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Mid-season Player Grades: Forwards

The crew gathered together to grade the forwards.

The Sacramento Kings are halfway through their rollercoaster of a season, and we've gathered the crew together to go through some player and coaching staff grades. Yesterday, we covered the guards, today, we'll be taking a look at the forwards, and tomorrow's piece will take on the centers and the coaching staff. Let's dive right in!

Harrison Barnes


Tim
: B+

Harrison Barnes has played a pretty satisfying season of basketball, even for a guy who's clearly overpaid. He's averaging the most points per game since the 2017-2018 season, and his shooting has been on point as well, as the veteran wing is knocking down 39.2% of his long-balls on over four attempts per game. I've also enjoyed the new ways in which Luke Walton has used Barnes (I know, shocking). Harrison is driving more than last year, increasing his dives into the paint from 6.1 per game in 2019 to 8.2 this year, and that's led to a more effective overall offensive game. Defensively, HB isn't necessarily going to win you games or completely shutdown an opposing player, but he's also not going to kill you on that end of the floor either. He's been solid, as always.

Brenden: A-

Last season, Harrison Barnes' contract was looked at as a negative asset by most people, even though I thought it was only a slightly reasonable overpay at the time. Now, it seems like the Barnes deal is considered fair as he is in the midst of his best season as a pro. He is posting a career-high in eFG% (56.7 percent), rebounds (6.1), and assists (3.6) along with 16.7 points while averaging the most minutes per night (35.7) on Sacramento's roster.

On top of that, most of what he is doing feels sustainable. While the shot has gone cold at times this season, he remains able to get to the rim, post-up or run a pick-and-roll in a pinch, and has hit clutch shots for this team. Not to mention that he is one of the few good defenders on this roster and especially valuable that he is 6'8€. While his effort level on that end of the floor has varied at times, he is far from alone in that and there is good reason that playoff teams are looking at Barnes to be a difference maker on their roster this trade deadline.

Tony: A

This grade may seem high, but I'm grading Harrison Barnes based off my expectations heading into the season. I was a non-believer. I didn't love the Barnes contract when Vlade re-signed him. I thought it was an overpay. I thought the Kings negotiated against themselves. I thought they were going to be stuck with a bad contract for a lot of years. Barnes has proven me quite wrong this season, and I'm thrilled. He's been fantastic in a lot of areas, but I want to point out the progress he's made as a passer this season. Barnes is averaging a career-high 3.6 assists-per-game in 2020-21. His previous career-high was 2.2 APG.

Barnes graded below average in assist-to-usage ratio for his entire career until this season where he now ranks in the 74th percentile among NBA forwards. Simply put, Harrison Barnes is having the best year of his career. He went from having neutral or potentially negative trade value this past offseason to a real asset for the Kings in just a few months as we approach the March 25 trade deadline. My only hope from here is that Monte McNair takes advantage of Barnes' all-time value high, and the Kings land a few nice young assets for him while he goes and helps a real playoff contender for his remaining prime years.

Greg: A

Harrison Barnes is having the best season of his career. He doesn't need to be the focal point of an offense to be productive, he's a solid-if-unspectacular defender, he's a great veteran leader, and doesn't have a major weakness in his game. There's a reason he's being pursued by playoff teams at the deadline.

Marvin Bagley


Tim
: C-

Of all of the players we're going to grade or have graded, Bagley probably presents the largest challenge for must of us. Let's start with the good. His three-point shot seems to be the real deal, as he's up to 37% on almost three attempts per game on the season, a development not many saw coming, at least this quickly. Bagley's also a pretty good rebounder. He ranks in the 90th percentile in offensive rebounding percentage, defensive rebounding percentage, and overall defensive rebounding percentage - not too shabby.

Then, there's the bad. Outside of his three-point shooting, Bagley has been horrific in scoring efficiency this season. According to Cleaning the Glass, he ranks in the 33rd percentile in effective field goal percentage, 48th in shooting at the rim, and 36th in midrange effectiveness among bigs. For those who are a fan of his post game, Marvin is scoring just 0.74 points per possession, which puts wayyy at the bottom of the league among players who still operate down low.

