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Observations from Day One of the California Classic

The Kings, Heat, Warriors, and Lakers kick off the California Classic!

Marvin Bagley III crowns himself a King over Moritz Wagner of the Los Angeles Lakers
Kimani Okearah

On July 2nd 2018, the Sacramento Kings hosted the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, and Golden State Warriors in the first-ever California Classic summer league.

Check out the #Lensface episode from last night and give @nbalensface a follow on instagram!

It was a blast!

Let’s start with the fans - the numbers reported from the Kings climbed over 10.5k fans in attendance. The Kings are in a unique situation in that De’Aaron Fox, Harry Giles, Justin Jackson, Frank Mason III, and Marvin Bagley III are all players expected to have a place in the rotation come regular season.

The Royal Bandits
Kimani Okearah

It makes sense that the fans are excited and would fill up the Golden 1 Center to show it! It was buzing all night, opening with the thumping pulp of “Beat LA!” as the tip went up to utter insanity at every high point in the game. Good work, Sactown Royals.

A photojournalist’s observations on Bagley and Giles:

Marvin Bagley III

Bagley III waits to check into game 1 of the California Classic at Golden 1 Center
Kimani Okearah
  • He was very impressive driving left from the right block. He had a layup, a sweeping hook, and a double-clutch floater with one hand. All of these moves were left-handed and I didn’t see anything to suggest that his right hand is a viable tool for him at this stage. Talented lefties are extremely difficult to guard regardless of their dexterity with the opposite hand.
  • His post play was so effective because of his footwork - he knows the exact position he needs to get to to score and he has a good feeling for squaring up to the basket - even in mid-air. It’s a sight to see!
  • As lovely as his offensive steps were, his defensive footwork was a clown show. He doesn’t slide well. He takes a big plod of a step at a bad angle when attempting to maintain a good defensive position, which is why Mo Wagner (a much slower player with some crafty handles) was able to blow by him with relative ease. Also, he scoots backward like a frog on defense. It’s awkward.
  • That said, his shot-blocking was impressive - particularly on one Wagner blow-by. Mo got the jump on Marvin, but Marvin jumped a half-second later and still met his opponent finger-tip to finger-tip for the block. I think he could be a prolific shot-blocker if he really works on getting himself into a solid defensive position at a much quicker rate. The Mo Wagners of the NBA shouldn’t be able to drive on an athlete of Bagley’s caliber. His dad (Marvin Bagley Jr.) would say the same thing.
  • He was 1 of 2 from range, and the miss wasn’t close. I saw nothing that suggested that Bagley is a viable SF in the NBA - but we all knew that.
  • He seems like a Day-1 starter, at least.

Harry Giles

Harry Giles discusses the viability of the water table with an NBA referee
Kimani Okearah
  • Harry has that snarl. That Kevin Garnett snarl. That Jim Jackson snarl. Mo Wagner and Josh Hart were talking mess from the opening tip - Harry let them know real fast how bad of a move that was. Harry and Marvin (the royal bandits?) both gave Wagner about 5x what he tried to toss their way without letting it phase their game.
  • Meanwhile, Wagner became increasingly chippy throughout the game, and was particularly heated after the Frank Mason III flagrant foul - a result of the lava flow between our Bandits and Herr Wagner.
  • Harry doesn’t box out with consistency. He did a few times, but he has that typical bad habit that a lot of young players have - he tries to outjump for the rebound. For the sake of comparison, Skal Labissiere is terrific with the box-out. This should come into play for that position battle.
  • He has a very soft 3 point stroke, very good lateral quickness, and he can handle and move the ball. Where Bagley definitely isn’t a 3, I could see Giles being effective on the NBA perimeter.
  • He’ll be a prolific shot-blocker in the NBA, he has very good instincts - but he’ll also be in foul trouble in the NBA a lot. It wasn’t called often in the game last night, but Giles grabs around the waist of the offensive player if he’s even slightly out of position (this may be another contribution to the energy that had Wagner agitated).
Meme this.
Kimani Okearah

Other observations:

De’Aaron had a fine game. He fouled a lot, but that’s more so just because he could - summer league rules allow a player 10 fouls before disqualification. Frank Mason runs the offense better than De’Aaron. This was true last season and it doesn’t feel like something that’s going to change. De’Aaron Fox is a weapon. Frank Mason III is a point guard.

Justin Jackson is struggling, but not because of his talent or skill-set. Jackson would be well-served to lock himself in a room for a week with tapes of Shane Battier and Shane Battier himself. Jackson reminds me of Jimmer Fredette - a very controlled social environment in his developmental years can make it hard to develop the personality one needs to carve out space for himself. Thanks to Antonio Harvey of the Sacramento Observer for highlighting Justin’s developmental background.
Jackson is craftier and smarter than last night showed. I’m not confident in his ability to be a knock-down shooter - he misses wide-open shots with regularity. He should carve his role out as a wiry defender that can make layups and hit the three. He went up soft quite often last night, getting blocked or losing the ball. He got tossed out of the picture for rebounds.

Justin Jackson, you belong in the NBA. You absolutely belong. Confidence is a trick of the brain - after all, every thought that a person is capable of is a chemical reaction. We can control them, as insane as that sounds. His self-doubt shows on the court - and that’s the number one issue holding him back. He’s active, he’s engaged, right up to the moment where he has to perform with the basketball. Let’s hope that he grows into himself and grows into being a functional member of this Kings core moving forward.

Josh Hart was ejected after two technicals. I don’t think I’ve seen that in a summer league game before. I do remember Nerlens Noel fouling out, but I don’t recall an actual ejection.

Dave Joerger was in attendance last night and ate dinner with us media plebs. That was nice.

Let’s look forward to the game today!

It’s a super team, just young.
Kimani Okearah

Which player are you most excited about? What were your observations from Game 1? What are you looking to see in Game 2 tonight?