Welcome back to the Royal Mailbag! Tony Xypteras joins me as co-host this week. Let’s dive right in!
From king4life via the comments: Is anyone else even a little bit bothered by the fact that Buddy is actually 26?
Tony: I mean, it’s not ideal, but I can only get so upset over something that just isn’t going to have a major impact on his Kings career. Buddy Hield will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2019-2020 season (if the Kings don’t extend him sooner) when he’ll be 27. The Kings will likely keep him around on another 4-year deal that’ll end when he’s 31. After that, Buddy enters unrestricted free agency where the Kings won’t be able to prevent him from leaving, anyway, so despite the age error the Kings still have him under team control for the entirety of his prime. Meh.
Tim: Like Tony said, I’m not particularly pleased with or bothered by the news. He’s not heavily reliant on his athleticism to make an impact, so an extra year isn’t as big of a deal as someone like Willie Cauley-Stein or De’Aaron Fox. The Kings can control him through his second contract (and they should absolutely extend him this summer), and anything beyond that isn’t worth worrying about 5 years in advance.
From scottymus.prime via the comments: Supposing we make the playoffs this year, who is our best first round match-up?
Tony: Outside of just typing ‘Golden State Warriors’ here because I believe they will end up with the #1 seed again, and if the Kings get in, it’ll likely be as the #8 seed, I’ll make it a little more interesting.
At absolute best the Kings will make the playoffs as a bottom-4 seed. I think the Warriors, Nuggets, Thunder, and Rockets will occupy those top-4 seeds, so of those 4 teams, if I’m the Kings, I’d take my chances with the Thunder. Yes, the Thunder have two players the Kings have no answer for (Steven Adams and Paul George) but they already beat them twice this season. Maybe they can do it again?
Tim: I would want to avoid the Warriors and Rockets at all costs as I’m not certain the Kings could steal a single game from either squad. The Nuggets also match up poorly with Sacramento due to their home advantage in elevation and their overall roster construction. That really leaves the Thunder, a team we’ve beaten twice, but that still features one of the top defenses in the league and two top-10 players.
From Chent via the comments: Would you rather sign Willie Cauley-Stein or Nerlens Noel this offseason?
Tony: This is tough, and for me, entirely dependent on the overall plan. If the Kings want Marvin Bagley to play center (and that is looking like his best position thus far) then we’re talking about a long-term backup here, and I’m much more interested in someone like Noel if he costs significantly less and would be more comfortable in a role like that.
At the same time, it’s possible Willie Cauley-Stein isn’t as expensive as I think he might be, and it’s possible he is comfortable in a lesser role, and it’s possible he and Bagley develop some chemistry during the second half of the season that suggests they can and should play together long-term. To me, it’s still a very fluid situation. I haven’t made up my mind, and thankfully the Kings still have 40+ games to figure out what that plan should be this summer.
Tim: I would take Noel over Cauley-Stein because of the much lower contract cost and his acceptance of a bench role. The Kings need a rim protector and solid rebounder to come in for 10 - 15 minutes per game in case of foul trouble and to give Bjelica, Bagley, and Giles a rest. I don’t think Willie would ever happily accept a backup center position, especially if its to a second year player.
From Patrick from Davis via the comments: Okay, I get there are two camps for Otto Porter, both for and against. What are the other small forward options? Who is a free agent next year or a list of trade-able small forwards to try to acquire? (picked from about 25 similar small forward-related questions)
Tony: Finding a better player than Otto Porter in-season is going to be nearly impossible. We can dream, and play with the trade machine, but Porter is a good player and he’s (reportedly) available. I have a hard time believing the Kings can do realistically better than that without dealing any of the core 4 (Fox, Buddy, Bogi, Bagley) and I wouldn’t be looking to trade any of those guys yet.
The free agent list this summer is a lot more interesting. Here are a few of my favorite targets. Bojan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes (player option), Reggie Bullock, Tyreke Evans, Tobias Harris, Khris Middleton (player option), Terrence Ross, and Al-Farouq Aminu or Jonas Jerebko, if you wanted to call them wings. It’s a pretty good class.
