Marvin Bagley III

Stein’s Latest: Porzingis, Heat, Raptors, Kings

Marc Stein of The New York Times reported last week that after meeting with Knicks‘ management, Kristaps Porzingis‘ camp gave the team a four-team list of preferred destinations in the event of a trade, with the Nets and Clippers among those would-be landing spots. In his latest newsletter for The New York Times, Stein fills in the other half of that wish list, reporting that the Heat and Raptors were also on it.

Of course, the Mavericks weren’t on the reported four-team list, which – as Stein explained last week – is one reason why the Knicks elected to move quickly and send Porzingis to Dallas. While Porzingis will only be a restricted – rather than an unrestricted – free agent this summer, it still might have cost the Knicks some leverage in trade talks if that wish list had leaked.

Here’s more from Stein’s latest newsletter:

  • Before sending Porzingis to Dallas, the Knicks made an effort to engage with the Kings on a potential swap involving Marvin Bagley III, but Sacramento “flatly rejected” those inquiries, according to Stein. Last week, Stein reported that the Kings had a similar response when New York asked about De’Aaron Fox.
  • Stein argues that the Suns‘ trade for Tyler Johnson was “far tougher to digest” than their decision to buy out Tyson Chandler so early in the season, since the deal with Miami saved the Heat a ton of money and didn’t address Phoenix’s most glaring need (a true point guard).
  • Stein’s newsletter also features a Q&A with Dirk Nowitzki, in which the Mavericks‘ longtime power forward discusses his involvement in All-Star weekend, his somewhat “frosty” history with Dwyane Wade, and Luka Doncic‘s potential, among other topics. Here’s what Dirk had to say about those comparing Porzingis and Doncic to him and Steve Nash: “I think they’re going to be great together. They both fit the new style of the NBA so well. Luka is bigger than Nashy, so he can make plays that Nashy could never make. And Zinger is even longer than me and more athletic and shoots it super easy from deep. He’s a good dude, hard worker — he wants to be great. We hope to see that combo in Dallas for a long, long time.”

Kings In Position To Be Active At Trade Deadline

Sacramento remains the only team in the NBA to have any cap space on its 2018/19 payroll, and as the February 7 trade deadline fast approaches, this means that the Kings are positioned to be a major player in the trade market, if they so choose, writes James Ham of NBC Sports California.

That being said, the Kings aren’t interested in taking on any long-term deals with their cap space unless a player on a long-term deal can help the team win now and in the future. Additionally, the team is reportedly not interested in taking on any expiring contracts to help another club save money unless assets are attached to said contract.

So, what do the Kings want? Per Ham, the Kings are motivated to add more length and size at the small forward position, while also interested in adding a veteran point guard to bring off the bench in a back-up/potential mentorship role for budding star De’Aaron Fox.

[RELATED: Kings Among Teams Interested in Jeremy Lin]

In addition to their $11MM in cap space, the Kings have the expiring contracts of Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos, and Ben McLemore to worth with. Swingman Iman Shumpert is also in the final year of his contract, but has provided a veteran spark to a young team still competing for a playoff spot. Then again, Shumpert is only 6’5″ and plays small forward. As mentioned above, the team is interested in adding length to that position, so Shumpert could also be expendable if an attractive enough deal comes along.

As for the Kings’ current assets, Sacramento has no interest in moving any of its young talent (e.g. Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley, or Buddy Hield) unless it means the team is making a massive long-term investment in a star-level player. And even then, the aforementioned core group of youngsters is close to untouchable.

In Ham’s view, general manager Vlade Divac should look to be active, as Sacramento has worked hard to be a player in the trade market and is the only team with cap space to use. However, the Kings should also be wary of using that cap space to take on future money that could eat into future cap room. Ultimately, Ham would be surprised to see no moves made before the deadline.

Marvin Bagley III Out At Least Two More Weeks

An on-court return isn’t imminent for Kings rookie Marvin Bagley III, according to a press release issued by the team. While Bagley is making progress in his recovery from a left knee bone bruise, he isn’t expected to resume full basketball activities for about two more weeks.

