It’s time for the Kings to unleash Marvin Bagley III

Marvin Bagley III

In his third season as head coach of the Sacramento Kings, Dave Joerger has shown one consistent preference when it comes to rookies: He likes to bring them along slowly.

The Kings began Joerger’s first season with three rookies on the roster who were first-round draft picks, and added a fourth with a midseason trade for Buddy Hield. The rookies started a combined 30 games, and 18 of those were by Hield, who didn’t join the team until February. Skal Labissiere started 12 games, while Malachi Richardson and Georgios Papagiannis never started.

In Year 2, the Kings took point guard De’Aaron Fox with the No. 5 pick. Although he was often their top scorer, he was still coming off the bench until about one month into the season while Joerger stuck with veteran George Hill. From the looks of things, it took an embarrassing 46-point loss to the lowly Atlanta Hawks to make Joerger finally pull the trigger on making Fox — who the coach had already said may have the highest basketball IQ on the team — a full-time starter.

That patient approach wouldn’t be a big deal in a place like San Antonio with a coach like Gregg Popovich. The Spurs are a perennially successful franchise that doesn’t often get lottery picks and doesn’t need 19-year-old rookies to make an impact.

The Kings, however, are constantly in search of that next savior and face of the franchise. Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs in 12 years. They seem to have a permanent reservation at the NBA Draft Lottery table. So it can be understandably frustrating and confusing for Kings fans when their shiny new rookies aren’t being handed the keys like other top picks around the league.

The latest potential star for this team that is being is being brought along slowly is rookie forward Marvin Bagley III, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft who is by all accounts viewed as a critical piece of the franchise’s foundation.

But one week into the season, Bagley is still coming off the bench, and it looks like Joerger is again taking the slow approach with a standout rookie.

Meanwhile, it has become clear that Bagley is legit and that it’s time for the Kings to unleash him on the rest of the league.

Bagley’s NBA debut was forgettable. He only played 12 minutes in a loss to the Utah Jazz. But even in that cameo, he showed some flashes of brilliance. In his second game, he put up 19 points, eight rebounds and three steals in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in which he was at times matched up with MVP candidate Anthony Davis and more than held his own.

Bagley posted 13 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes during Sacramento’s first victory of the season, last Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In Tuesday’s loss to the still-undefeated Denver Nuggets, Bagley looked like a star: 20 points, nine rebounds, three assists and five blocks while shooting 9-for-11 from the field. He played 32 minutes on the road in Denver’s notorious high-altitude and his motor never appeared to slow down. And again, he came off the bench.

Perhaps the impressive play Bagley made in the Nuggets game — and there were plenty — was on the defensive end. He was being posted up by Denver’s Trey Lyles, who spun into the lane, fooled Bagley on a pump fake and went up to shoot. But Bagley recovered so quickly that he was able to block Lyles’ shot on his second jump.

On another play, Bagley was being posted up by Denver center Nikola Jokic, who was voted the Western Conference Player of the Week and appears on his way to an All-Star Game berth. Jokic, who has about 15 pounds and a couple of inches on Bagley, went up strong right at the rim but Bagley blocked his shot.

Another time, Bagley blocked a shot by All-Star forward Paul Millsap, trailed the ensuing Sacramento fast break, then drove past Millsap to score between him and Jokic at the rim.

Although it’s a short four-game sample size, Bagley is showcasing a skill set that is similar to the likes of established stars Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid. He can score in the paint, from mid-range, and hit 3-pointers. He can handle the ball and run the floor. He can defend multiple positions and block shots.

Bagley (14.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 60% FG) should be starting for the Kings. It may not seem like a big deal, since he’s getting a lot of minutes, but that simple gesture isn’t just about putting the team in a better position to win. It is also a vote of confidence for the 19-year-old that he is one of the building blocks and faces of the franchise.

