The Sacramento Kings have traded for former No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker, sending disgruntled Dewayne Dedmon back to the Atlanta Hawks.
Dedmon played for Atlanta from 2017 until last season and had started in 10 of the 34 games he played for Sacramento this year, including all six of his most recent appearances. The Kings also received Alex Len (who has missed the last six games with a right hip strain) to replace the minutes Dedmon was playing.
Len is a seven-footer who started 31 games for Atlanta last season. However, much like their other newly-added frontcourt player Anthony Tolliver, the big is currently on an expiring contract and likely does not factor into their long-term plans. But when looking at their roster even with that in mind, the Kings have a surplus of players in the frontcourt, which is bad news for 21-year-old center Harry Giles.
This problem is temporarily softened by the current absences of Richaun Holmes and Marvin Bagley III, both of whom are out due to injury. Holmes has missed the past 13 games with a strained right shoulder. Bagley, meanwhile, will not be evaluated for another two weeks due to his mid-foot sprain.
Holmes, however, is expected to return to action on Friday and will be slotted back into the starting lineup. Once both he and Bagley return, Sacramento is going to have tough decisions on who will get playing time.
Parker (6-foot-9) is expected to play in the second unit as a scoring option off the bench. He has spent just two percent of his career minutes at the five, so it would be unlikely this happens often. However, he played the position for a career-high 11 percent of his time on the court while on the Hawks this year. When his three-point shot isn’t connecting, the five may actually be his most natural position due to floor spacing issues.
Nemanja Bjelica, who has spent six percent of his NBA minutes at center, is currently spending 14 percent of his time at center. It is worth noting that, according to Cleaning the Glass, the Kings have outscored opponents by 14.2 points per 100 possessions during those minutes. Their offensive rating when he has played center (123.7) is much higher than when Bjelica has been their power forward (108.2) in 2019-20.
But as noted by Yahoo’s Keith Smith, it is possible that the trade to land Parker could make Bjelica more expendable in return for an asset than he was before the trade deadline buzzer hits at 3:00 pm EST on Wednesday.
If they do end up holding on to Bjelica, he will obviously receive plenty of playing time. So, too, will both Bagley and Holmes. They will have to balance that with minutes they are also giving to Parker, Len, Tolliver and Harrison Barnes – who has started every game he has played since January 14, 2016. That leaves seven players who are going to want minutes in the frontcourt before even counting Giles.
This situation does not bode well for Giles, who surprisingly did not receive a qualifying offer from the Kings during the offseason. This means that the young center will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, allowing him to fully test the market.
But the timing of all this is unfortunate considering Giles has finally seemed to turn over a new leaf with his recent play. More time on the court would’ve given him more opportunity to show what he is capable of doing when he is healthy, which is something the basketball world has not seen much since he was the top-rated recruit in the nation coming out of high school in 2016.
During his recent game against the Los Angeles Lakers on February 1, for example, the big man was given just the fourth start of his professional career. Giles put up a season-high 16 points and connected on 7-of-8 field-goal attempts. He also grabbed 8 rebounds in just 16 minutes of action.
Yet his best skill is his passing, which is incredibly impressive for someone his size. Giles has an assist percentage (17.2 percent) ranks 92nd percentile among big men, per Cleaning the Glass.
Since they have handed the keys of their offense to De’Aaron Fox, they’ve also been a team that likes to play fast. Last season, their pace (103.9) ranked third-best in the NBA. But this year, that mark has fallen considerably (98.6) and they rank No. 25 in the league, second-worst in the Western Conference.
Quite a bit of that problem in that regard is their personnel in the frontcourt. Their pace when Dedmon (99.7) and Holmes (98.2) have been on the court has been significantly slower than the ideal version of what the Kings should look like. Their pace with Giles (102.4) is far closer to what Sacramento head coach Luke Walton, who ran a fast-tempo offense with the Lakers, wants to see from his offense.
What is most perplexing is that Giles actually fits this style of play better than any other big on their roster does. The Kings have played at an incredibly fast pace (107.4) when Fox and Giles have been on the court at the same time. Among Sacramento’s various two-man lineups that have been on the floor for at least 90 minutes so far this season, that combination has by far been their fastest.
Giles has averaged 19.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per 36 minutes when playing alongside Fox. That is highlighted by this absurdly awesome alley-oop off a pass from the point guard against the Lakers, embedded above.
According to league insider Zach Lowe, it is possible that the Kings get some kind of asset back for Giles before the deadline passes (via ESPN):
“Keep an eye on Harry Giles III. Sacramento declined his third-year option for next season – a bizarre decision, even given Giles’ spotty health record – and a few teams have poked around, sources say.”
For the sake of his development, one would hope that such a suitor would emerge so that Giles can finally show what he is capable of on an NBA team.
If nothing else, his passing skills alone can make him a valuable option in the frontcourt as a role player in a rotation. Giles is just 21 years old and though his professional career did not get off to an ideal start, there should be plenty of interest from front offices either now or when he becomes a free agent.
Meanwhile, after spending three seasons waiting for him to become a viable option, the Kings may lose Giles right before he is ready to take that leap.
Basketball, DunkWire, Kings, NBA, Alex Len, Anthony Tolliver, De'Aaron Fox, Dewayne Dedmon, Harrison Barnes, Harry Giles, Jabari Parker, Luke Walton, Marvin Bagley III, Nemanji Bjelica, Richaun Holmes, Sacramento Kings