The defense is also bad, and although it's theoretically improving, going from the worst in the league to one of the worst in the league isn't enough progress for this infantile giraffe. Bagley ranks bottom-5 in the league in overall defensive field goal percentage differential, while he's the second-worst in the NBA in rim defense, as his opponents shoot over 70% at the rim, 9% better than their typical average.

Marvin Bagley is improving, but I don't know if it's quick or substantial enough to make him a part of this team's future.

Brenden: C+

The main positive for Marvin Bagley is that he has been able to stay healthy after only playing 13 games in his second season. His offensive numbers appear shockingly impressive with shooting splits of 50.0/37.0/52.9 - outside of the atrocious free-throw shooting. Coming into the season, I was unsure if Bagley would be able to perform as a cog in the offense rather than having everything run through him and he has shown a clear ability to do just that. I wish that we were able to see him as the roll-man on offense paired alongside De'Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton, but still.

Yet, I still feel like Marvin Bagley is a negative during nearly all of his minutes on the floor because of just how horrible he is defensively. With his improved shooting, Luke Walton and Sacramento's coaching staff seems comfortable playing the big man alongside Richaun Holmes or even Hassan Whiteside but recently have played him at the five. There has been minimal growth at either position, and he has a real case for being the worst defender on the worst defense of all time. Harrison Barnes has been visibly frustrated with him. De'Aaron Fox talked about the team needing to box out which seemed directed towards Bagley along with others.

Tony: C+

If you asked me for a Marvin Bagley grade a month ago I would have been far more harsh, but I think we're maybe (hopefully) starting to see some offensive progress here. Let's go over his last 12 games. I'm choosing the last 12 because he's played more than 20 MPG in all of them. Ok:

Over the last 12 games Marvin Bagley is playing 27.9 MPG and averaging 17 PPG, 8.1 REB, 1.1 AST, 0.6 STL, 0.4 BLK, 1.0 TOV, and 2.0 PF while shooting .548 FG% from the field and .387 3P% from three, with 60% free throw shooting on 3.3 FTA.

Bagley's defense is still a mess, but I'm seeing some efficient scoring and a developing outside shot. From the eye test, he looks more confident in his scoring, too. We're seeing less thinking, less 5 second post-ups, and more quick decision making. I still don't know what Bagley's NBA career looks like, but this is as optimistic as I've been on him in a while. Admittedly, that's not saying much, but I'm encouraged about his recent play.

Greg: C

If we were grading just on the offensive side of the ball, I'd consider a high B for Bagley. The development of his three point shot has been a welcome surprise, and Marvin scores and rebounds in bunches when he's on the floor. He's also managed to be on the floor, missing minimal time to injuries. His defense, however, keeps my excitement in check. He's abysmal on defense, and lacks some basic fundamentals necessary to ever be serviceable.

Nemanja Bjelica


Tim
: C

Nemanja Bjelica's per-game numbers haven't exactly been awe-inspiring this season. He's sitting at just 8.5 points and 4.2 boards per game, while only knocking down 33% of his attempts from deep, but Bjelly has also never been given the chance to establish any sort of rhythm. According to an interview with Sam Amick on The Drive with Carmichael Dave, Bjelica was benched early in the season because the team wanted to develop Marvin Bagley. And despite going from team starter to a DNP-CD almost every night, Bjelica stayed ready over the last few months, as evidenced by his play during the Kings recent injury-riddled stretch. Nemanja may not have played terrifically in his time on the floor, but his professionalism and readiness have earned my respect over the first half of the season.

Brenden: Incomplete

The recent reporting revolving around Nemanja Bjelica clarified the reasoning for mixed reporting on why he did not play a large majority of the first half of the season but his on-court play has still remained spotty. He seems to be the same player as last season, and that should lead to Sacramento getting a small return for him at the trade deadline but he has been a non-impact player for the Kings this season.

