton has to work with and how he might use his players on a nightly basis.

The Starters

Harrison Barnes signed a massive, 4-year, $85 million deal in the offseason and he is the long-term solution for the Kings at the starting small forward position. He came to Sacramento in a midseason move from the Dallas Mavericks where he played predominantly as a stretch four. Those skills will come in handy with Sacramento.

Marvin Bagley is the heir apparent at the power forward spot and the future is now. The No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft has star potential and he gives Walton a legitimate low post scoring option in the halfcourt offense. He’s also 20 years old and ready to take on a ton of minutes in year two.

Where Barnes can play both the three and the four, Bagley can shift between the power forward and center position. He has the height and athleticism to man the spot and would be perfect against small-ball centers.
Both of these players are primed to have major roles in the Kings’ rotation for the foreseeable future.

Bagley is the rebounder and scorer. Barnes is the shooter and defender. While they are going to take time to gel on the court, it’s not a bad starting forward combination.

The Reserves

Nemanja Bjelica joined the Kings at the end of the free-agent period in the summer of 2018, inking a three-year $20.5 million contract. He had played limited minutes during his time in Minnesota but instantly earned a spot in Dave Joerger’s starting lineup as a floor-spacing stretch four.

Bjelica played very well in his first season in Sacramento, but it’s clear he was just holding down the fort while Bagley got a season of experience under his belt. He averaged 9.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 23.2 minutes per game last season, but nothing the only thing guaranteed in his second season in Sacramento is his salary.

General manager Vlade Divac added Trevor Ariza as part of his offseason haul this summer. The 34-year-old forward signed a 2-year, $25 million contract, although his final year, like Bjelica’s, is only partially guaranteed for next season.

Ariza struggled early last year but made an impact for the Washington Wizards after a midseason trade. In 34.1 minutes per game with the Wizards, Ariza posted 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

Both players are considered strong shooters from the perimeter, although Bjelica hit a higher percentage last season. Ariza has historically been a better defender than Bjelica and he is more versatile in a switching defense.

While the Kings advertised Bjelica as a combo forward when they signed him, Bjelica is a stretch four that could possibly even spend a few minutes at the five in smaller lineups. Ariza could steal a few minutes at the four, but his primary position is at the small forward spot.

Bjelica and Ariza play very different styles of basketball when they step on the court, but they both help space the floor for point guard De’Aaron Fox to run. They also open the key for Bagley to do damage in the post.

The Other Guys

Versatility is the name of the game with the Kings’ 2019-20 roster. They have players that can fill a variety of roles and perhaps their most versatile player is Bogdan Bogdanovic.

After blowing up in the FIBA World Cup, the third-year wing is primed to take his game to the next level. Unfortunately, the backcourt is backed with Fox, Cory Joseph and Buddy Hield all ready to play major minutes.

Walton is going to need to steal time for Bogdanovic from somewhere and it’s likely going to come at the small forward spot. That means fewer minutes for more conventional wings, but Bogdanovic is a catalyst player and the centerpiece of the second unit.

Rookie Justin James can play the two and the three, but the likelihood of him cracking the rotation this season is slim at best. He’ll have to bide his time and wait for an opportunity to arise.

Prediction

Walton has all kinds of options at his two forward spots. Maybe even too many options.

Bagley and Barnes are the starters and will play a minimum of 32 minutes per game each. It’s possible Bagley can steal a few of those minutes as a small-ball five, but the center spot is jam-packed as well. Barnes will play 20-plus minutes at the three and then another 10-12 minutes at the four.

[RELATED: Bagley ready to take leap in sophomore season?]

With Hield set to play 32-34 minutes at the two, Bogdanovic will need 12-14 minutes at the three, which might leave a total of 20 minutes for Ariza and Bjelica.
Both Ariza and Bjelica bring the ability to shoot and open the offense. Ariza is a more switchable player on the defensive side of the ball.

Injuries over the course of an 82 game season will open opportunities, but Walton can’t play 11 or 12 players on a nightly basis. Someone is going to get minimal time in the rotation and have to wait for their chance to shine.