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10/23 Clippers @ Pelicans Rapid Reactions

Final Score: Pelicans: 116, Clippers: 109

New Orleans Pelicans:

  • Well, Anthony Davis did what he does best tonight. The big man dropped 34 points and snagged 13 boards against the Clippers. He’s a monster. There’s only so much you can do to stop a guy like that. However, he’s gotta stop fouling.
  • The Pelicans only turned the ball over eight times, while the Clippers turned it over 16 times. Kudos to New Orleans for holding onto what’s theirs. Their record is now 3-0, and for them to keep that going they’ve gotta play every game pretty similar to how they did tonight.
  • Jrue Holiday was struggling to get buckets. When that happens, it’s important to do other things to help your team. Which is exactly what he did. Although Holiday went 2-for-15 from the field and 0-4 from the three-point line, he ended the game with six rebounds, nine assists and two steals.
  • Elfrid Payton balled out tonight. In his 36 minutes of play, he dropped 20 points, had six assists and six rebounds. He’s such an ideal player to be alongside Holiday. They work extremely well off eachother.
  • The Pelicans offense is straight up insane. With their starters dropping such big numbers and their sixth man dropping double digits every night, they’re unstoppable. With only three games into the regular season, it’s easy to see that they’re already the team to beat. Maybe this is the year that the Pelicans actually get past the Western Conference semifinals.

Los Angeles Clippers:

  • Patrick Beverley… known to the league as one of the most aggressive defenders out there. Keep doing what you’re doing, just ease up on those fouls. Having to bench a defender like Beverley hurts. In his 27 minutes on the court, he was able to snag 10 boards, all defensive. He also dished out 8 assists and put up 12 points.
  • The Clippers center situation needs work. Marcin Gortat started, played for only twelve minutes, took four attempts from the field and missed them all. He also only snagged three rebounds and got two fouls. Beloved Boban Marjanovic barely played tonight. The friendly giant was on the court for a minute and didn’t get the time to unleash the beast. Boban excels when he gets the chance, and putting him in as a starter will most likely make a bigger impact than Gortat.
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is already making a name for himself. He’s proven these past few games that he’s hungrier than most, and isn’t letting this league scare him. Tonight he went three-for-eight from the field and hit one three-pointer for a total of nine points. One thing the Clippers may be doing wrong is not letting him finish the game. Beverley is trustworthy, but Shai is young and full of energy and sending him in with even five minutes on the clock could benefit the Clippers outcome.
  • If Los Angeles can beat the Thunder AND the Rockets, then they have something special going on. They just haven’t found their sweet spot yet, but it’s coming. They’re working their kinks out slowly but surely and once they do, the Clippers will once again start to become a threat in the West.

10/22 Wizards @ Trailblazers Rapid Reactions

Final Score: Wizards 125, Trailblazers 124 (OT)

Washington Wizards:

  • Kelly Oubre Jr. played what was not only his best game of the (young) season, but in recent memory. The third-year man out of Kansas produced in all aspects this evening. With Ian Mahimi leaving the game early with back spasms, the Wizards came out of halftime fully committing to the small ball game. This meant bringing Oubre Jr. into the starting lineup and ramping up his minutes, playing a total of 39 including overtime. He posted 22 points (9/13 from the field) but his hustle and defensive presence brought a much-needed intensity to this Washington team. On top of all that, Oubre hit a smooth three pointer midway through overtime to keep momentum on the Wizards’ side.
  • While the first win was one to remember for the Wizards, some of the issues throughout were not. With Dwight Howard not making the five-game west coast trip, the pressure has been on Mahimi to both produce and stay out of early foul trouble. Both those expectations quickly evaporated as the center collected two fouls in four minutes to open up the game, followed by him leaving thereafter with a back injury, and not returning. In the two previous games, this would mean more time for Jason Smith in the center role. But with the Trail Blazers playing hard inside, Smith’s lack of defensive abilities had a role with the Wizards going small ball in the second half with Jeff Green (who also had a great game off the bench) and Markieff Morris handling center duties. The offensive rebounds continued to be an issue throughout but seemed to be better handled in the second half. Washington needs to find answers whether from Mahimi himself, the small-ball offense, or even third-string center Thomas Bryant.
  • Bradley Beal and Markieff Morris both had fantastic games tonight. Beal had his best game of the season last year at Portland, dropping 51 points and looked to follow that up with a strong performance this year. He did just that, dropping 25 points (including 5 three pointers), 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Something that may not be noticed by many is that as the Wizards turned to the small-ball lineup, Beal went quiet for a majority of the second half- but found himself grabbing rebounds when it mattered most. Of course, most importantly, Bradley Beal hit a game tying three point shot with 6 seconds left in regulation to send it to overtime, and rightfully that is probably how his night will be remembered. Markieff Morris hit a career high 6 threes, with 4 coming either late in the 4th quarter or overtime. His threes came at crucial times for the Wizards as well and was a major key in the team securing this win.

