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NBA Daily: Ranking The Free Agents – Shooting Guards

There are plenty of intriguing options in this summer’s free agent shooting guard class — but one stands out among the rest.

Ben Nadeau

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Each year, Basketball Insiders ranks the upcoming free agents by position. A few days ago, Matt John tackled the point guards, who, aside from Chris Paul, doesn’t offer a ton of superstar potential. Today, we’re looking toward the shooting guards and, well, it’s not much better. Typically, these free agents are sorted into four separate categories: max, near max, above mid-level or mid-level and below.

By all means, there are a handful of signable guys in those last two divisions — hello, Dwyane Wade and J.J. Redick, among others — but up top? Honestly, there’s really just one player that’ll receive a contract in the upper-echelon this offseason — so, unofficially, this is a piece about Zach LaVine now. With that bait-and-switch out of the way, let’s dig into the skyscraping, potential-laden restricted free agent.

But first, some housekeeping notes. Based on the $101 million projected salary cap, maximum salary amounts are expected to fall in these ranges:

$25,250,000 for players with 0-6 years of experience

$30,300,000 for players with 7-9 years of experience

$35,350,000 for players with 10+ years of experience

If you need a refresher on the other free agent positions, be sure to check out the rest of our guides later this week or head to Basketball Insiders’ comprehensive page here.

Max Guys/Near Max Guys

Zach LaVine* — Chicago Bulls — Last Year’s Salary: $3,202,218

The season has barely ended and the debate over LaVine’s impending free agency is in full force already. Recently, Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania told Chris Mannix that he expects a near-max contract for the 6-foot-5 guard. Furthermore, Charania added that Chicago would likely match an offer sheet for LaVine, no matter what the price tag ends up being. Of course, it’ll take just one eager team to put all the pressure on the Bulls’ front office, but his return seems probable as of now.

If you’re only vaguely familiar with LaVine, you’ll probably recognize him from his rim-rattling Slam Dunk Contest fame. After winning back-to-back competitions in 2015 and 2016, LaVine appeared to be on the rise alongside fellow Timberwolves youngsters, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. During his third season with Minnesota, through 47 games, LaVine was averaging 18.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists on 45.9 percent from the floor. Then disaster struck in February of 2017 when LaVine tore the ACL in his left knee, with a season-ending surgery following soon after.

Last summer, the rehabbing LaVine was the centerpiece in a blockbuster that sent him, Kris Dunn and the rights to Lauri Markkanen to the Bulls for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton. And although LaVine wouldn’t make his season debut until mid-January, there was hope that he could become an important cog in Chicago’s rebuild. Naturally, LaVine struggled in his return and his averages dropped to 16.7 points on just 38.3 percent shooting. But still, his uber-athleticism remains intact and, at the age of 23, represents the type of high-risk restricted free agent that franchises talk themselves into rather easily.

Given the immediate success of Markkanen (15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds) and the breakout season for Dunn (13.4 points, six assists), the Bulls would be wise to keep LaVine. They’ll be adding somebody in the Trae Young/Wendell Carter Jr./Michael Porter Jr. range during next week’s draft and that’s a solid foursome on the rebuild road. Young, athletic and, most importantly, healthy, LaVine could anchor this group of prospects for the foreseeable future. Instead of chasing free agent pipedreams, LaVine seems the like the right choice for the Bulls — even if they must overpay.

Above Mid-Level Guys

J.J. Redick — Philadelphia 76ers — Last Year’s Salary: $23,000,000

Will Barton — Denver Nuggets — Last Year’s Salary: $3,533,333

Dwyane Wade — Miami HEAT — Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382

Wayne Ellington — Miami HEAT — Last Year’s Salary: $6,270,000

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — Los Angeles Lakers — Last Year’s Salary: $17,745,894

Danny Green — San Antonio Spurs — Last Year’s Salary: $10,000,000

Joe Harris — Brooklyn Nets — Last Year’s Salary: $1,524,305

Mario Hezonja — Orlando Magic — Last Year’s Salary: $4,078,320

Malcolm Brogdon** — Milwaukee Bucks — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611

Mid-Level or Below Guys

Marco Belinelli — Philadelphia 76ers — Last Year’s Salary: $490,461

Patrick McCaw* — Golden State Warriors — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611

