As a result, a significant load has fallen on Harry Giles, the only presently healthy center. It’s a far cry from the start of the season, when Giles was unable to participate in training camp and fell behind the other frontcourt players in Sacramento’s rotation. Now, Giles isn’t just the starting center, but an injury to De’Aaron Fox means he’s also playing some point guard.
That’s where the Kings find themselves two days before the start of scrimmages: relying on a player who wasn’t in the rotation when the season started to direct their halfcourt offense and defense.
Being the starting five isn’t a new role for Giles — it’s one he held for 17 games during the regular season. The fun part of Giles’ expanding responsibilities is playing the point.
The expectation with Fox out would be for Cory Joseph or Bogdan Bogdanovic to lead the offense, but Bogdanovic revealed Sunday why the Kings have gone in an unorthodox direction.
“Honestly in the team we play together, we use Harry as a point guard,” Bogdanovic said. “You know he can pass, so I try to not dribble as much. I hit him as soon as I can, and I play off him. That’s what we’re working on.”
Giles has always been a good passer for his position, and he makes quick decisions. He only averages 1.76 seconds per touch, less than every King except for Richaun Holmes and Alex Len. Unlike those other two, Giles does a fair amount of creation for his teammates. His assist percentage is in the 79th percentile among bigs this season. Giles has a particular affinity for throwing bounce passes to his cutting teammates, and he oftentimes has a flair for the no-look pass.
The Kings have plenty of spacing around Giles with Nemanja Bjelica and Bogdanovic, and they have willing cutters in Corey Brewer and Kent Bazemore, so it makes sense to let Giles operate with the ball in the post. Walton corroborated that the Kings have been optimizing Giles in this way during practice this week.
“When Harry’s on the court, we run a lot more of split actions where he has the ball, whether it’s high splits or low splits. Let him use that strength of his,” Walton said.
The key for Giles will be increasing his minutes total from what it was before the hiatus. He only averaged 20.4 minutes as a starter, and that won’t cut it with no backup centers other than Bjelica, who already logs starter minutes at power forward.
Fortunately, Giles came into this second training camp in peak conditioning, even if he couldn’t have possibly imagined the role the team would need him to play.
“Harry has been one of our better players throughout camp,” Walton said. “I think Harry did a really nice job of showing up here in Orlando in game shape and ready to compete.”
Despite the positive reviews from Giles’ practice performance, optimism should be restrained. The Kings were outscored by 11.1 points per 100 possessions with him at center during the regular season, even when Giles was starting and the team won 13 of its last 20 games.
It’s fair to hope that Giles will be better than he was, but he’ll need to improve significantly for the Kings to succeed. If not, reinforcements should be on their way soon.