Bagley, who suffered his knee injury on December 14 against Golden State, was initially ruled out for at least 10-14 days. He hasn’t suffered any setbacks, but Sacramento announced a new recovery timetable as a result of a re-evaluation today.

The second overall pick in this year’s draft, Bagley had settled into a regular role off the Kings’ bench, averaging 12.7 PPG and 6.1 RPG in his first 26 games (23.1 MPG) in the NBA.

In Bagley’s absence, starting power forward Nemanja Bjelica has seen a slight uptick in his minutes, while Justin Jackson has played more frequently at the four. Harry Giles and Skal Labissiere have also seen some occasional playing time up front.

Joerger: Fox, Bagley Are Next Westbrook, Durant

Kings head coach Dave Joerger made some headlines after he praised standout rookie Luka Doncic following Sacramento’s tilt against the Mavericks on Sunday. Despite some skepticism about Doncic’s ability to translate his overseas success to the NBA, the 19-year-old is the early frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.

“Perhaps there was an idea that there was a ceiling on him.,” Joerger said, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I don’t see it, unfortunately for us. But he’s great for them and he’s great for our league”.

Some interpreted Joerger’s comments as veiled criticism of the organization, given his reportedly tumultuous relationship with certain front office members — the Kings passed on Doncic in the NBA Draft and instead used the second overall pick on Duke’s Marvin Bagley III. Doncic was taken third overall by the Hawks and traded to Dallas.

On Monday, Joerger clarified his comments, stating this praise for Doncic involved “no veiled shots at anybody,” per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic (Twitter link). Instead, Joerger used a high benchmark to predict the ceiling on the Kings’ young core of Bagley and De’Aaron Fox, the fifth overall pick in 2017.

“When we drafted Marvin at 2, we were high-fiving like crazy,” Joerger added. “We got the right guy for us. This isn’t going to be a story in three days and it’ll be definitely buried five years from now when we have the next Durant-Westbrook. That’s how good they’re gonna be.”

Marvin Bagley III To Be Reevaluated In Approximately Two Weeks

Kings forward Marvin Bagley III underwent an MRI on Friday that revealed a bone bruise in his left knee and he will be reevaluated in 10 to 14 days, the team announced in a press release.

Bagley, 19, suffered the injury in the second quarter of the Kings’ 130-125 loss to the Warriors on Friday night. The second overall pick in last year’s draft landed awkwardly following a rebound attempt and never returned to the game.

The Duke product is averaging 12.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG and 53.6% shooting in 23.1 minutes per game this season. The Kings (15-13) have been a surprise in the Western Conference this season and are currently half a game back of the Trail Blazers for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The loss of Bagley could impact the Kings’ postseason push in the coming weeks.

Latest On Dave Joerger, Kings

Over the weekend, a report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports suggested that Dave Joerger and the Kings‘ front office don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on the team’s priorities and direction, potentially putting Joerger’s job in jeopardy. General manager Vlade Divac swiftly issued a statement dismissing the report, suggesting that Joerger has the team’s “full support and confidence.”

Digging into the situation in Sacramento a little deeper today, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports that Joerger is not in danger of being fired anytime soon. However, that doesn’t mean that Haynes’ report is “much ado about nothing,” according to Amick, who says there’s a genuine disagreement within the Kings’ ranks about player development.

Haynes wrote on Saturday that Joerger is focused on winning as many games as possible, while team management would like to prioritize the development of young prospects a little more, and Amick’s report seems to confirm that. Sources tell Amick that there’s concern within the organization about insufficient playing time for Marvin Bagley III and other young prospects.