Lance Stephenson — Indiana Pacers: Last Year’s Salary: $4,180,000

Jamal Crawford — Minnesota Timberwolves — Last Year’s Salary: $4,328,000

Thabo Sefolosha** — Utah Jazz — Last Year’s Salary: $5,250,000

Vince Carter — Sacramento Kings — Last Year’s Salary: $8,000,000

Rodney McGruder** — Miami HEAT — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611

Dante Cunningham — Brooklyn Nets — Last Year’s Salary: $2,300,000

Arron Afflalo — Orlando Magic — Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382

Nick Young — Golden State Warriors — Last Year’s Salary: $5,192,000

Garrett Temple — Sacramento Kings — Last Year’s Salary: $8,000,00

Ian Clark — New Orleans Pelicans — Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382

Tony Allen — Free Agent — Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382

Sean Kilpatrick** — Chicago Bulls — Last Year’s Salary: $2,163,006

David Nwaba* — Chicago Bulls — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611

Nik Stauskas* — Brooklyn Nets — Last Year’s Salary: $3,807,147

James Ennis — Detroit Pistons — Last Year’s Salary: $3,028,410

Jason Terry — Milwaukee Bucks — Last Year’s Salary: $1,471,382

Treveon Graham* — Charlotte Hornets — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611

Jordan Crawford — New Orleans Pelicans — Last Year’s Salary: $58,190

Monta Ellis — Free Agent — Last Year’s Salary: $11,227,000

Trey McKinney-Jones — Free Agent — Last Year’s Salary: $46,080

Rashad Vaughn — Free Agent — Last Year’s Salary: $83,129

Aaron Harrison* — Dallas Mavericks — Last Year’s Salary: $91,442

Isaiah Whitehead** — Brooklyn Nets — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611

Bryn Forbes* — San Antonio Spurs — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611

Wayne Selden** — Memphis Grizzlies — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611

Brandon Paul** — San Antonio Spurs — Last Year’s Salary: $815,615

Sheldon Mac — Free Agent — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611

Marcus Georges-Hunt* — Minnesota Timberwolves — Last Year’s Salary: $1,312,611

Davon Reed** — Phoenix Suns — Last Year’s Salary: $815,615

Antonius Cleveland** — Atlanta Hawks — Last Year’s Salary: $133,632

Marcus Thornton — Free Agent — Last Year’s Salary: $46,080

Jaylen Morris** — Atlanta Hawks — Last Year’s Salary: $101,376

Rodney Purvis** — Orlando Magic — Last Year’s Salary: $69,120

Aaron Jackson — Houston Rockets — Last Year’s Salary: $4,608

Andre Ingram* — Los Angeles Lakers — Last Year’s Salary: $13,824

*Qualifying Offer (If made, player becomes restricted free agent)
**Non-Guaranteed Contract (If player is waived by current team before contract becomes fully guaranteed, becomes unrestricted free agent)

Additional Notes: Needless to say, this free agent shooting guard class only boasts a handful of potential starters this summer. In fact, outside of LaVine, the promising long-term options are fairly scarce. In all likelihood, Redick will try to grab some multi-year security after taking a one-season payday with the 76ers’ process-driven roster. Both Harris and Ellington are set to cash in on their best-ever professional campaigns, while Hezonja represents the super-athletic-but-still-mysterious free agent option as well.

After taking a salary cut to join LeBron James in Cleveland for a few months, Wade will command a deal much higher than his last paltry contract worth just over two million. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Caldwell-Pope may regret not taking a large offer sheet last offseason, but his reasonable output of 13.4 points and 5.2 rebounds on 42.6 percent from the floor will keep his name in conversations. Green, a San Antonio staple, has a player option to decide on soon enough — but at the age of 30, would he command north of that $10 million price tag again?

The most interesting case may be that of Barton, the Nuggets’ do-it-all sixth man. Although he only started 40 games for Denver in 2017-18, Barton averaged 15.7 points, five rebounds and 4.1 assists on 45.2 percent shooting. He’ll turn 28 years old in January, but Barton has improved in almost every successive season thus far — can he take another big step?

Lastly, Malcolm Brogdon’s non-guaranteed contract appears here as a formality and there’s almost a non-zero chance that the Bucks would waive the former Rookie of the Year in any scenario.

Ben Nadeau is a Seattle-based writer in his second year with Basketball Insiders. For five seasons, he covered the Brooklyn Nets for The Brooklyn Game.

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NBA Daily: Six Small Sample Size Overreactions

It’s not always healthy to overreact to small sample sizes — but it sure is fun! Ben Nadeau checks in on five of his favorite early season storylines.

