Last year, the Kings big men depth to commence the season included Willie Cauley-Stein, veteran backup Kosta Koufos, newly signed Nemanja Bjelica and two rookies in Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles.
Cauley-Stein’s consistency fluctuated throughout, Koufos eventually became called upon only when absolutely necessary, Bjelica’s blazing beginning cooled off, Bagley battled some injuries but is primed to start, and Giles’ early rust began to shine towards the end of the season before an injury sidelined him.
Last year’s depth wasn’t spectacular but sufficient enough to compete on a nightly basis. This year, it’s a little more complicated to see how the minutes will be allocated towards each big. As the season progresses, it’ll become evident of who is deserving of minutes or a bigger role in the rotation and vice versa but for now, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what the rotation will exhibit.
Let’s begin with the newly acquired center from Atlanta in Dewayne Dedmon. Replacing Cauley-Stein’s production may not be considered difficult and even if he’s not matching or excelling Cauley-Stein’s numbers from last season, Dedmon is capable of making an impact that isn’t depicted on box scores.
We’ve written extensively about his shooting, his fit with Bagley, how he upgrades the interior defense and much more. I can’t wait for it to be on display come October. So with what we have discussed repeatedly about Dedmon, we can pretty much guarantee he’ll be the day one starter at center and should be playing the majority of minutes there.
With Cauley-Stein playing around 27-28 minutes these last two seasons and Dedmon’s skills surpassing last season’s counterpart, I feel pretty comfortable saying Dedmon will be averaging 25-27 minutes a night. The last two seasons in Atlanta has seen Dedmon hovering right at 25 minutes a game and I think that translates here with an upgraded roster and similar uptempo offense. He’s also had an injury history that prevents him from playing at least 70 games so that’ll be something to monitor. Now this could definitely shift throughout the season for sure, but it’s a good starting point for a center the Kings are expecting to see good minutes from.
Marvin Bagley III
Bagley primarily served as Nemanja Bjelica’s back up last year at the 4 spot, but like we’ve discussed here, he looks ready to become a starter.
Per 36, Bagley elevates to a 21 point, 11 rebound monster but I’m not entirely positive he grasps those minutes off the bat. Down the line I don’t doubt it becomes a reality but right now, I can see Bagley playing 28-30 minutes a game. The 6’11” big became one of Sacramento’s most essential players and handling a starter role should constitute more minutes for Marvin.
Assuming Bagley takes the jump, that displaces Bjelica’s role as a starter last season. But as I wrote, the Kings will still need Bjelica to be a critical reserve player.
The Kings bench currently has a lack of sharpshooting with the best group of shooters lined up as starters, but Bjelica’s 40 percent clip is undoubtedly the most lethal on the bench.
Despite being in for less minutes, Bjelica will have to replicate last year’s crucial play as he adjusts to a new role. I can see Professor Big Shots in the 17-20 minute range and I like that to start. If Bagley is playing 30 minutes at the 4 and Bjelica plays the other 18 (assuming no small ball lineups), it’s a solid allocation to begin the season.
Here’s where it’s getting tricky to distribute predictive minutes. We haven’t witnessed Giles on the court for quite some time as his late season injury eventually shut him down and he wasn’t available for Summer League action either.
He definitely looked better before that injury, which makes the prediction here pretty arduous. There could be some lingering rust but it shouldn’t take long to polish up if any. Right now, I would like to say that Giles will be the primary backup to Dedmon but the biggest question regarding Harry is the health. The Kings should take a slow approach with Giles to start so they can assess his status and then adjust accordingly.
Let’s say Dedmon is out there for 26 minutes, then I’d have Giles play between 12-15 minutes to measure the progress. He ended the season with an average of 14.1 minutes a game, so this is a fair projection and definitely goes up if his advancement rockets. After all, he’s arguably the imperative wildcard to the marvelous potential of this squad.
The energy that once plagued the Kings time and time again last year in Phoenix will now dawn a new shade of purple with Sacramento. Holmes primarily backed up Deandre Ayton with the Suns, but the depth situation he’s currently in is more loaded.
We’ve established that Dedmon is the starter with Giles being the main backup if currently healthy and if those two play a combined 39 minutes at center, that leaves nine for Holmes but that can always be modified.
Having Holmes as possibly the third center is definitely more pleasing than Koufos when analyzing their fit with the team. Holmes is a more efficient rim runner and scorer on offense and utilizes his athleticism to provide quality interior defense, which all beats out what Koufos could service as his production spiraled down last year.
Holmes could also play power forward in certain lineups because these bigs are all versatile, but I don’t see him getting big minutes right away. However, his energy on both ends of the floor will unquestionably challenge other bigs on the roster. If Giles is rusty or has injury concerns to start, Holmes’ play could begin to earn him the minutes Giles was receiving and that could affect how the minutes get distributed. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting and good problem to have.
Sacramento has five quality bigs and a deeper rotation than last year so we will see how the coaching staff tackles this situation. Of course, matchups will be essential to dictate who plays or not but this generalizes how I think the minutes get sorted out.