Tony: D

Nemanja Bjelica is having one of the more bizarre seasons I can remember, but I think we've got enough playing time here to grade, and I don't think it's been very good. He's playing under uncomfortable and inconsistent circumstances, but the numbers are what they are. You need Bjelica to space the floor with efficiency and he hasn't done that this year. His defense isn't good, and the Kings probably regret not trading him in the offseason when he may have had some value.

Greg: D

I disagree with giving Bjelica an Incomplete grade, as he's appeared in 19 of 36 games and is averaging 18 minutes per game in those appearances. I think that's plenty of time to evaluate the season so far, and it's hard to be anything but disappointed. Bjelica is still scoring for the Kings, averaging 16.9 points per 36 minutes (a career high), but Bjelica's primary value is his three point shooting. Bjelly is shooting just 33% from 3, which isn't good enough for your stretch four. His defense remains a liability as it always has, but the offensive production hasn't been enough to balance it out for me.

DaQuan Jeffries


Tim
: Incomplete

The fanbase was quite excited that Monte McNair decided to keep DaQuan Jeffries around this fall, but an early-season injury really derailed his first full year in the league, leading to an incomplete grade from me. Jeffries is a defense-first wing, of which the Kings have seen very few of over the years, and his three-point shot has been solid, if unspectacular, at 33%. If DaQuan can continue to develop that outside shot, he's got a real shot at evolving into a legitimate NBA bench contributor for Sacramento.

Brenden: C+

A grade three ankle sprain kept DaQuan Jeffires sidelined for the first 24 games of Sacramento's season and he has only seen about 12 minutes a night since then aside from an outlier 39 minute night. In that game, he sank 6/7 from beyond the arc and I think that is the one area that I skeptically say you can see improvement in his game. The shot looks more comfortable and smooth from DQJ and his energy on defense remains as usual.

I look forward to him getting more run in the second half of the season with Glenn Robinson III gone and the potential trades involving Buddy Hield or Harrison Barnes. Side note: I just learned that DaQuan Jeffries was the 2019 NCAA dunk champion and he 100% should join the contest at some point in the future.

Tony: C

I'm intrigued by DaQuan Jeffries but I'd be lying if I didn't wish his production was a bit better. I want to see more, though, because I like his athleticism, I like his competitiveness, I like his strength, and I like his potential as a role player. We just haven't seen enough good basketball yet.

Greg: Incomplete

There are flashes that make me excited about DQJ's game, particularly on defense. He's been up and down on offense in limited minutes and limited games. I considered a C grade, but I don't think we've seen enough to fully evaluate Jeffries yet for this year.

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SacReligious
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March 9, 2021 12:45 pm

Looking at his game, it’s hard to believe that Marvin Bagley’s father was a basketball coach.

RikSmits
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March 9, 2021 1:13 pm
Reply to  SacReligious

At a level high enough to be accepted by Kayte?

RORDOG
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March 9, 2021 3:09 pm
Reply to  SacReligious

Bagley’s grandpa was an all star and second team all defense when he played for Atlanta in 1969

richie88
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March 10, 2021 12:41 am
Reply to  RORDOG

That says he was a 2x NBA All-Star & a 2x ABA All-Star. I wonder how much influence Bagley’s grandpa had on him.

andy_sims
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March 9, 2021 1:03 pm

Barnes really has been excellent this season. As Greg said, the fact that he manages to be productive while rarely being the focus of the offense is a tremendously valuable commodity. He’s such a great role model for his teammates, both on and off the floor. It makes sense to trade him for the right deal, but I’ll be sad to see him leave the team, and the city. Harrison Barnes is a mensch.

The C+ seems fair for Bagley, real improvements on offense, less so on defense. I believe that he will improve that aspect of his game, and his team will need a solid interior backstop playing behind him until he does.

Bjelica has been pretty terrible, especially to start the season. It was just clank after clank, and I think that has to do with the shortened training camp period. I don’t think that it’s a stretch to posit that he’s a guy that needs that time to play himself into shape, and this year he had to do it in games that count. It went poorly. Add to that the revelations that he’s been bitching about his station in life, if he doesn’t understand why the organization prioritizes Bagley over him, I really don’t know what to say.