Play of the Game: With 32 seconds left in OT, and the Blazers within two, John Wall took the ball down the court. Looking to end the game and leave Portland without much of a chance, John Wall pulled off an incredible midrange shot with 10.2 seconds left- leaving many wondering, “did he call glass?”

Portland Trail Blazers:

  • Big-men Al-Farouq Aminu and Jusuf Nurkic both had themselves great games in the paint, taking advantage of the Wizards going with smaller lineups. The lack of a true center for Washington left many opportunities down low that these two made the best of. Aminu, with 16 points and 15 rebounds, stressed the Wizards’ defense as he also forced them to acknowledge his presence beyond the arc with three makes on five attempts. Nurkic posted 22 points and 18 rebounds, bullying Washington down low with his physicality and presenting his team with second chance opportunities, as half of his rebounds were offensive boards. The Blazers needed a big game from their front court and they certainly delivered this evening.
  • Nik Stauskas’ huge game was a pleasant surprise for Portland. They know the spark he can bring off the bench, but his physical play and well-timed threes helped carry an offense that for the most part, struggled from deep. He also managed to grab eight rebounds and three assists in a season-high thirty minutes. On top of his Play of The Game, the shooting guard assisted on the McCollum three near the end of OT that could have been a game changing play. Stauskas provided great energy and scoring off the bench for this Trail Blazers team.
  • While the back-court did eventually show up for Portland, this game may have been decided earlier and possibly even in a different direction had that been earlier. While their two stars finally turned it on when it mattered most, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum still finished a combined 12-46 shooting on the evening. Had either of them started hitting shots sometime before, there may not have been a need for overtime. With that being said, the two played incredible late. The two were responsible for 11 of the 13 points scored in overtime. One play that could be a debatable decision, however- Damian Lillard driving to the basket and attempting a heavily contested layup with the team only needing one point to tie. It could be argued that he should have went for the smarter play and attempted to create more contact to get a foul call. At the same time though, the point guard had to race across the court to even give them a chance and did seem at one point he had a good lane to the basket. Ultimately, Portland having no timeouts really hurt their options in those closing seconds of overtime.

Play of the Game: With the game tied at 108 and nearing the end of regulation, the Trail Blazers won a jump ball and were looking to put themselves ahead. Damian Lillard found Nik Stauskas in the corner for a crazy three point shot that left 13 seconds on the clock and the Wizards looking for answers. (It was very close between this one and the CJ McCollum shot with a few seconds left in overtime, but that one shouldn’t have been as impactful had Wall made his free throws, so I went with this one.)

10/22 Pacers @ Timberwolves Rapid Reactions

Pacers @ Timberwolves

Final Score: Timberwolves: 101, Pacers: 91

Timberwolves:

