Kings rookie Marvin Bagley III is becoming a problem for opposing teams. Taken with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, Sacramento has taken the cautious approach to bringing him along, but that is changing in his first professional season.
While he didn't move into the starting lineup, much to the chagrin of plenty of fans, Bagley is becoming the focal point of the Kings' offense when he does step on the floor. In Thursday night's close loss to the Warriors, he once again showed off his incredible talent.
"Marvin was tough, he came in aggressive," two-time league MVP Stephen Curry said. "Offensive rebounds, on the post he had some good possessions. He banks in a three, it's kind of his night. He's obviously been playing well as of late and showing why he is a top draft pick, so they got a good one there."
Bagley went at the Warriors bigs, including former NBA Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green. The only one who found a way to slow the 19-year-old big was superstar Kevin Durant.
With Bagley rolling, Warriors coach, Steve Kerr, turned to Durant to give Bagley a different look. Durant used his length and athleticism to make life extremely difficult for the rookie.
"That wasn't back and forth," Durant said after the game. "Five blocks to one rip move."
While he locked down Bagley, Durant still had plenty of praise for the Kings' young power forward.
"His foot is on the gas, he's not stopping," Durant said. "No assists? That's what I like to see. Especially off the bench. He's got to provide energy off the bench. 28 for him, that's the reason why they were in the game."
Durant and Bagley chatted throughout the night. There was even a point where it looked like the 10-time All-Star tried to show the rookie that he was bringing the ball too low on his post move.
"He's just helping me out and talking about the game," Bagley said of his conversations with the Warriors star. "We're both trying to win the game. They won, we came up short."
Bagley has found success in his limited opportunity to face off against the Warriors. He had a 20-point, 17-rebound performance the first time the two teams met. In the second matchup, he went down with a knee injury five minutes into the contest, which cost him 11 games from late December through early January.
In the final battle of the regular season between the NorCal rivals, Bagley started slowly in the first quarter. He found his footing in the second, exploding for 13 points to finish the half with a team-high 16 points.
He got low-post position against his defender, and called for the ball on multiple occasions. Once he got going, his teammates tossed him the rock and got out of the way.
"I told him in the second half, ‘don't stop, don't stop what you're doing. You're keeping us in the game, you're one of the reasons we have a big lead,'" Kings guard De'Aaron Fox said. "He just continues to grow. He's getting stronger. He's finishing through contact."
Bagley finished the evening with 28 points on 8-of-19 shooting from the field. He attacked the Warriors in the paint, which led to a career-high in both free-throw makes (11) and (14). In addition to the scoring, Bagley also ripped down 14 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.
Like the rest of the team, Bagley was frustrated with the loss. The Kings have taken the Warriors to the brink in all four games this season only to come up empty.
"I hate it, we have to figure out how to get over that hump," Bagley said about the Warriors sweeping the Kings. "We're right there, that's the positive thing about it, we've just got to keep growing."
We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg with Bagley. He continues to improve, and he gives the Kings a wrinkle they need moving forward.