Ben Nadeau

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Today is October 20, 2018.

The newest NBA season has been a thing officially for four days. On Monday, Basketball Insiders’ Spencer Davies penned a piece with pointers on how to enjoy the 2018-19 campaign. Naturally, Davies urges that it’s important to not overreact to sample sizes after just two games. It’s sound advice but, on the other hand, it’s definitely not as fun either. Sports were tailor-made for grandiose overreactions, particularly in the volatile realm of professional basketball, so that’s exactly what we’re going to do here.

In game No. 1 last year, the Indiana Pacers’ Victor Oladipo dropped 22 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals in a nine-point win over the hapless Nets. Interesting, we thought, but small sample sizes, right? Two games later, Oladipo tossed out 28 points, four rebounds, five assists, four steals and four three-pointers — then 28-, 35- and 23-point lines quickly followed. When the season was all done and dusted, Oladipo’s blisteringly hot start ultimately finished with the guard hoisting the award for Most Improved Player. So, sure, some of this might be hollow, but there’s also a decent chance it isn’t either.

And if it isn’t just a momentary flash in the pan, here’s your cheat sheet for getting ahead of the rest of your friends, family and fantasy leagues.

Luka Dončić and Deandre Ayton: Special Already

It took about 30 seconds to realize that the NBA was blessed with at least two remarkably special rookies this season in Dončić and Ayton. The pair kicked off their respective careers against each other on Wednesday and, generally speaking, neither disappointed. Dončić brought his smooth operating style — the same style that helped him take home EuroLeague MVP last year — right from the opening tip. The Slovenian sensation tallied 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists, including a fantastic behind-the-back dime to a cutting DeAndre Jordan. It wasn’t exactly a coming out party, per se, but this 19-year-old may just meet all of our massive expectations and then some before long.

Then there’s Ayton, the reigning No. 1 overall pick and presumed future star as well. While everybody rightfully gushed over Dončić on opening night, Ayton went and showed out himself. With 18 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and a block, Ayton went toe-to-toe with the aforementioned Jordan — a center 10 years his senior and an excellent rim protector in his own right — and shot 72.7 percent in his debut. The 7-foot-1 prospect will need to overcome some defensive hurdles, but he’ll put up some serious numbers in this Suns offense — that is nearly guaranteed. The last few years have brought some incredibly talented classes to the league lately and this one, headlined by Dončić and Ayton, appears as if it could be just as good.

Caris LeVert is LeGit

All summer, it was LeVert this and LeVert that. His coaches showered effusive praise on the third-year wing, while teammates — both new and old — touted LeVert as a breakout candidate this fall. Well, so far, it looks like his admirers were right on the money. LeVert, a slasher at heart, talked throughout last season about maturing and growing into his body — now, we’re getting an important taste of that comfort he’s long sought after. Dropping 27 points, four rebounds, four assists and a steal in 34 minutes against the Detroit Pistons, LeVert carefully used every herky-jerky step to mince his opposition to shreds. When the Nets were floundering in another infamously poor third quarter — a tradition like no other, at this point — it was LeVert that helped to claw them out of their self-made deficit. Most of the attention in Brooklyn has been focused on D’Angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen, but perhaps it’s now LeVert’s time to shine.

On Friday, he did exactly that. The Nets called on him time and time again against the Knicks and the budding star delivered in spades. Not only did LeVert set a new career-high of 28 points, but 15 of them came in the final 12 minutes, including a tough, game-winning finish with just a second left on the clock. If people simply assumed that Russell or Spencer Dinwiddie would seamlessly resume duties as the crunch-time operators, they’d be dead wrong so far. The Nets have gone to LeVert with the game on the line twice in a row already and there’s a fair chance a star is being born in front of our very eyes.

The Knicks Are Probably Bad… But Absolutely Fun

In the Knicks’ season opener, jokes were flying around social media early about their potential ineptitude, particularly so without Kristaps Porzingis to save the day. Of course, New York then went and dropped 49 points on Hawks’ heads in the second quarter and never looked back. The Hawks are likely destined to be in the cellar this season and the Knicks won’t get 31 points from Tim Hardaway Jr. each night out. Having said all of that, this is an honest-to-goodness fun basketball team and, all of a sudden, there’s a nice collection of youngsters New York can develop moving forward. Kevin Knox, who surprisingly lost his starting spot just before the season began, tossed in 17 points versus Brooklyn on Friday; with newcomer and the perpetually-breaking-out Mario Hezonja helping with 15 points of his own in the opener.

