Nobody expected the Kings to compete for the playoffs this season. Anyone even predicting that the team would have a chance to finish with 31 wins, something that they’ve already accomplished with over a month remaining, would’ve been seen as foolishly-optimistic at best. A better-than-expected start had the team seemingly in the hunt to at least sniff the postseason, but even then it didn’t seem all that likely.

    The reality now is that while Sacramento is still just a game and a half out of the playoffs in late February, and those early-season hopes are seeming less foolish by the day. It’s also true that staying the course wouldn’t have been enough, and the Kings wouldn’t be anywhere near contending for one of the final playoff spots if it weren’t for some much-improved play from their bench, most of which can be credited to the development of Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley.

    Both Giles and Bagley were given an opportunity to earn regular rotation minutes to start the season, but neither truly grabbed hold of a spot the way that coaching staff had clearly hoped. Giles quickly found himself riding the bench, and eventually in the G-League, and while Bagley was able to retain a spot, he was inconsistent and not a featured part of the team most nights. Bagley was beginning to show signs of a breakout in December, but a bone bruise in a game against the Warriors sidelined him for the rest of the month. At this point, the team was forced into full reliance on Willie Cauley-Stein, Nemanja Bjelica and Kosta Koufos.

    All three of those players are veterans that should be capable of at least playing well enough to fill in while the two rookies were ready to go, but none are an ideal fit. Willie Cauley-Stein certainly fits the mold of the type of center that you’d want in a system that prioritizes playing in transition and that regularly works out of the high post, but his inconsistency and lack of rebounding made it difficult to ask him to play 30+ minutes every night. Bjelica and Koufos weren’t good fits in the system, and while they were able to provide a stable presence when the team needed it, players like that are best served in more sporadic roles.

    Bagley returned to the team on January 7th, and since then both he and Giles have been regular members of the team’s rotation. That date also marks the beginning of the Kings’ best stretch this season that saw them go 12-8, tied for the 10th best mark of any team during that time period.

    Some of the improvement can be chalked up to Buddy Hield, who has been as hot as any player in the league in 2019, but Bagley and Giles’ play off the bench has kept the team from squandering leads that the starters had built, and in some cases has even bailed the team out after a rough start.

    Sacramento was able to start the year far better than expected, but the bench still seemed to be holding them back. Bogdan Bogdanovic provided a spark when the team needed it, but this wasn’t enough to mask the team’s lack of depth. Kosta Koufos was completely unable to fit in with the team’s offense, and without a true go-to scorer outside of Bogdanovic, the offense could completely stagnate until coach Joerger mercifully brought in De’Aaron Fox of Buddy Hield.

    Over the last month, Bagley has not only filled the need for scoring off the bench, he has excelled as the that unit’s number one option. This has effectively taken a stretch during games where the team just hopes to get enough production to stay competitive, and turned it into a group that actually has a chance to bring the team back into games that they couldn’t have competed in previously.

    Giles’ contribution has been more poorly-defined and inconsistent, but his energy on both ends of the floor has given teams trouble. No other player on the roster can fill Cauley-Stein’s role as a facilitator out of the high post like Giles can, and while he can get into foul trouble quickly, his activity on defense has given the team a much-needed spark on more than one occasion.

    The starters didn’t have the same problems as the bench, but Cauley-Stein’s inconsistent effort and the regular exploitation of Bejlica’s defense proved to be too much to overcome some nights. Neither Giles nor Bagley has taken the starting role from Cauley-Stein, but their emergence has allowed the team to limit his minutes in games when he’s not providing the contributions that they need, and has also led to Bjelica being played out of the rotation over the last two games.

    It’s hard to imagine the Kings having much of a shot at the playoffs if Giles and Bagley were still playing the way they did to start the season. There have been too many games that the team’s bench wouldn’t have been able to save them, and too many more where the bench would’ve squandered the lead. De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield will need to continue to be the driving force behind this team’s success during this final stretch, but continued development from Bagley and Giles could be what pushes Sacramento over the edge into the playoffs.

Fantasy News

  • TJ Warren - F - Phoenix Suns

    Speaking to reporters in New Orleans, T.J. Warren made it clear that he wants to play before the season ends.

    Warren has missed the last 22 consecutive games with what Phoenix has called right ankle soreness. He had a right foot fracture in late January of 2016 that required surgery and cut his second NBA season short as he only played in 47 games. He then played 66 and 65 games the next two seasons, respectively, but he’s only played 43 games this year, knocking down a career-high 42.8 percent of his 3-pointers after shooting a career-low 22.2 percent last season. The Suns now have only 10 games remaining for the season and Warren hasn’t returned to practice yet so hopefully you have moved on from him.