DaQuan looks like a strong safety that could take two steps and fly away into the sky. It’s too early to know what kind of player he can be, but he doesn’t seem to be afraid of doing the necessary work. He definitely ought to get regular minutes going forward this season.

murraytant
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March 9, 2021 1:19 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

A “C” is meet pre-season expectations
Barnes B+
Bagley C
Belly D
Jeffries C-

How about announcers?
Mark Jones A
Kyle Draper C –
Katye B
Doug C +

Kosta
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March 9, 2021 1:25 pm
Reply to  murraytant

I think I have to give Slamson an incomplete. Has anyone seen him this season?

He must be lion around here somewhere…

ZillersCat
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March 9, 2021 2:24 pm
Reply to  Kosta

Not even wearing a mask!
comment image

Ialmostmissthemaloofs
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March 9, 2021 1:49 pm
Reply to  murraytant

Not sure I can get with your grading curve. So… you are terrible… but I expect you to be terrible because you have always been terrible and that’s just your performance level…. so I give you a passing grade because you met my expectation of sucking?
Not sure that is a great model. Not how my school worked at all. There was a standard that had to be met, and you got graded against the standard. That’s how it should go (to me at least. YMMV and all that PC disclaimer stuff.)

And…
DC the basketball player from 2002? A- Dude was legit awesome on D.
DC the announcer? D- for me. I just do not like his act. Too goofy. I can’t take him seriously. I’ll bet I’d like in him person though. I like his personality… just not on radio or TV. He is more suited for Japanese game shows than sports announcing in my book.

Katye… F. WAAAAY too much of a homer for me.
The others… meh. They just don’t stand out to me in any meaningful way. I actually kind of don’t listen to them I guess?

andy_sims
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March 9, 2021 3:06 pm
Reply to  murraytant

I think that there are significant holes in Jones’ announcing game.

It seems like he’s working extra-hard to find himself a catchphrase, and combined with DC’s similar ongoing quest, there are just a lot of repeats in hope that something will stick. Napear had a couple, of course, but they seemed to have been established before I started watching twenty years ago. As ever, Chris Berman has ruined two generations of sports announcers and reporters.

On numerous occasions this season, a foul, or even technical foul is called, and neither guy establishes who it was on, and when they do, they often don’t provide any explanation for the call. It’s just “technical foul, play on.” It’s frustrating as a viewer.

I am a big fan of DC’s ability to spot and explain some of the subtle nuances of the game, such as when a player has a tell, or small adjustments that could be utilized by a player to make him more successful. That’s real experience that you can only get by playing at the highest levels, and he conveys it so that dopes like me can understand. I wish the head coach had the same level of perception.

Kayte has the unfortunate fallback of “If you’d played the game, you’d understand,” which is exhausting with ex-jocks. It’s lazy, and to me, it’s an admission that your argument has died on the table, and your back is to the wall. Chris Collinsworth used to do this on WLW in Cincinnati before he was put on TV to ruin our lives. Fortunately, Kayte doesn’t break this out too often, and she redeems it by bringing phenomenal analysis and breakdowns of plays and games.

Kyle hasn’t made much of an impression on me so far, but he seems serviceable in his role. It’s difficult for me to not contrast him with Koz, who is so damned likable, and seems to have excellent chemistry with anyone he’s with. I’ve not met him, but I worked with a number of people that had dealings with him, and every one of them had nothing but good things to say about what a great guy he is. That’s really tough to manage in broadcasting. Hopefully as Draper gets acclimated, he’ll be able to inject some personality into the work, and come off less generic.

TheGrantNapear
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March 9, 2021 4:25 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

The announcing crew is horrendous. Draper is passable.
Kayte is insufferable.