Led by the ever-charismatic Enes Kanter (cue the nipple clip) and Hardaway Jr., it’s way too early to think about the postseason for the Knicks, but there will be plenty of reasons to tune in. Former G-League castaway Trey Burke is still here too, playing side-by-side with the defensive-minded Frank Ntilikina, while preseason standout Allonzo Trier is looking right at home in the rotation. The cherry on the top? Mitchell Robinson, the uber-athletic mystery man from June’s draft, has played just one minute in their first two games — his time will come soon enough. Even if head coach David Fizdale can’t transform the Knicks immediately, they will play hard and stay competitive on most nights — that alone is a better fate than half of the league’s lottery-bound franchises. The Knicks might be bad, but they’ll be a fascinating puzzle to watch come together over the coming months.

Devin Booker: Still Divisive, Still Very Good

Long before Booker brought home a five-year extension worth $158 million, fans and pundits alike were arguing about the sharpshooter’s true impact on the game. Between the Suns’ losing record since his arrival and an open discussion on empty stat-padding, many scorned the Phoenix front office for giving the 21-year-old a max deal. But if the next 81 games are anything like his first outing, Booker will be torching any defender that comes near him. Even a semi-alarming hand surgery in early September couldn’t slow down Booker in the opener. Against Dallas, Booker poured in 35 points, seven assists and four rebounds on 6-for-10 from three-point range — well, then. New head coach Igor Kokoškov promptly called Booker their “anchor” and noted that he will only continue to improve.

In the midst of Booker’s 19-point fourth quarter explosion, he showed off the full arsenal. Certainly, Booker is known from his long-range skills, but the talented scorer is proficient at taking defenders off the dribble as well. Booker has only played once — he’ll face off against the Denver Nuggets later on today — but he just continues to chug along, picking up right where he left off in March of last year. Through injury, rehab and a big money contract, it may just be time to admit that Booker is every bit ready to become a star. With potential-laden assets like Josh Jackson and Ayton surrounding him now, we’re about to find out how good this former Wildcat can be.

For now, the shaken-up Magic Eight Ball says this: “Signs point to yes.”

Kemba Walker: Setting Charlotte Ablaze

It feels like an eternity has gone by since the Walker trade rumors initially began — running the full gamut between certain availability, cautious denial and the point guard’s steadfast desire to stay right at home. Still, Walker will be an unrestricted free agent next summer and Charlotte has their work cut out to even make the postseason in the weaker Eastern Conference at all. While destinations like Cleveland and Phoenix have popped up in accordance, Walker has gone on record that he wants to “create something special” with the Hornets. But when push comes to shove, will Charlotte be willing to take the risk of their star walking away for nothing? As of now, February is a lightyear away, however, and Walker himself has helped the Hornets off to a positive start through two games.

Albeit in a slim one-point loss to Milwaukee, Walker erupted for 41 points, four assists and two steals on 7-for-13 from three-point range. On Friday, the Hornets took home their first win of the campaign on the back of Walker’s 26 points, five assists and five three-pointers. Flanked by standout rookie Miles Bridges, a more confident Malik Monk, plus healthy versions of Nicolas Batum and Cody Zeller to boot, Walker looks poised to record his best season yet. Walker, 27, has always been a big-game killer and more than happy to talk down those pesky trade rumors — but this will be an extremely interesting case to check in on in a few months. Walker can’t keep up a 34.5-point per game pace, obviously, but it certainly appears as if a special, fire-breathing effort is brewing down the coastline. Don’t sleep on Kemba, he’ll make you pay.

Julius Randle: Unleashed?

And then there’s Randle: New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins replacement, the formerly renounced Los Angeles Laker and criminally underpaid big man. Under the never-well-hidden guise of LeBron James’ inevitable arrival, Randle seemed like a bit of an afterthought this summer for the purple and gold. Despite improving in every successive season, Randle’s trip to unrestricted free agency was a bit of a dud too, eventually landing him in a fantastic situation alongside Anthony Davis on a two-year deal worth $18 million. Randle is no stranger to impressive performances — his 36-point, 14-rebound, seven-assist onslaught last year against the Cavaliers instantly comes to mind — but he’s been undoubtedly key to the Pelicans’ red-hot start.

