For all the chatter about how pleasant the mood was around the Kings after their post-All-Star break roster shakeup, trading DeMarcus Cousins and releasing Matt Barnes left the team deficient in two areas.
The Kings were too small on the perimeter. No Barnes or Rudy Gay, already out for the season with an Achilles injury, left the Kings likely to get bullied by bigger small forwards.
Secondly, the Kings lost their mean streak. No Cousins and no Barnes meant teams felt a lot more comfortable yucking it up against Sacramento. Think back to the Kings 116-98 loss to Milwaukee, when the Bucks were all too at home at Golden 1 Center, laughing their way to victory as recurring Sacramento villains Jason Terry and Spencer Hawes took extra glee in needling Kings fans.
There was no King with the personality to let it be known that they would not be shown up in the game.
That’s not to slight the desire of the players who finished the season for the Kings. Save for a minor flare up that resulted in a technical foul for Georgios Papagiannis, none of the young Kings showed they could fill the team’s need for physical play and toughness, especially as a perimeter defender.
That’s what makes Oregon’s Jordan Bell one of the most intriguing prospects among the 12 the Kings hosted in two separate six-player pre-draft workouts Wednesday. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound junior forward made his reputation in college as a tenacious defender. And for all the offensive talent the Kings like with their young nucleus, they need more toughness and defense.
“I came in doing that,” Bell said. “I came from football (in high school) so my thing is always just being the toughest dude on the floor and just giving maximum effort every time I step on the floor.”
Bell averaged 10.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.3 steals for the Ducks last season and was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Wednesday’s workout provided a chance to show his skills as a defender because the workout included North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, one of the top small forward prospects. Bell projects to be a power forward in the NBA.
“Just a different test,” Bell said of the workout. “Show my versatility on defense, show I can guard somebody who’s a wing, who is kind of my size as far as height and play good defense on him.”
Bell said he’s worked out with the likes of Indiana’s Paul George and Chris Paul of the L.A. Clippers, which has given him chances to work on defending away from the basket. It’s something that makes him valuable as teams look for defenders who can protect the paint and seamlessly step out to the 3-point line.
Bell continues to work on his offensive game, but he also understands his greatest strength is his defense and tenacity, two things the Kings would be wise to add this offseason.
Bell said in his talks with the Kings, they were impressed with his game.
“They said they liked who I am,” Bell said. “They like even more that I know who I am. I know my strengths. I don’t try to change my game, I just keep playing the same way.”
Bell is not projected to be a target with either of the Kings’ first-round picks (fifth and 10th) but could be available when the Kings pick in the second round, 34th overall, should he slip out of the first round.
He believes he can help a team as a rookie.
“I think defense translates well to the NBA,” Bell said. “It’s all about effort. It’s not a skill like shooting, where you’ve got to push it back to the NBA 3. It’s all about effort and that’s something I’ll always bring.”