On Friday, Memphis will play host to the Sacramento Kings and their fast paced squad of young guns who have put together an impressive run through the first month of games. They are full of youth and excitement, including an elite draft pick from this past summer, a maturing point guard, and an ever-improving sharpshooter. This Sacramento team stunned the Grizzlies out West a few weeks ago and Memphis looks to retaliate on their home floor.
At what point did you realize that this year’s Kings team could be for real and has a higher ceiling than initially projected?
I would say around their second or third game of the season. Their record was bad, 0-3, but the way they played was different than their teams in the past. The front office of the organization talked about wanting to play a faster and more exciting offense, and they did exactly that and are still doing it. With the athletes they have, they have developed into a dynamic offense that some NBA teams are not ready for.
What role players have exceeded expectations this season?
I would definitely say Nemanja Bjelica. With Minnesota, he was a solid role player, so that was what I assumed he would be before the season began. But so far he has been surreal. He has been playing like the ideal stretch four that the Kings have been needing for quite some time so his play has definitely elevated the team collectively.
Much of the Kings’ success has come from the ability to push the pace, which is a category they lead the league in currently. With Memphis executing the opposite style of play, does this present an issue?
They possibly can, but I believe if the Kings play their game, they should be alright. They need De’Aaron Fox and the other facilitators on the team to push the tempo. I believe if successful, they can force issues for the Grizzlies as they would be playing out of their element. Also, defensive stops by Sacramento is going to be key. The Kings cannot push the pace unless they get stops.
Willie Cauley-Stein seems to be growing a lot this season in his 4th year in the league. How much has his development opened things up for other players on this roster?
For the case of Willie, the problem in the past has been that he tries to do everything on the court. He was the jack of all trades, but master of none. This season, Willie is more focused on certain aspects of the game, specifically the ones that compliment his skill set like scoring inside the paint, passing the ball on the top of the key, and rebounding. So with that, it opens up others teammates to play their particular roles too. It seems like every guy in Sacramento knows their role and is focusing on mastering it the best they can.
Does Buddy Hield have any chill? Every year he also keeps improving.
Yes, Buddy Hield has been one of the powerhouse scorers for the Kings this season. The reason for it, in my opinion, is that the Kings are playing faster which is suiting Buddy well. I have always thought that Buddy was a great shooter, but his numbers never really showed it because the Kings were playing too slow in the past. Now that they have increased the tempo, it has given not just Buddy, but other players, more opportunities to get open shots which is Hield’s bread and butter.
How do fans feel about Marvin Bagley III, the second overall pick of this past summer’s draft, coming off the bench? Has this helped or hurt his development in your opinion?
Obviously, most Kings fans wanted their team to draft Luka Doncic when the draft was in session. But with that said, there was no hate towards Marvin Bagley III. I felt most Kings fans thought Bagley would be good, just not as good as Doncic. So far this season, Bagley has been a pleasant surprise. He did not play well during the summer league and preseason games, so the assumption was that it would take time for Bagley to be effective. But that has not been the case. What is most impressive about Bagley is that he is a legit student of the game. It seems like he is getting more comfortable and better by the night. To witness this consistent pattern has definitely had the Kings, their fans, and myself happy that he is repping purple.
Feature Image: [SI]