  • The Timberwolves played defense. This is not a drill. The Minnesota Timberwolves played defense. Minnesota held Indiana to 91 points, the first time the Wolves have held an opponent under 100 points on the season. Tonight is something to build upon in terms of defense.
  • The Wolves are a playoff team with Jimmy Butler. With the win over the Pacers, Minnesota moves to 2-1 with Butler. Had Butler played on Saturday against the Mavericks, the Wolves would likely be holding a 3-1 record. However, without Butler, the Wolves are an average at best team.
  • Josh Okogie played terrific. Okogie’s energy on defense alone makes him valuable off the bench. With Wiggins going down with an injury, Okogie got a chance to show out, and make hustle and effort plays on the defensive end. However, Okogie has work to do on the offensive end. The rookie was 5-13 from the field tonight, including 1-6 from three. He forced the ball too much on offense, but the defense alone made him a big part of the winning effort tonight.
  • Timberwolves have a defensive rebounding problem. Indiana recorded 12 offensive rebounds tonight, compared to Minnesota’s 8 offensive rebounds. For Minnesota, it will need to be a team effort on the defensive glass, and if they don’t correct the mistakes, it will cost them games, like it already has.
  • Taj Gibson is as steady as the come. With 13 points and 8 rebounds, Gibson once again showed his value to Minnesota. Gibson is the most consistent Timberwolves player on the roster. The team knows what they will be getting each and every night.

Pacers:

  • Victor Oladipo struggled. Oladipo failed to get calls in the paint tonight, only shooting four free throws. The Wolves did a great job of walling up on Oladipo in the paint and defending without fouling.
  • The Pacers shot 11-16 from the charity stripe. Compared to Minnesota’s 22 points at the free-throw line, it’s hard to win games when the opposing team doubles your point total at the line.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic was terrific. Recording 20 points on 8-12 shooting from the field and 4-5 from three, Bogdanovic gave the Pacers a great punch on offense, on a night they didn’t produce much offense.
  • The Pacers bench was less than spectacular. Indiana’s bench was outscored 43-21. Nobody on the Pacers’ bench had a great night, and it’s hard to win games in the NBA with that little of bench production.

10/22 NBA Over/Under Picks

LeBron James Lakers

Pacers @ Timberwolves: 226

The Pick: Over

In my eyes, this is a safe pick for tonight. The Minnesota Timberwolves don’t play defense, and they score a ton of points. With Jimmy Butler likely to return to the court for Minnesota tonight, their offense will gain more firepower. For Indiana, they have also been a high scoring team, averaging over 114 points per game through their first three contests. For a game with two teams that have a ton of offensive firepower, take the over on this contest.

 

Magic @ Celtics: 210

The Pick: Under

The Celtics defense is no joke, and the Magic leave something to be desired on the offensive end. With a home game in Boston, expect the Celtics to clamp down on defense and keep the total on the under.

 

Hornets @ Raptors: 225.5

The Pick: Under

This seems like a safe pick tonight. While the Hornets have been scoring the ball with ease early in the season, the Raptors have one of the best defenses in the league. For me, this game will easily stay under the total.

Knicks @ Bucks: 226.5

The Pick: Over

Two teams who don’t play defense! Both teams should be able to dominant the opposing defense allowing this to be a high scoring contest. With little defense expected, the over is the choice for Knicks @ Bucks.

 

Bulls @ Mavericks: 230

The Pick: Over

More teams that don’t play defense! Along with no defense, both teams have a solid offense, allowing this game to hit the over, despite the high total.

 

Grizzlies @ Jazz: 216.5

The Pick: Under

Stay away from this game. This is one of the harder games to judge on the slate. Theoretically, the game should be under the total, but with the high scoring contests in the NBA this season, it’s safe to bet on a different game.

 

Wizards @ Blazers: 226

The Pick: Over

Both teams have started the season out hot offensively, and I’m expecting that to continue tonight. The teams will be looking to outscore the other in a game that will have a lot of points. Take the over in this contest.

Suns @ Warriors: 227.5

The Pick: Over

In what seems like another easy pick, this game is more complicated than it may seem. With the Warriors playing on the back end of a back-to-back, there is always the possibility of Golden State resting players. However, I still see this game hitting the over, despite the risks.

 

Spurs @ Lakers: 221.5

The Pick: Under

The Lakers don’t like to play defense. But, with Rondo and Ingram out, their offense will be slightly more limited. With a great defensive team in the Spurs, I see the game staying under the total in a risky play.

The young big who needs more minutes

Zach Collins

Zach Collins.

Boom. I won’t make you read the entire article. You also probably guessed it was him from the feature image of this page. If not, well then get some observational skills, darn it!

