How Kings must quickly adapt with Marvin Bagley missing significant time


SACRAMENTO -- If Wednesday night’s blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns was a gut check, what exactly would one consider Thursday’s Marvin Bagley injury news?

Sacramento’s prized big man is on the shelf for four to six weeks after an MRI revealed a non-displaced fracture of the right thumb. A league source confirmed to NBC Sports California that the injury is not expected to need surgery.

Bagley was injured in the fourth quarter with the game completely out of hand. According to head coach Luke Walton, someone tried to strip the ball from the Kings’ starting power forward and came down on his thumb.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Walton said. “He’s been making a lot of progress in the short amount of time we’ve been together. It will be up to him to make sure he’s still getting his conditioning in and learning what we’re doing so when he’s back and cleared that he’s ready to get right back in the mix of things.”  

The initial concern coming out of the game was not on Bagley, but on the Kings’ starting backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Fox banged knees with Deandre Ayton, but was able to practice on Thursday. 

Ayton stepped on Hield’s foot in the fourth and he missed practice on Thursday. He is listed as day-to-day, but he was on the court shooting while both Walton and Fox spoke.

Bagley’s absence is a huge blow for the Kings. Despite being just 20-years-old, he is the Kings’ most effective interior scorer and one of the best rebounders on the club.

“It’s definitely big, he’s a double-double guy,” Fox said. “He could have a bad game and still walk out with a double-double. You know what you get from Marv. That’s a lot of points, a lot of rebounds that go off the board.”

General manager Vlade Divac stocked up during the offseason, giving Walton plenty of options to work with. Walton’s initial instinct is to go with Nemanja Bjelica, who started 70 games at power forward for the Kings last season.

“That’s one of the advantages to having a deep team now,” Walton said. “We talk about it every year that it’s going to happen. Normally it doesn’t happen in the first game of the season, but guys are going to have to be ready to go and to step up. Roles will change a little bit, but we’ve got to be ready to handle that.”

Bjelica played very well during stretches last season, but he isn’t the only option Walton has. 

Harrison Barnes played almost exclusively as a stretch four for the Dallas Mavericks last season. He could easily shift over to the power spot in a small ball line-up for Walton. That move would also open up more time for both Bogdan Bogdanovic and Trevor Ariza at the three.

Walton could also go big and look to Richaun Holmes in a two-big system alongside Dewayne Dedmon. Holmes is very good in the pick-and-roll, which would allow Dedmon to play more on the perimeter like he has when paired with Bagley.

“It’s the regular season now,” Fox said. “You’ve got to keep pushing, whether a guy is playing or not. That’s why you have a team. One guy goes down, someone else steps up. That’s what teams do.”

The Kings have a player on the mend that could fill the void in the very near future. After playing three-on-three following shootaround on Wednesday, Harry Giles returned to practice on Thursday after being shutdown at the beginning of training camp with a sore left knee.

Giles’ injury has been a mystery around Sacramento. The 21-year-old showed tremendous promise last season after red-shirting his first year with the Kings. He averaged 7.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 14.1 minutes per game over 58 games, but missed the last few weeks of the season with a thigh bruise.

It’s unclear what kind of shape Giles is in at this point. He’s missed a lot of time with a new coaching staff, but he’s versatile enough to play either power forward or center in the Kings system.

“We aren’t going to speed that up because someone else got hurt,” Walton said of Giles’ return. “We’re going to make sure that Harry is healthy and when he’s healthy, we’ll start getting him out there on the floor.”

While Giles is getting closer to a return, he still is a week or more away from a return and he still needs to get comfortable in the Kings’ new offensive and defensive schemes. Losing Bagley is not good news for Sacramento, but it might give Giles a way back into the rotation, at least in the short-term.

None of this is an ideal situation. The Kings were hoping for Bagley to join Fox and Hield as the team’s third major scoring option this season, but injuries are part of the game. 

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Bagley missed 20 games with two separate knee injuries in his rookie campaign last year. Despite the injury, he should be able to keep in shape and be a part of the non-contact portion of practice over the next few weeks. Once the thumb heals, integrating him back into the rotation shouldn’t take long.

This isn’t the way anyone envisioned the first week of the season going to the Kings, but this their new reality. The games stop for no one. Next up, the Portland Trail Blazers Friday evening at Golden 1 Center. 

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