Here’s more out of Sacramento:

  • Although Joerger has another year on his contract beyond the 2018/19 season, his assistants are in the final year of their respective deals, per Amick, who describes the situation as “a second-level sort of lame-duck status.”
  • Joerger has believed since last season that assistant GM Brandon Williams was in the market for a new coach to replace him, sources tell Amick.
  • Amick describes Williams as a “major backer” of Bagley. Conversley, Nemanja Bjelica – the veteran power forward who is currently starting ahead of the club’s No. 2 overall pick – was a “Divac-driven” acquisition during the offseason, per Amick.
  • Now that the Kings have lost three of four games and have failed to deal internally with the possible discord within the organization, Joerger will face an even tougher task as he looks to hold his young team together, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

Kings Considering A Coaching Change?

The Kings‘ surprising start may not be enough for head coach Dave Joerger to keep his job, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Joerger is locked in a philosophical battle with the front office over minutes for some of the team’s younger players, Haynes explains. Management sees this as a development year for the organization, while Joerger is focused on winning as many games as possible.

Of particular concern is the way  Joerger is treating Marvin Bagley III, the second player taken in this year’s draft, who is playing just 22.3 minutes per night. The 19-year-old is putting up decent numbers despite the limited playing time, with per-36-minute averages of 18.7 PPG and 8.9 RPG.

The front office wants to build around a core of Bagley, point guard De’Aaron Fox and young forwards Harry Giles and Skal Labissiere. Joerger has preferred to rely on veterans, including 30-year-old Nemanja Bjelica, who has started every game this season.

While management recognizes Joerger’s contributions to an 8-7 start, there are concerns that may lead to a coaching change. Several voices in the organization are calling for more playing time for Bagley, who many in the front office projected as a starter before the season began. Bagley is still seeing much more action than Giles, who is averaging 10 minutes per night, and Labissiere, who is at a career-low 5.6 minutes and has gotten into just five games.

The discontent in the front office, coupled with frustration from players over lack of consistency in their roles, could prove too much for Joerger, even though his contract runs through next season.

However, GM Vlade Divac responded to the report with a statement of support for Joerger, tweets James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. “Dave has our full support and confidence,” Divac said. “We continue to work together to develop our young core and compete.”

Kings Notes: Bagley, Randolph, Koufos, Labissiere

Willie Cauley-Stein‘s improved performance may have taken away some of the need for Marvin Bagley, but the Kings would have drafted him second overall anyway, Jason Jones of The Athletic writes in a mailbag column. Sacramento could use another creator on offense, a role that could have been filled by Luka Doncic, who went one pick later, but Jones believes Bogdan Bogdanovic will help in that area when he recovers from his knee injury.

Kings management views Bagley as a positionless frontline player who won’t be limited to center or power forward. Doncic was in the top three on their draft board, along with Deandre Ayton, but Jones states that the Kings were sold on Bagley’s combination of athleticism, energy and rebounding, along with his potential to develop into a reliable scorer.

There’s more out of Sacramento, all courtesy of Jones:

  • Veteran forward Zach Randolph may not play all season if he remains on the Kings’ roster. The front office informed him that it planned to concentrate on giving time to its young big men, and the team is already having difficulty finding enough minutes for all of them. Randolph averaged 14.5 PPG and 6.7 RPG last season, so he believes he can still contribute, even after turning 37 this summer. He is currently away from the team, but his expiring contract worth nearly $11.7MM could prove useful in a trade.
  • Kosta Koufos, who recently returned from a hamstring injury to add to the logjam of big men, is a strong candidate to be re-signed after the season ends. Coach Dave Joerger and GM Vlade Divac are both strong supporters of Koufos, who is making $8.7MM in the final year of his current deal.
  • The Kings considered trading away Skal Labissiere last season, but it would take a strong offer now for them to consider parting with him. With Cauley-Stein and Koufos both heading into free agency, a rotation spot would open up for Labissiere if either of them leaves.
  • Joerger was planning to experiment with a three-guard rotation in training camp before Bogdanovic hurt his knee. With Buddy Hield playing well, that could be an option once Boganovic is back on the court.
  • The Kings are willing to use their cap space to facilitate deals, but only if they get a significant asset in return. Sacramento would love to acquire a first-round pick after giving theirs up in a 2015 deal with the Sixers.

