Marvin Bagley, the second-overall NBA draft pick to the Sacramento Kings, will finally return from his knee injury Thursday, the team announced. The Kings visit the Boston Celtics (7 p.m. EST, NBC Sports Local) for the third game in the recent East Coast swing.
The rookie center has missed the last 5 games with a left knee sprain. Before the team’s announcement, Bagley dunked during the team’s morning shoot-around at a local Boston college. He told The Sacramento Bee he did not know for sure he would be cleared for action.
He also relayed that he’s excited to rejoin the 33-33 Kings as they try to push toward the playoffs. They currently sit 4.5 games behind the Clippers for 8th place in the Western Conference.
“It’s always tough not playing. That’s what we signed up for: to play,” he said before the Kings’ loss Monday in Washington. “I’m trying to be the best teammate and best person I can be while I’m out, learning and being supportive to the guys who are playing.”
I also reported that he resumed basketball activities earlier in the week before the loss to the Wizards.
The 6-foot-11, 234-pounder collapsed after a knee injury late in a 141-140 overtime loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 27. The next day, the team released a statement stating their rookie center would miss 1 to 2 weeks with a sprain.
Bucks forward Malcolm Brogdon blasted Bagley on a screen, forcing him to writhe on the floor before being helped off the court.
This is the video of the collision:
The Injury’s Impact on the Sacramento Kings’ Roster
On the season, the former Duke Blue Devil has appeared in 47 games this season, accumulating averages of 13.9 points (50.9 percent shooting overall), 7.2 rebounds, 1 assists and 1 blocks in just under 25 minutes of play a game.
Bagley had recently put together a very strong month of February. He notched a quartet of 20-point games, including a 32-point outburst on Feb. 10 in a double-digit win over the Phoenix Suns.
As Heavy’s Anthony Koon wrote Wednesday night, Bagley is, “an athletic rebounder with an arsenal of post moves much more mature than your average 19-year-old.
“Bagley has been a dominant force for the Kings since the All-Star break,” he continues. “With a streak of three double-doubles heading into tonight and averages of 24 points and 11.7 rebounds per game during that stretch, Bagley was a driving force in the Kings win over the Thunder and close loss to the Warriors.”
His absence has given way to Willie Cauley-Stein. The former Kentucky Wildcat has averaged 12.2 points per game in Bagley’s absence, including a trio of double-digit outings versus the Celtics, Clippers and Wizards.
In the last outing, forward Nemanja Bjelica notched a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double. With Bagley’s presence attracting attention, it should open up avenues for both Cauley-Stein and Bjelica.
NBA Playoff Implications
Bagley may have returned too late for the Kings to reach their first playoffs since 2005-06.
According to Playoff Status, Sacramento possesses just a 3 percent chance of making the postseason. That really only leaves a less than 3 percent chance at the No. 8 seed.
Tonight’s game is just a step in the right direction per Playoff Status. A Kings upset boosts the postseason chances to just 5 percent.
Fortunately, Bagley and friends face the third-easiest remaining schedule out of Western Conference teams according to Playoff Status. That consists of 8 games against teams currently under .500, including 1 each versus the Bulls, Suns, Cavaliers and the tanking Lakers.
They have 5 home games with a 61 percent chance or more of leaving with a win, according to Team Rankings. These games are against Dallas, Cleveland, Phoenix, Chicago and Brooklyn.
Pencil these in at must-wins, and road trips to Houston, San Antonio and Utah as necessary to flip the odds. Tonight against Boston would be gravy.