Carl
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March 10, 2021 4:03 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

Username checks out.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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March 9, 2021 1:46 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

To your point on Barnes, I think that is why there are teams that want him. He plays within himself, doesn’t really have any weaknesses, and does a damn fine job being third or 4th fiddle. That kind of role in G.S. got him paid in Dallas. In Boston he’d likely defer to Tatum, Brown and Walker while making the team all around better.

RikSmits
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March 9, 2021 1:12 pm

I ask again, on what basis are you guys grading? DQJ getting overall higher grades than Bjelica requires some explanation on what the benchmark is.

Kosta
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March 9, 2021 1:14 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Not sure, but probably grading on a curve. Otherwise a lot of this roster would be held back a year.

RORDOG
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March 9, 2021 1:18 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

they need to bring back the KANGZ scoring system to ensure integrity in their fake grades they discuss to pass the time during the all star break.

Greg
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March 9, 2021 1:40 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Grades are all arbitrary and determined by the individual grader, but generally speaking it’s going to be relative to each person’s initial expectations.

TonyXypteras
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March 9, 2021 1:53 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

I’ll just speak for myself but I’m taking a little bit of everything from expectations to contract to value to role to play into account.

So DQJ higher than Bjelica for me is based on the fact that I have higher expectations for Bjelica. He’s a veteran with two good years in Sacramento under his belt, and is being paid accordingly. DQJ is essentially a minimum contract flier where no minutes for him were really guaranteed with GRIII around, so for both of those players, it’s kind of a different scale.

Kosta
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March 9, 2021 1:16 pm

That second Bagley defensive highlight gives me the same feeling as when I saw the Papagiannis highlight of him backing a guy into the paint, and then flipping the ball towards the basket without even turning his body or looking, as if he were doing a trick shot.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kosta
andy_sims
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March 9, 2021 3:07 pm
Reply to  Kosta

Chicks dig the trick shot.

LandParkJimmer
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March 9, 2021 1:46 pm

Before the season started, I would’ve traded him a 2nd round pick. Now, I feel much different. In my opinion, he’s shown that he’s worth trying to develop another couple seasons. Still think he sucks right now but he’s improving quicker than I would’ve thought so maybe roll the dice on him.

TheGrantNapear
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March 9, 2021 4:26 pm
Reply to  LandParkJimmer

Who is him?

RORDOG
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March 9, 2021 1:53 pm

On the trade front, CD hinted on the show earlier that there has been at least some whispers about a possible Bagley/John Collins trade. He even went as far as to say that Simmons/Rusillo have heard the same whispers when they brought up the trade possibility recently.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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March 9, 2021 1:59 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

Please let that happen. I’d have no problem paying Collins this summer if it meant the Kings could move on form Bagley’s deal and his uncertain future.

Hawks would need to send more salary and the Kings may need to sweeten the deal a bit. Maybe add some 2nd round picks?

Collins and Solomon Hill for Bagley and two 2nd rounders works for me.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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March 9, 2021 2:06 pm
Reply to  BabyGiraffe

You got some ideas?

Adamsite
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March 9, 2021 2:24 pm
Reply to  BabyGiraffe

Is giving up Barnes and Bagley for what amounts to Collins to much to give up for the Kings?

Collins is going to want and will have the leverage for an overpay here in Sac. There would be no way the Kings would let him leave after giving up that, and his agent will know it.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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March 9, 2021 2:31 pm
Reply to  BabyGiraffe

Here is my spitballed version, but I also move Buddy:

Sac: Collins, Snell, Gallo, Huerter
Boston: Barnes
ATL: Bagley, Buddy, Nesmith, Boston 2021 1st.

Kings eat Gallo’s deal but his third year is unguaranteed. Kings get out of Buddy, Barnes, and Bagley’s deals all at once. Kings go all in on Collins and Huerter (whom I love). I’d like a Fox, Hali, Huerter backcourt

andy_sims
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March 9, 2021 3:19 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Gallo has been pretty good for Atlanta if you look at his Per 36, other than his two-point percentage which is only .007 better than his three-point shooting, which is pretty good. I think that they’re happy with what they’re getting, and might not want to include him. As you pointed out, he’s got two years left after this, just one guaranteed, which gives the Hawks a lot of flexibility. He’s also a vet presence on a very young team, which they’d replace with Hield, who, while technically a veteran, is still the kind of player who needs a big brother around.

