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Losing Harry Giles III Is Going To Hurt

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

The impending loss of the young big will leave the Kings with a black eye and the city with a broken heart 

Hello, there.

I see that you have decided to return for another ride on the Sad Kings Fan Express.

Several things have happened over the past decade-plus that have deeply hurt and scarred fans of the Sacramento Kings. Well, like all mistakes before, this one is going to hurt.

They all hurt. But this one in particular will hurt a tad more.

From the day that he was drafted, Harry Giles III showed nothing but love and excitement towards being a Sacramento King.

Giles was drafted with the 20th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft (Getty Images)

After being tabbed as the top recruit in the country coming out of high school, the 19-year-old had just finished his freshman year at Duke University.

Giles, who had suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in high school, played sparingly in his lone-season as a Blue Devil to ensure that he didn’t push his recently repaired leg.

Although he only appeared in 26 games and played limited-minutes, several scouts and executives believed that Giles could be a force once healthy.

Sacramento acquired 15th and 20th picks in the 2017 NBA Draft after dealing the 10th overall pick to the Portland Trail Blazers. The franchise selected De’Aaron Fox with the fifth pick, then selecting Justin Jackson at 15th and Giles with the 20th pick.

On the surface, it appeared as if the Kings aced the draft by selecting a future star in Fox and diamond in the rough with the selection of Giles.

(kings.com)

Sacramento opted to hold Giles out of the 2017-18 season to give the rookie time to build strength around his recently repaired knee, giving the 6’11 forward plenty of time to rest and rebuild.

Giles made his long-anticipated debut during the 2018 Summer League, playing with fellow 2017 draftees Fox, Jackson and Mason in front of a packed Golden 1 Center.

In October of 2018, Giles made his NBA regular-season debut against the Utah Jazz, scoring two points and grabbing a rebound over nine minutes of playing time.

Then head coach Dave Joerger was cautious with Giles’ minutes, capping the rookie’s minutes to under the 20-minute mark in his first 20 appearances.

On December 17, 2018, Giles scored a career-high 13 points over 21 minutes of playing time.

What Giles brought on the floor was something that the Kings have lacked since the departure of DeMarcus Cousins–intensity and tenacity. Of course, too much of those things, as we have seen, can cause problems.

In Giles’ case, he knew just how much to bring and how much to show each and every night. The rookie brought the energy every single time he stepped on the floor–and Kings fans took note.

In his 38th game of the season on January 30th, Giles had his strongest showing as a pro, scoring 20 points on 10-of-12 field goal attempts and grabbing seven rebounds in a win against the Atlanta Hawks.

The outburst against Atlanta was a sign of things to come, as Giles would average 9.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists over his next 18 games.

What makes those numbers more impressive is that Giles was only appearing in 17.3 minutes per game, fairly below the league-average of 20 minutes per game.

Fans took note of Giles flashy passes, reminiscent of the early-2000’s Kings teams that saw beautiful ball-movement from the likes of Divac, Jason Williams and Chris Webber.

Giles was shutdown in April of 2018 to rest his sore knee, but the rookie put Kings fans on notice.

Per 36-minutes, Giles held averages of 17.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. When Giles was on the floor, he produced at a high level. The reasons why the rookie could not see the floor more than 15 minutes per game were due to two large factors:

  • Injury management and minutes restrictions
  • Foul trouble. Giles averaged 2.6 fouls per game and fouled out three times during his rookie season–also racking up five fouls in a game on four different occasions.

It was largely expected that once Giles had another offseason to further his recovery and strength while working on his fouling tendencies and mid-range game, he would be a factor come the 2019-20 season.

Those expectations were quickly extinguished on Halloween of 2019, when former general manager Vlade Divac opted to decline Giles’ $4 million option for the 2020-21 season.

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The move came as an utter shock to Kings fans, with many journalists and media personalities ridiculing Divac’s decision to seemingly throw in the towel on the young forward.

After Divac stepped down as Kings GM in August, he shared with Marcos Breton of The Sacramento Bee that he was attempting to teach Giles a lesson by declining his option after the sophomore showed up to training camp in poor shape:

For Divac, the move was based on his values and his confidence that he could bring Giles back anyway.

Divac said he didnโ€™t pick up Gilesโ€™ contract option because Giles showed up to the Kings training camp last year out of shape. Last summer, Giles was tabbed as the only Kings player who didnโ€™t show up regularly to work out and get ready.

โ€œMy message to him was to be a pro,โ€ Divac said. โ€œYou have to be a pro. And he responded very well. When we came back (after league-wide the COVID-19 shutdown) he came in shape. I was very pleased. My idea was to keep him around.โ€

Former Kings GM Vlade Divac in an interview with Marcos Breton of The Sacramento Bee

Due to Divac’s decision, Giles will become a free-agent in the coming weeks.

