Sacramento Kings

Marvin Bagley is a work in progress. Here’s how the Kings’ rookie continues to improve

Sacramento Kings rookie Marvin Bagley III, front, is defended by Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers in the first half March 24 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Sacramento Kings rookie Marvin Bagley III, front, is defended by Kyle Kuzma of the Los Angeles Lakers in the first half March 24 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) AP

His first shot following the latest absence was a corner 3-pointer in Boston that grazed the iron as it dropped in.

Kings rookie Marvin Bagley III is taking that shot with more confidence. More than a week later, on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, he hit two more from outside the arc.

Bagley has shown improvement in seven games since returning from his second knee injury this season, and not just in his scoring from 3-point range. He had 25 points and 11 rebounds in a 111-106 loss at Staples Center. The double-double was his third in a row and 16th in 54 games.

The rookie big man has averaged 20.1 points and 8.6 rebounds after missing five games with a sprained left knee.

Bagley said he didn’t just sit around while not being able to help his teammates in games.

“I was still doing stuff while I was out, still working out, conditioning and doing stuff like that,” Bagley said, adding he was trying to learn as much as he could. “I was watching and studying it, watching film, seeing what I could do better. I’ve been trying to work on it. Ever since I got back in, it’s been working for me. I just have to keep going.”

Along with increased stats, Bagley, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, has improved his 3-point shooting. Since returning, he’s made 8 of 16, including a career-high three makes in Thursday’s home win over the Dallas Mavericks.

Bagley has connected on 24 of 78 (30.8 percent) 3-pointers this season. He’s made multiple 3-pointers in a game four times, including three of the Kings’ last four games.

The rookie’s outside shooting shouldn’t be too big of a surprise. In his lone season at Duke, he was 23 of 58 on 3s for a 39.7 percent clip. However, he’s showing he can score at the basket with tip-ins, layups and dunks that sometimes look effortless due to his leaping prowess.

Kings coach Dave Joerger credits Bagley’s ability to pick up what coaches are telling him.

“We’re always trying to teach him throughout the course of the game different things,” Joerger said. “He jots all of that stuff down. He’s very cerebral, and he’ll continue to learn and get better.”

Up next is Bagley’s second matchup in less than a week with No. 3 pick Luka Doncic when the Kings face Dallas on Tuesday in the second game of their five-game trip. Sacramento’s rookie had the better stat line in the home victory, going for 22 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks Thursday at Golden 1 Center.

Bagley missed the first Kings-Mavericks matchup, a 120-113 win Dec. 16 in Dallas. He had suffered his first injury on the knee this season, costing him 12 games overall.

With nine games left in the regular season, he’s in much better standing now.

“I feel pretty good,” Bagley said Sunday. “It’s just about finishing off these last few games we have strong and leading that into the next season.”

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Noel Harris is a sports reporter for The Sacramento Bee, with a focus on the Kings. He’s been in professional journalism for more than 18 years. His roles have included sports editor at The Modesto Bee and news editor at two smaller California newspapers, as well as online producer and copy editor.