What has Zach Collins done in only two games which has me falling head over heels for him? What can we expect from Zach Collins going forward and why isn’t Zach Collins getting more minutes? Why do I keep referring to him by his first and last name?

All good questions. I will try and answer each of them. Let’s tackle question number one.

 

Collins is from the School of Highhandsianism

A graduate of Hands High High School, Collins does everything to mitigate his somewhat underwhelming wingspan. Comparatively, most 7 footers in the NBA have a wingspan which exceeds their height. Or at least, the best shot blockers have wingspans that are abnormally larger than their height.

Collins bucks this trend. He stands a legitimate 7 feet tall, but has a 7’1″ wingspan. Not ideal. So why does he excel as a rim protector? Why was he able to get 6 blocks against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first game of his season?

Collins has a great standing reach of 9’3.” For comparison, Anthony Davis, last season’s league leader in blocks, had a standing reach of 9’0.” Collins compares well to other shot blockers like Capela (9’2.25″) and Myles Turner (9’4″). What’s more, Collins uses his reach to his advantage, and mitigates the fact that he has an underwhelming wingspan.

During his first game versus the Lakers, Collins had his hands up high before the offensive player attempted his shot. In fact, out of his incredible 6 blocks, he had his mitts raised up twice before the shot was attempted. By my count, this is a good ratio.

Below, watch Collins keep those puppies high and give Josh Hart no chance at this layup.

In this next clip, watch Collins stifle the crafty Rajon Rondo. Collins uses his tall frame to cut off Rondo’s angle for a rightside layup. Rondo has to adjust and for a scoop shot on the left side of the hoop, and Collins still blocks him. He embarrassed a former All-Star and veteran point guard.

The high hands aspect of Collins’ game is a mindset for him. How do we know? Collins does this on the offensive end of the court as well. If you close eyes and think really hard, you can hear an old high school coach yelling at some unskilled big man to “keep that ball high! You’re too tall to bring it down low where guards can slap at it!”

Here, Collins catches the ball in the paint while cutting to the rim. He does need to bring the ball down to collect himself for a dunk. Instead Collins says to himself, “wait a second, I’m 7 feet tall. I’m just gonna keep this bad boy up high and slam it home, cuz…duh.”

 

Collins is from the School of Defensive Instinctualism

I know what you are wondering. What about those four other blocks? Excellent question.

Upon review, those four other blocks display awesome defensive awareness by Collins. Most bigs (I’m looking at you, Kelly Olynyk) need years to learn how to play the game defensively. Collins picked up on defensive positioning and timing almost immediately.

His block against Lonzo Ball summed this up well for me. In this play below, Collins is defending Kyle Kuzma in the pick and roll. Lonzo is the ballhandler. The instant Collins sees that Kuzma is not popping for a three, he drops back into the paint. His spacing is perfect. Collins is in position to contest Ball’s shot and prevent Kuzma from receiving a dump off pass.

This play looks simple. It is not. So many big men in the league cannot read and react this quickly. Next time you are bouncing around League Pass, watch big men during this defensive play. Often times they overcommit to the ballhandler and allow an easy dump off pass. Or, they stick to the roll man to prevent a lob, and allow a layup.

Even LeBron screws up this defensive spacing…

 

Ugh, that Nurkic signing…

If you are wondering why Collins is not getting more minutes, look no further than Jusuf Nurkic’s 4 year/$48 million deal.

When you pay a center, especially one you traded for, an annual salary of $12 million a year, do not expect them to come off the bench too often. Portland may feel obligated to go with Nurkic, who is a good offensive player in his own right. Yet, Collins has feel for the game as a passer and a developing offensive game.

Collins is also the better floor spacer. Sure, Collins is still finding his footing as a stretch (and switch) five, but he shows a ton of promise. Compare Nurkic and Collins 3-point shooting from last season.

Totals Table
Rk Player Season G MP 3P 3PA 3P%
1 Zach Collins 2017-18 66 1045 35 113 .310
2 Jusuf Nurkic 2017-18 79 2088 0 7 .000

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/21/2018.