Sacramento will be unable to offer the 22-year-old more than the intended $4 million, while also being unable to match any offer for Giles. The ball will be in Giles hands in this situation, as the former Blue Devil will be able to make his own decision on what comes next in his career.

The likely departure of Giles wouldn’t be a big deal if he had underperformed in 2019-20, but as we all know, he did not.

Due to a dreadful stretch of play from newly-signed center Dewayne Dedmon and an injury to starting center Richaun Holmes, Giles started 17 games for the Kings during the 2019-20 season, helping lead the team to a 10-7 record during those contests.

In his 17 starts, Giles averaged 8.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game while shooting a blistering 60-percent from the field.

Similarly to the 2018-19 season, Giles’ minutes were limited in 2019-20 as head coach Luke Walton only let the second-year big play for an average of 14.5 minutes per game–just a slight bump up from his 14.1 average a season prior.

Per 36-minutes averages during the 2019-20 season, Giles’ numbers once again jumped off of the page: 17.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals 1.0 blocks.

Again, when Harry Giles III saw the floor, he produced. Even in his limited, small sample-sized appearances, the numbers don’t lie.

Coupled with his high-energy play and constant enthusiasm, Giles embraced the city of Sacramento with open arms, sinking himself into the community and hearts of countless Kings fans.

It’s unknown what the free-agency landscape will look like this offseason due to the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whether or not NBA teams can afford to spend like they have in the past remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: It’s very unlikely that Harry Giles returns to Sacramento–unless he takes a pay cut, that is.

Giles has every right to take more money and leave the Kings.

He played well, was a great teammate and contributor to the local community and can leave Sacramento with little-to-no regrets about his time here.

Vlade Divac made a mistake. There’s no other way to put it. Giles has the looks of an impact player, one that in my opinion could become a double-double threat on any night if given the minutes.

Health plays a huge role, of course.

If Giles is to become what was expected of him coming out of high school, it will take full-health and limiting his fouling tendencies. For a 22-year-old in today’s NBA, accomplishing both of those feats should be possible.

Will it be done in Sacramento?

For now, it’s hard to say.

If one thing is sure, it’s that Kings fans love Harry Giles III and will be heartbroken to see him go.

Is it possible that new general manager Monte McNair and Giles come to an agreement and decide to give the relationship another go? Of course.

But with Holmes, Marvin Bagley III, and Nemanja Bjelica likely all returning–with Jabari Parker also weighing his player-option for 2020-21– it looks as if there could be a logjam in the Kings front-court.

Several contending teams could use Giles’ services, such as Houston, Golden State, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Dallas to name a few.

Playoff teams with outside-scoring threats can use Giles as a big that can rebound and keep the ball moving around the perimeter. The 6’11 forward can also clean up around the basket, where he converted 80-percent of his attempts-at-the-rim in 2019-20.

GREENBURGH, NY - AUGUST 11: Harry Giles of the Sacramento Kings poses for a portrait during the 2017 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot at MSG Training Center on August 11, 2017 in Greenburgh, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

A high-energy, slick-passing big man with a great personality? Yeah. Good teams want players like Harry Giles III.

As of now, it’s unknown what the future holds for Harry Giles III. With the NBA free-agency period approaching, we could have an answer in the coming weeks on what his next step will be.

If Giles has played his last game in Sacramento, you can expect Golden 1 Center to give the young man a lengthy standing ovation in his return.

Harry will always hold a special place in the hearts of Sacramento Kings fans. That place in their hearts will also be surrounded by the pain of ‘what if’.

‘What if Vlade had picked up the option?’

‘What if Harry is healthy for the 2020-21 season?’

‘What if the Kings need depth at power forward and center next season?’

These are questions that Kings fans will need to live with. We’re all used to that, though. The pain is what makes being a sports fan real. In Sacramento, the only feeling seems to be pain, whereas other franchises enjoy spurts of enjoyment and fun with pain sprinkled in.

Not here.

Harry Giles III leaving Sacramento would just become another sprinkle on top of the gigantic pain cake that has been baking in our ovens for over 14 years.

Every sprinkle has its own significance and sting. Losing Giles will have a significant sting.

Pain aside–can you blame him for leaving?

No. Because whatever decision that Giles makes, the decision will be made as a product of mistakes made by Divac and the former front office staff.

Harry Giles III gave his all to Sacramento in every way. Maybe the city will remain his home, maybe it won’t. But fans can never second-guess the admiration that the kid from North Carolina shared with this city.

Sacramento was home.

(Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)