Kings awards: Handing out end-of-year accolades for 2018-19 season

James Ham
NBC Sports BayArea

Kings awards: Handing out end-of-year accolades for 2018-19 season originally appeared on nbcsportsbayarea.com

The Sacramento Kings failed in their ultimate goal of making the postseason, but that doesn't mean that they didn't have a very good year. The Kings finished the season at a surprising 39-43 and they stayed in playoff contention much longer than anyone expected.

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Perhaps more important than the final outcome of the season, many of the young Kings players took major strides forward in their development. The core turning potential into production, making the future bright in Sacramento.

With the season in the books, here is NBC Sports California's take on the end of year accolades for the team.

MVP -- Buddy Hield

Coming into training camp, Hield wasn't expected to start. A late summer knee injury cost Bogdan Bogdanovic time, opening the door for a breakout season from the former Oklahoma star.

Known for his work ethic, Hield became more than just a scorer in his third NBA season. He improved as a defender, posted a career-high in assists and rebounds, and showed an ability to hit big shots.

Hield also led the team in scoring, finishing the year averaging 20.7 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists in 31.9 minutes per game. He flourished from behind the arc, posting the seventh most made 3-pointers in a single season in NBA history with 276 makes.

The 26-year-old shooting guard took a leap from potential sixth man to near All-Star and his energy on the court was infectious.

De'Aaron Fox is in the running for this award as well, but Hield gets the nod for his consistency throughout the entire season.

Most Improved Player -- De'Aaron Fox

Fox and Hield should both draw votes for the NBA's Most Improved Player award. As far as the Kings' team goes, it's close, but with Hield taking home the MVP, Fox gets the MIP.

Statistical jumps from year one to year two is expected in the NBA, but Fox's leap stands out. He bumped his points per game from 11.6 to 17.3. He increased his assists from 4.4 to 7.3, with just a .4 increase in turnovers per game. He also shored up one of his biggest weaknesses, improving his 3-point percentage from 30.7 to 37.1 percent.

In addition to all of his statistical achievements, Fox became a leader in year two and appears ready to expand his game even farther in year three.

Defensive Player of the Year -- De'Aaron Fox

Fox wasn't just a force leading the Kings' uptempo offense. He showed incredible improvement as a defender in year two, especially in late-game situations.

The 21-year-old point guard has tremendous upside as a two-way player. He finished the season in the top 10 in the league in steals at 1.6 per game and as he gets stronger and more mature, there is plenty of room for growth.

Willie Cauley-Stein gets an honorable mention here. He led the team in defensive real plus/minus and defensive win shares. He put up a solid season, posting career-highs in both rebounds and blocks.

Biggest Surprise -- Nemanja Bjelica

A late addition to the roster, Bjelica stepped into the starting lineup and made a tremendous impact on the Kings, especially early in the season.

The 30-year-old out of Serbia almost went back overseas before signing a three-year deal with the Kings. He posted career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and minutes played, and shot over 40 percent from behind the arc.

Bjelica struggled for a stretch in the middle of the season, but he finished strong. His ability to help space the floor was a major bonus for the team and he was a better rebounder and defensive player than expected.

[RELATED:Fox responds to comments about his most improved candidacy]

Rookie of the Year -- Marvin Bagley

This isn't exactly a fair category. Marvin Bagley was the second overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft and his only competition for the award was a redshirt freshman who had played a total of 300 minutes over a three-year period.

Don't get me wrong, Harry Giles was very impressive, especially in the month of March after he got his sea legs. Giles looks like a rotational player at a minimum, with the possibility to jump into the starting lineup down the road. But he'll need time to develop after missing crucial development years.

Bagley jumped off the page from the moment he stepped foot on the floor. He needs to get stronger and build his overall skill base, but the 20-year-old power forward averaged 14.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and a block in 25.3 minutes per game.

A pair of knee injuries cost Bagley 20 games and plenty of momentum. A summer to work out the kinks should do wonders for the former Duke star.

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