Although not efficient, Collins at least attempted a sizeable amount of triples and projects to be a competent shooter from beyond the arc. Nurkic wants to shoot treys this year as well, but looks far behind Collins in his development

Additionally, Collins projects as a better defender than Nurkic. Nurkic gets roasted on pick and rolls, but is actually not as bad of a rim protector as many people think.

Yet, management will likely stick with Nurkic in the starters role, at least for the time being. That would be totally reasonable; Nurk is a starting caliber center. Is there a point, however, where they consider relegating Nurkic to the bench? As of now, Collins is playing 21 minutes per game while Nurkic is playing 20. Will this split grow even wider? I hope so.

Collins has flashed glimpses of promise that secure his as a better long term prospect than Nurk. Despite them both being young (Collins is 20, Nurkic is 24), Collins has shades of Al Horford in his game. It’s still wayyyyy too early, but depending on how the season goes for Portland, Collins could be given more minutes to speed up his development.

 

His nickname problem…

What do we do here?

Do we rock with Z-Co as a play on Z-Bo? Would that be too Portlandy? Do we call him ZC but morph it into Zeese? Like Z and C meshed together?

Or, do we call him Zachary, like we’re his parents and mad at him for not eating all of his veges?

I’ll stick with Zach Collins for now, but am open to suggestions.

10/20 Rockets @ Lakers Rapid Reactions

Final Score: Rockets: 124, Lakers: 115

Los Angeles Lakers:

  • The Lakers and the Rockets were back and forth almost all night. It was a great game, then it got a little over shadowed by the huge brawl that broke out. James harden was going in for a layup when Brandon Ingram fouled him. Harden was arguing the call with the refs and while doing so, Ingram pushed him. After that, apparently Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul were talking about it. Paul may or may not have gotten spit on by Rondo but their conversation escalated to Paul shoving Rondo in the face. Punches were thrown from both players following that, then Ingram felt the need to come into it and throw punches of his own towards Paul. This caused Paul, Rondo and Ingram to all be ejected from the game.
  • The mix of the young players playing with vets like Rondo and LeBron James is pretty interesting. The younger players still have a lot to learn, but their chemistry with the older guys is already prevalent, and it’s only going to improve. However, these younger guys need to learn how to not act on impulse like Ingram did when he pushed Harden. Not a great look.
  • The Lakers have a dangerous trio developing. Josh Hart, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma have great chemistry together, are all around the same age and have insane potential to be a real threat to the league. Especially if they continue to play together for years to come. Tonight they couldn’t help but connect.
  • This season’s rotations are already showing positive results. Good on you, Luke Walton. Unlike the Rockets, the Lakers points didn’t come from the majority of a few players. Rather, everyone did their part tonight. James racked up 24 points and every other starter other than Caldwell-Pope dropped double-digits. Then, the bench players had a combined total of 44 points. Solid team effort.

 

Houston Rockets:

  • Wait, the Rockets are only made up of Clint Capela, Chris Paul and James Harden? At least that’s what it seemed like on tonight’s box score. Paul ended the night (before he got ejected) with a double-double after scoring 28 points and dishing out 10 assists. Capela and Harden’s connection was strong tonight, and that helped Capela rack up 19 points and grab 12 boards. Harden finished out the night with 36 points and seven rebounds after shooting 10-for-19 from the field and 5-for-10 from the three-point line.
  • Rockets led going into the third quarter, then had that lead taken from them several times after that. Yet, they were able to hold it down in the end and secure the win. Being able to chase it down and not let the big fight and multiple ejections fog their end goal was impressive. If Houston can continue to hold it down like that they’re looking at a successful season.
  • One thing that definitely helped the Rockets end the night with a W was their free throw shooting. They were sent to the line 30 times and only missed 10 of those attempts.
  • Where’s Melo? Carmelo Anthony didn’t really show up tonight. He played 29 minutes, and managed to get three fouls. Anthony was only able to score seven points during his time in the game, after going 3-for-10 from the field and one-for-seven from beyond the arc. His best stat of the night was his 10 boards.