    Source: Arizona Central

  • Deyonta Davis - C - Atlanta Hawks

    The Hawks are signing center Deyonta Davis of G League’s Santa Cruz Warriors to a 10-day contract.

    With Tyler Zeller’s deal expiring, the Hawks were looking for some extra frontcourt help due to injuries to Omari Spellman, Alex Poythress and Miles Plumlee. Davis is averaging 9.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in 43 contests with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the G League and he is just 22 years old.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • CJ McCollum - G - Trail Blazers

    Speaking to reporters on Monday, Damian Lillard said that he wants for C.J. McCollum to be himself when he comes back and that he is prepared to finish the regular season without him.

    This is just speculation on Dame’s part but it gives us a good perspective about McCollum’s injury and how he really was able to dodge a bullet. Jack Layman started on Monday but he fell short of any meaningful production while Rodney Hood and Seth Curry were able to carry some of the offensive burden for the Blazers. With McCollum expected to be evaluated in about a week from now it’s really up in the air if he will be able to come back and help fantasy owners.

    Source: Joe Freeman on Twitter

  • Cody Zeller - F/C - Charlotte Hornets

    Cody Zeller has officially been ruled out for the game against the Sixers tonight.

    Zeller is going to miss his fourth consecutive game making him a tough hold in standard leagues unless you can stash him in an IR spot. Bismack Biyombo should continue to start while Frank Kaminsky has been a nice late-season surprise after spending most of the year buried in Charlotte’s bench.

    Source: Hornets PR on Twitter

  • Damian Lillard - G - Trail Blazers

    Damian Lillard led the Blazers to a 106-98 win over the Pacers on Monday with 30 points on 9-of-16 shooting while adding 15 assists, two rebounds, three steals, a block and four 3-pointers.

    With C.J. McCollum out for the rest of the week we can expect a lot of Dame Time going forward. Lillard drained shots from all over the floor, including a 3-pointer at nearly half court, and was dishing clean dimes to his teammates in the pick-and-roll all game. He logged 40 minutes and controlled the game the entire time he was on the floor and is going to have himself a big week.

  • Maurice Harkless - F - Trail Blazers

    Maurice Harkless scored 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting while adding five rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks and a 3-pointer on Monday.

    Harkless came up big for Portland on the defensive end tonight and props to you if you streamed him. The Blazers play again on Wednesday and Sunday so it'll be hard to incorporate him as a streamer.

  • Jusuf Nurkic - C - Trail Blazers

    Jusuf Nurkic double-doubled on Monday before fouling out with 18 points and 11 boards to go with two assists.

    He fouled out on a questionable offensive foul while setting a screen against Wesley Matthews, but was able to provide owners with a solid line before exiting Monday's game. Nurkic destroyed the offensive glass tonight for the Blazers and his high activity on that end kept the Blazers in the game when their offense was stalling. He's been a top-40 player over the past month and it looks like he's going to finish the season strong.

  • Jake Layman - F - Trail Blazers

    Jake Layman started on Monday, but laid an egg, scoring zero points on 0-of-5 shooting with three rebounds.

    Layman drew the start, but put up a dud in the first half and didn't see much action in the second half. Rodney Hood (24 minutes with 11 points, one triple, one rebound, two assists, two steals and a block) and Seth Curry (25 minutes with 11 points, three triples, a rebound, an assist and a steal) took his minutes to close out the game but neither are attractive fantasy options.

  • Rodney Hood - G - Trail Blazers

    Rodney Hood started the second half on Monday and scored 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting while adding a rebound, two assists, two steals, a block and a 3-pointer.

    Hood started the second half in place of Jake Layman and produced a solid line, but we're skeptical on his ability to repeat this in the Blazers' next two games. Portland has many capable options at the wing spot so replacing C.J. McCollum's (knee strain) production will be more of a committee approach.

  • Myles Turner - F/C - Indiana Pacers

    Myles Turner led the Pacers in scoring on Monday with 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting while adding 10 rebounds, an assist, two steals and two 3-pointers.

    Turner had the hot hand early for the Pacers tonight as he was hitting what seemed like every jump shot he took. 13 of his 28 points were scored in the first quarter and although his offense was on point, he blocked zero shots tonight. He had what looked like a clean block on Damian Lillard's 3-point attempt late in the fourth quarter which was called a foul, but the bright side is that owners only have to wait until tomorrow for Turner to swat some shots.