The three most handsome members of Sactown Royalty share a few thoughts on the first game of the preseason.
What was the biggest standout from today’s overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers?
Tim: The single word that keeps coming back to me is competence. It may not sound like the highest compliment to pay a team, but the Kings have lacked competence for far too long. Even their unexpected 39-win season under Dave Joerger was driven more by outrunning and out-hustling opposing teams rather than anything concrete and reliable. Although they surrendered a lot of points, the players seemed to be focused on the defensive end of the floor, and Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes both showed their value as legitimate rim protectors.
The offense also looked more coordinated than chaotic, especially in the first half. Last season, the Kings were completely bogged down in the half-court, but their ball movement and bevy of shooters kept the scoring afloat when the game slowed down.
Tony: I swear I had coherent takeaways from today’s game with about 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the last few minutes of regulation and the entirety of overtime broke my brain. What a wild finish. Good for India, good for basketball, good for everyone who woke up at 6:30 AM to watch it. That was chaotic and fun.
Anyway, I really enjoyed watching the Kings bench unit today. Bogdan Bogdanovic was outstanding, and he finally had some help. That speaks to the Kings’ newfound depth, which is, at least for one preseason game, as good as we hoped it would be.
Richard: The cavalry has arrived. Dewayne Dedmon, Cory Joseph, Trevor Ariza, and Richaun Holmes are not stars, but they are all going to be positive contributors to the team this year. When the Kings have to go to their second unit, they will no longer fall off a cliff in terms of talent. The Kings won’t be starting fringe level players, and they won’t be scouring the G-League for guys to soak up rotation minutes. That’s a very good thing.
What was the most encouraging aspect of Sacramento’s performance?
Tim: The bench looks as good as it does on paper! It’s by no means a perfect stat, but every sub who played significant minutes posted a positive +/- today. In somewhat limited minutes, Cory Joseph played well against his old team, and while Trevor Ariza didn’t score much, his passing was an unnoticed boost to the offense, as he recorded five assists. Richaun Holmes feels like an early candidate for fan favorite this season, and his defensive energy, rim-running and shot-blocking were huge for the Kings today. He’s one of those players that can slide in with almost any unit and immediately make a positive impact.
The Serbian duo of Bjelica and Bogdaovic was also fantastic. Bjelica was his normal self from beyond the arc, nailing 40% of his attempts from deep, and he also led the team in rebounding. The luxury of bringing a fringe starter like Nemanja off of the bench will work wonders for Sacramento’s offense. And speaking of wonders, FIBA BOGI IS HERE TO STAY, FOLKS. Bogdanovic was the most versatile contributor for the Kings, and his confidence matched his production. Luke Walton may have a sixth man of the year candidate on his roster.
Tony: I’m going to go hyper-specific with this one and say Marvin Bagley’s willingness to pass the ball. Bagley’s development is as important as just about anything else for the future of the Sacramento Kings, and from the perspective of someone who thought he really didn’t show any desire or ability to pass the ball in his rookie season, I thought he looked more comfortable in this offense knowing he will be playing a ton of minutes and his focus didn’t need to be on scoring the ball every time.
I know he didn’t record any assists, and I didn’t think he had a very good game overall, but in that one area, general ball movement and being less of a black hole on offense, was encouraging.
Richard: Richaun Holmes looks great. Sacramento hasn’t had a traditional big man to bang in the post for quite some time, but they sure do now. Even with the universally praised acquisition of Dedmon, there were still going to be concerns about the Kings getting pushed around down low. Holmes can rebound, block shots, and generate massive gravity on rolls to the rim. On a contract of two years and just under $10 million, Holmes has a chance to be one of the best bargains that Sacramento has seen in a long time.
What’s your biggest concern for the team moving forward?
Tim: I was going to rant about Sacramento’s woeful rebounding as they were absolutely destroyed on the boards by the Pacers, but Marvin Bagley’s lackluster performance trumps that concern. After a surprisingly efficient rookie season, Bagley had to take 12 shots to score 12 points, and he shot just 50% from the free throw line. He was also ineffective on the glass, recording just two defensive rebounds. For comparison’s sake, 13 other players posted the same number or more rebounds than the sophomore big man. The final disappointment for Bagley was his defense. Although he blocked two shots, his lack of strength on the block and on the boards was made evident by Domantas Sabonis throughout the morning. I expect Marvin’s scoring and efficiency to perk up as the year progresses, but his weak rebounding efforts need to be addressed immediately.
Tony: Marvin Bagley. Vlade Divac acquired nearly perfect role players to complement his young core this summer, but for this whole thing to work, that young core needs to develop into young stars. De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Bodgan Bogdanovic held up their end of the bargain today, and yes, they are all more experienced than Bagley at this point, but based on this one preseason game in India, Bagley was the weak spot.
Richard: Before this game, I felt confident that Marvin Bagley was going to fill up the stat sheet every night in his second year. I was wrong. He hasn’t added nearly as much strength or craft over the offseason as I had expected. Playing against starters is going to slow him down early on. He put up only 12 points and 5 rebounds in 30 minutes today, and got absolutely worked by Domantas Sabonis.
What hot take is burning a hole in your belly that you’re desperate to share?
Tim: The seventh seed is ours!! I’m serious. I think.
Tony: Bogdan Bodganovic is too good for a bench role. I can hear everyone screaming “but Manu Ginóbili!!” already, and I get it, but this is supposed to be a hot take. Bogdanovic was tremendous off the bench today, he looked like the Kings’ best player until Buddy Hield went off, and I just don’t know if 25 MPG off the bench is enough to keep him happy, or the best use of a player of his caliber.
Richard: Richaun Holmes should close games for the Sacramento Kings until Bagley gets stronger. There will always be matchups that call for a stretch-5, and Dedmon is there for that. But in crunch time minutes, I’m not comfortable with Bagley as the only big on the floor just yet.