Pacific Notes: J. Williams, Clippers, D. Jones

It has been an eventful month for Johnathan Williams, who participated in camp and the preseason with the Lakers, was waived, re-signed on a two-way contract, and played key minutes in the team’s third game of the season.

After racking up eight points, four rebounds, and three blocked shots in just 14 minutes during his NBA debut vs. San Antonio, the Lakers’ newest big man said he had to keep reminding himself how to handle the situation, as Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times relays. “Stay in the moment,” Williams said. “Just stay in the moment. Just stay locked in during the game. Just always stayed locked in when I’m on the bench.”

The Lakers don’t have a ton of reliable options at the five, so it will be interesting to see if Williams continues to be a part of the club’s rotation going forward — because NBA G League training camps are underway, the 45-day clock on his NBA service time will continue to run as long as he remains with the team.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Clippers head coach Doc Rivers believes he has “up to 11 guys” in his rotation who warrant end-of-game consideration, which is both a blessing and a curse. Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times takes a closer look at Rivers’ efforts to make the most of the club’s impressive depth.
  • After declining Kevon Looney‘s fourth-year rookie scale option last year at this time, the Warriors seem unlikely to go that same route with Damian Jones, says Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area. According to Shiller, it’s “probably” safe to assume that Golden State will exercise Jones’ $2.3MM team option for 2019/20 by next Wednesday’s deadline.
  • Kings head coach Dave Joerger thinks a stretch four like Nemanja Bjelica is a better fit alongside starting center Willie Cauley-Stein, which is why Marvin Bagley III is coming off the bench, per Jason Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). However, as Jones writes, Bagley continues to impress the franchise as he carves out a larger role in Sacramento.

Kings’ Frontcourt Logjam Worth Monitoring

The Kings are projected by most oddsmakers and NBA analysts to be the Western Conference’s worst team in 2018/19, but there are several young players on the roster who should be fun to watch. Marvin Bagley III, 2018’s second overall pick, is one of those players, while 2017 first-rounder Harry Giles, who generated buzz with his play this summer after missing his entire rookie season, is another.

However, Bagley only played 12 minutes in Sacramento’s opening-night game on Thursday, while Giles saw just 10 minutes of action. It’s certainly not unusual for rookies to have modest roles to start the season, but the Kings’ frontcourt rotation in their first game highlighted the logjam that exists at the four and five, as Jason Jones of The Athletic details.

With Willie Cauley-Stein and Nemanja Bjelica starting at center and power forward, respectively, and Justin Jackson also playing at the four in some lineups, head coach Dave Joerger suggests it may be “tough” to find minutes for Bagley, especially since the club is thinking long-term with its top pick, Jones writes. For his part, the No. 2 overall pick said he’s “trying to stay patient” when it comes to his playing time.

“I can only control what I can control,” Bagley said after Thursday’s loss. “And whenever my number is called, I’ve just got to go hard, go 100%, and try to do whatever I can to try to help us win. I think I did all right for what I did tonight, how much time I played tonight.”

Besides Cauley-Stein, Bjelica, Jackson, Bagley, and Giles, there are a few more big men on the Kings’ roster who would like to earn some minutes up front. Skal Labissiere didn’t play in the club’s opener, and neither did veteran Zach Randolph, who wasn’t even active for the game. Throw in Kosta Koufos, who should be healthy soon after battling a hamstring injury, and you have seven or eight players vying for playing time at two positions.

In other words, there will likely be “unhappy bigs every night” in Sacramento this season, as Jones tweets.

The Kings, who don’t have serious playoff aspirations, are unlikely to address their frontcourt logjam right away, but this is a situation worth monitoring over the course of the season. At least one trade before the deadline seems likely, and vets like Randolph and Koufos could ultimately be strong buyout candidates if they’re not moved by February. Stay tuned.