Tim: An Otto Porter trade remains my favorite option simply because it’s a guaranteed asset (assuming it happens) vs. risking a signing in free agency. He can play both forward positions, is a plus-defender, and can knock down the long-ball with consistency. If the Suns decide to tank hard core, TJ Warren would be another really smart target, and unlike Porter, I would give up decent, non-core assets for him. He’s averaging 18.5 points and 4.1 rebounds on 50% shooting from the floor and 44% from deep on 4.4 attempts per game. He’s also a true wing, measuring in at 6’8” and 220 pounds.
My order of favorite (and realistic) free agent targets at the wing: Tobias Harris, Harrison Barnes, Bojan Bogdanovic. Beyond those three players, I don’t believe a long-term starting solution is available. Kelly Oubre has been average for his entire career and will likely cost a pretty penny, Stanley Johnson isn’t very good, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson hasn’t been able to contribute consistently. Tyreke Evans and Rudy Gay would both be decent options, but I imagine those bridges were burned long ago. Mario Hezonja holds no interest for me.
From RORDOG via the comments? Are the Kings doing Bagley a disservice if they pigeonhole him into the center role on offense? On the one hand, that’s what he’s most suited for right now. On the other hand, it’s nearly impossible for a center in the modern NBA to provide enough irreplaceable value to substantiate Bagley’s draft slot, especially if he’s not an elite rim protector.
Tony: Well, I’m in the camp that believes drafting Bagley at #2 will never be totally justifiable considering the brilliance of Luka Doncic, but I realize nobody wants to talk about that anymore, and it’s obviously too early to make that call as anything other than a prediction. It certainly isn’t fact.
This is a good point though, and missing out on Jaren Jackson’s versatility as a do-it-all big could also come back to bite the Kings, but I just don’t have a good answer for this one, so I guess I’ll say this.
I have a pretty good idea about what kind of players Ayton, Doncic, Young, and Jackson will become. I’m a lot less sure about the kind of player Marvin Bagley will become. He’s shown so much potential already, but he has so many areas where he still needs to improve, and I trust his work ethic to think he’ll get there, but I can’t wait to find out where he really ends up once the developmental years are over. I agree with the point about being careful not to pigeonhole him though. It’s probably too early for that.
Tim: I understand the thought process behind that concern, but it’s clear that Joerger believes in slowly bringing his rookies along. I’m going to give Coach the benefit of the doubt and choose to believe that he’s developing one aspect of Bagley’s game along at a time. For now, that’s concentrating on post play and transition opportunities, and as MB3 becomes more comfortable, Joerger will expand his role.
That will also become an absolute necessity if the Kings decide to move Cauley-Stein for a wing as has been rumored since the start of the summer. Bagley has every bit of athleticism and jumping ability as Willie, meaning he should offer similar gravity in the pick-and-roll with De’Aaron Fox. He just needs to become comfortable making the reads on when to set a hard screen, when to slip the screen, and when to pop vs. roll.
From Arcthunder via the comments: Are you in favor of the Kings sending Giles to the G-League so much? Especially now that Bagley is injured.
Tony: Before Harry Giles’ strong performance vs. Portland I didn’t have a problem with how the Kings have handled his minutes or G-League time this season. The Kings gave him a playing time opportunity early in the season and he just wasn’t ready for it, but we’ve reached a point here where Willie Cauley-Stein isn’t playing great, Kosta Koufos is having his worst shooting season since his first couple of years in the league, and if Giles can build off of what he did vs. the Trail Blazers, the Kings should at least explore that possibility.
They need help in the front court right now. Nobody else is playing well enough to keep Giles on the bench. I’d like to see him play until he proves he can’t.
Tim: I’m perfectly satisfied with their treatment of Giles thus far. In certain situations during specific games I’ve wished for more Harry minutes, but similar to my response about Bagley’s position, I’m trusting Joerger on this one. Giles dominates in the G League, which is exactly what you want to see, and that hopefully gets him some game reps while also building his confidence.
From twasserm via the comments: If that Bogi shot didn’t inspire 800 words of Greg-themed fan fiction, what exactly would it take?
Tim: (Yawns aggressively) My two-week old daughter sleeping through the night.