After losing to the Los Angeles Lakers 101-86 on Saturday night, the Sacramento Kings made a tough decision with one of their young players. They announced that 2017 1st-round pick Harry Giles would be assigned to their G-League affiliate, the Stockton Kings.
Giles had struggled to break into the Kings rotation through their first thirteen games of the season. Sacramento’s roster is heavy with big men, and in a league that is moving toward smaller lineups, playing time has been hard to come by for players like Giles.
A surprisingly successful start to the year may also have played a part in the decision. Few people expected the Kings to be over .500 at this point in the year, much less to be banking wins against teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Seasoned veterans like Kosta Koufos appear to be more valuable in tight games for the time being.
The majority of Giles’ minutes have come when Sacramento’s contests are all but decided. And unfortunately, he hasn’t capitalized on the few opportunities that he’s had.
Giles is averaging just 3.6 points and 2.7 rebounds in 9.7 minutes per game, shooting a disappointing 36.6% from the field. Perhaps the most troubling figure is his 2.2 personal fouls per game, which equates to sky-high 8.6 per 36 minutes played.
He has actually recorded more fouls than made baskets this season for the Sacramento Kings. That type of start could frustrate anyone.
Normally, a playing time crunch could present a real problem for Sacramento’s front office. This year, however, things are a little different. With the recent relocation of their G-League affiliate, the Kings have a quick and easy way to get their guys extra minutes. All it takes is a 40 minute drive down I-5 to Stockton, California.
Less than 15 hours after recording two points and two rebounds in two minutes against the Lakers, Harry Giles was in the starting lineup for the Stockton Kings.
Much to the excitement of everyone in the building — including General Manager Vlade Divac — Harry absolutely lit up the Stockton Arena, shredding the Agua Caliente Clippers for 30 points on 20 shots. Teammate Frank Mason was also in attendance to watch his friend and fellow 2017 draftee make 65% of his attempts from the field, as well as both of his free throws.
After the game, Giles himself seemed relieved to watch his shots fall.
“It was great. It probably boosted me a little more than I thought,” Giles said, laughing, during the post game interview. “I’m like man, can I hit some shots? First four games I couldn’t hit no shots. I’m like man, am I losing it? Could I hit some shots? But, you know, it just takes time.”
But it wasn’t just his shooting that impressed the crowd in Stockton. Giles facilitated much of the team’s offense when he on the floor. His total of 2 assists doesn’t do his passing justice. He moved the ball crisply from the post, the wing, the top of the key — everywhere on the floor. He initiated the offense on the first few possessions of the second half, which really got him going.
As his sharp passes forced Agua Caliente’s defense to lay back in the lane, Harry took full advantage and connected on a series of long jumpers the third quarter. The success on offense also seemed to spark other areas of his game, as he started getting more active on defense and more aggressive in box-outs.
“You hit a couple shots, you know, it kinda gets you amped up to go play defense,” Giles added. “You kinda just get the juice flowing. Your legs are in it and, you know, it kind of just gets you going and one thing kind of helps out another.”
Giles continued to struggle with foul trouble, however. He finished with 4 fouls in 23 minutes — an improvement, but not a revolution.
Giles acknowledged he still has work to do.
“Just trying to find myself, find my rhythm. I really want to get better on the defensive end. That’s where I struggle the most. As far as rebounding, I think rebounding for me is more about positioning... and just getting stronger too. I think that will come together too through reps and time.”
Despite the 30 point explosion from Giles, Stockton fell to Agua Caliente 120-106. But according to Head Coach Ty Ellis, that’s not what matters most.
“Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s not our job to win a G-League championship. If it happens, and it’s part of the flow of the season, great. But we are here for guys like Harry. We’re here for a reason, not a season.”
It wasn’t only Harry Giles that shined in Stockton on Saturday. The well-oiled and newly renovated support system that the Kings now have for their young players was on full display as well.
If you weren’t able to catch it live, click the video below for some highlights from the game.