Randle is currently stepping confidently into three-pointers — he’s already at three through two games and his career-high in a season is just 17 — and the 6-foot-9 big man has shot 55 percent during their blowout victories over the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings. But what’s been most impressive so far is his continued versatility on the offensive end; smooth enough to stroke from deep, but more than able to post up, spin past a defender and then throw it down. Needless to say, the list of players capable of such flexibility, particularly those at the age of 23, is a short one. For now, he’ll continue to come off the bench behind the floor-stretching Nikola Mirotic — off to an even hotter start than Randle, somehow — but these minutes aren’t going anywhere.

The season is still in its early infancy stages but these storylines seem like sure-fire bets to continue well into the future. Whether these players compete for postseason hopefuls or lottery-bound rebuilders, it’d be wise to watch these storylines unwind and take shape. Most would agree that Dončić and Ayton are special — but how quickly can they find consistent success at the top level? LeVert and Randle are poised for their biggest respective seasons yet, while Walker and Booker look to ready to smash their detractors once again. Tiny sample sizes are admittedly dangerous, that goes without saying, but they can also offer helpful glimpses through the crystal ball at some of the league’s brightest stars. Feel free to sleep on these entries here — but if Oladipo taught us anything last season, it’s that these type of starts can turn into year-long heat checks and a renewed status across the entire league.

Who here has called next?

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NBA Daily: Can The Milwaukee Bucks Be Real Contenders?

Do the Bucks now have the talent and coaching to legitimately contend for this year’s championship?

Shane Rhodes

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The Milwaukee Bucks weren’t very good in 2017.

While they had one of the best players in the world, Giannis Antetokounmpo, on the court at almost all times, they struggled to win games under then Head Coach Jason Kidd. While things improved with the transition to Joel Prunty, Milwaukee and its underperforming roster ultimately fell to the Boston Celtics, sans their two best players, in the first round of the postseason.

But with Mike Budenholzer, one-time Coach of the Year award winner and former head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, in the fold along with some new personnel, are the Bucks good enough to challenge the top teams in the NBA?

If their 2018 debut is anything to go by, the NBA needs to be on alert.

On the road against the Charlotte Hornets, Milwaukee looked completely dominant at times with the Greek Freak leading the charge in a 113-112 win. Antetokounmpo was his usual dominant self and finished the game with 25 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists.

The most important take away from their season debut, however, has nothing to do with Antetokounmpo. It’s the fact that he got a sizeable amount of help from his supporting cast.

The Bucks often looked like a one-man show last season, with Antetokounmpo doing his thing while the rest of the team failed to pull their collective weight. They often looked slow and were worse than average, defensively; Milwaukee was just 20th in pace-of-play and 18th in defensive rating last season. And, amidst the NBA’s three-point revolution, the Bucks ranked just 25th in three-point attempts and 22nd in three-point percentage.

In a nutshell, the Bucks system wasn’t an ideal workspace for its star player. Antetokounmpo, who isn’t a great long-range shooter himself, needs all the spacing he can get in order to be the best version of himself. And that is why the 2018 version of the Bucks could be so dangerous.

Going back to the 2013-14 regular season, Budenholzer’s first as the Hawks head coach, here is how Atlanta ranked compared to the rest of the league in three-point attempts: 2nd, 7th, 7th, 16th, 7th. Budenholzer has instilled that same three-point happy offensive system in Milwaukee. Not only have they played faster, but they are shooting more; the Bucks attempted 34 shots from beyond the arc, 10 more than they averaged per game last season.

More importantly, the Bucks have the players to take advantage of that system and clear the interior as much as possible for the multipositional and uber-athletic Antetokounmpo.

Khris Middleton, the often underrated two-way wing, is a career 39.2 percent three-point shooter. Eric Bledsoe, who struggled at times last season, has been solid from behind the arc for his career as well. Free agent additions Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova, two big men who have steered into the three-point evolution of the NBA, have both shot 34 percent or better from three-point range over the last two seasons. Even rookie Donte DiVincenzo, who went two-for-four from three-point range against Charlotte, was a long distance specialist at Villanova and shot 37.8 percent from three during his three years with the school. The roster is loaded with more shooters than ever and they are being put in a position to shoot the long-ball, thanks to the gravity that Antetokounmpo has on the floor and Budenholzer’s system.

Now, as with almost everything, there could be some complications.

While shooting more shots per game could equate to more makes and, therefore, more points, it could, by the same logic, yield more missed shots as well. The Bucks aren’t a strong defensive team, nor have they been for the last four seasons or so, and those extra possessions for the opposition could kill the Bucks in the final stretch of games. Likewise, playing quickly can lead to more turnovers, creating further opportunities for opponents and hurting Milwaukee even further.