I don’t think it’s a bad deal for any of the teams, bearing in mind that I am an unabashed Collins-coveter. I feel like Atlanta is satisfied with Gallo.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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March 9, 2021 3:37 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

You very well could be right, I just know there is quite a bit of grumbling In ATL over the amount they spent last summer and have nothing to show for it. I think they really expected to be in the playoff picture at this point.

They have quite a bit tied up in next year’s roster AND they’d still have to pay Collins, not to mention fat extensions coming up for Young and Huerter followed by Hunter and Reddish. I just don’t see how they can keep that crew together with the money they’ve already committed to Bogi and Capela.

andy_sims
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March 9, 2021 4:57 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Haha, yeah, all of that money tied up in our boy, Bobo. Bullet dodged.

I’m not sure if Atlanta is going into a “it-was-bad-coaching” mode, and see if they can’t do better with a new guy, or if they think that their whole plan for the season was trash, and it’s time for a fire sale. I think it’ll be closer to the first, than the second.

That still leaves Collins, who in either scenario, is likely up for grabs. You’re right in that they are already spending a ton of money, and may look at Collins as someone they’ll no longer be able to afford. I think that he can be had, but I’m not sure if the Kings have what they want/need.

Barnes would be an asset, but he’d have more value on a contender. Their three-point numbers are just okay, so Hield might help, but the Hawks may not see the incredible power that a BoBo/Buddy reunion could yield. I don’t think Bjelica moves the needle for him unless they want a less-productive Gallinari as a backup. I would imagine that Haliburton is off the table, but realistically, no one is 100% untradeable.

I’ve been a fan of Capela’s game for years. He does a handful of things extremely well, he sticks with them, and he produces like crazy. You’d never need to call his number, and he’ll still get you points cleaning up. Given all of that, he’s on a really good contract, and you’d have your backstop/rim protected to plug in behind Marvin or whoever.

TheGrantNapear
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March 9, 2021 4:28 pm
Reply to  BabyGiraffe

Lol that’s a horrible trade. You must be really high on Collins. I think he is an average starting caliber player, to give up Barnes and Bagley for that and you have to pay Collins this off season. No thanks.

RORDOG
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March 9, 2021 6:17 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

I don’t know if I’m necessarily sold on Collins at the contract amount he’s about to receive, but that trade is not horrible based on the current value of the players involved.

BestHyperboleEver
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March 9, 2021 7:47 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

Yeah, I’m not a huge Collins fan, but they’re going to get more for him than Bagley and Barnes.

andy_sims
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March 10, 2021 8:48 am

Plus, the NBA won’t let us trade $40 million in salary for just over $4 million. So in a sense, they’ll end up receiving considerably less for Collins.

RORDOG
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March 10, 2021 8:56 am
Reply to  RORDOG

Sam Amick said one of the biggest obstacles in a Bagley trade is that he’s owed $11 million next year, and his cap hold that offseason is $14 million. To me, that just means the Kings would probably need to take back a player with some guaranteed money owed next season to ensure the Kings get decent assets back in the trade.

RobHessing
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March 9, 2021 2:37 pm

I’m a B on Barnes and a C on Bagley, with incompletes for the rest.

1951
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March 9, 2021 3:51 pm

Bagley:
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TheGrantNapear
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March 9, 2021 4:29 pm
Reply to  1951

Lol 😁

Otis
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March 9, 2021 6:38 pm

Marvin Bagley is improving, but I don’t know if it’s quick or substantial enough to make him a part of this team’s future.

Tim summarized MBIII perfectly here, IMO.

Carl
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March 10, 2021 4:00 pm

For what it’s worth, Bjelica has taken 45 threes all season. If he had made one more, he would be at 35.5%. How much of his grades are based on small sample size three point shooting?

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