But, for now, the benefits seem to outeight the risks, and Antetokounmpo can cover up a lot of mistakes with the talent he possesses.

One game may seem like a small sample size to go on, but, if the Bucks can limit their offensive mishaps and defensive blunders, they have the chance to be a legitimate threat to win the Eastern Conference crown and, perhaps, the NBA title.

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NBA Daily: Kings Starters Show Promise Despite Loss

The end result may be the same as it has been every season in the past decade, but the Sacramento Kings have something brewing for the first time in a long time.

Spencer Davies

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The end result may be the same as it has been every season in the past decade, but the Sacramento Kings have something brewing for the first time in a long time.

Yes, a 25-9 lead was squandered and the game was lost to the Utah Jazz. Marvin Bagley III confusingly played fewer minutes than 14 of his fellow rookies in his NBA debut. They also forced more miscues than they committed, yet were still outscored 24-13 in points off of turnovers.

All of that makes it seem like Wednesday was the start to a long, frustrating season for the Kings, but don’t be so quick to judge. There was a ton of good to come out of the team’s season opener at the Golden 1 Center.

First off, what a night for Willie Cauley-Stein it was. He had the unenviable task of going head-to-head with Rudy Gobert, the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, to begin the fourth season of his career. We know that the 25-year-old isn’t necessarily a go-to scoring option, however, you wouldn’t have figured that to be the case if you watched the game.

Finishing with the third-most attempts for Sacramento, Cauley-Stein wasted no time and went right at Gobert when he touched the ball. Not once did he hesitate to put it on the floor, showing an improved, tighter handle on drives to the basket. Likely coming from film study, the 7-foot, 240-pound center excelled at using his body to get his shots up and over the “Stifle Tower” with great timing.

Cauley-Stein was determined to attack the paint all game long and showed no fear. He scored 19 of his 23 points with Gobert on the floor, including a thunderous alley-oop slam over the Frenchman following a screen-and-roll. To put the significance of this in perspective, his eight field goal makes are more than he’s had in each of the previous three seasons with Utah’s big man on the floor.

The Kings’ starters, in general, were especially solid, as all five players scored in double figures and had their squad’s best plus-minus ratings.

De’Aaron Fox swiped three steals, showed his playmaking skills and shared the love with his teammates, recording seven assists in addition to his 21 points. A candidate for a breakout year, Buddy Hield looked like the most comfortable player on the floor despite some lazy passes early, knocking down his signature off the dribble, mid-range fadeaways with ease.

Nemanja Bjelica used the threat of his outside shot to make his way to the basket for better looks and poured in 18 points. Starting at the wing, Yogi Ferrell held his own defensively against Donovan Mitchell and added a couple of threes to the mix as well.

Sacramento gave a double-digit led game away, but the players never gave in. During the fourth quarter, they got stops but just couldn’t seem to take advantage on the other side. It was the recurring theme of the night. The chances were there in transition. Now, they’ve got to work on completing those sequences and turning them into points.

Kings head coach Dave Joerger played essentially a nine-man rotation and got little out of his bench players. Justin Jackson struggled at the four spot and carved out 30 minutes of playing time in spite of it. Other than that, though, everybody in the second unit was on the floor for less than 17 minutes. It’s likely because of how well the starters performed, but they’ll need more out of those guys eventually.

There’s already a topic of discussion on the front of development vs. wins in Sacramento. Joerger’s addressed the matter with Bagley after the game and said it’s going to be hard to allocate minutes for a roster heavy with big men.

The counter-argument to that is simple—he’s the second overall pick of the draft. You have to find time for him, period. There should be no excuse not to regardless of who’s on the team. Don’t forget about Bagley being so talented that he re-classified to play with an age group above his own and still dominated as the ACC Player of the Year at Duke. He was a true freshman!

Aside from that whole debate, the Kings did not roll over and quit when they blew a 16-point lead and trailed by 14 soon after. In a game of runs, their young group hung in there and battled until the clock hit zero. Keep in mind this is a ballclub short of last year’s starting shooting guard still, too.

There may not be a whole lot of winning to come by in Sacramento—what with competing in the Pacific Division and Western Conference—but the season could be easier on the eyes if this is the type of effort they’re going to give on a nightly basis. Of course, we’ve got to be careful here since it’s only one game.

Even so, consider this writer in on “Kings SZN.”

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