Scouting Marvin Bagley and His Fit in Dallas
By Sean Bush
Marvin Bagley III is an exceptional athlete and posting unparalleled numbers for a freshman big man. Would he be a good fit in Dallas?
Marvin Bagley III is a freak of nature.
Guys standing 6’11” and weighing in at 234 pounds simply should not be able to move like he does. He’s a fluid, explosive, quick-twitch, and whatever other clichés you’d like to use to describe him, athlete.
Bagley won’t turn 19 until March yet he is still unquestionably Duke’s go-to guy on offense, even over the polarizing Grayson Allen. Don’t even trip, what Bagley has been able to do this year at his age is nothing short of impressive.
So if Bagley is arguably the best athlete in the class and just behind guys like Luka Doncic and Trae Young as the most productive, why are pundits torn on him?
Why isn’t Marvin Bagley III the slam dunk consensus first overall pick?
Well for one, the top of this draft class appears to be abnormally stacked but that isn’t the only reason. Bagley does have a few shortcomings of his own.
Bagley seems to be, to a degree, a jack of all trades, master of none. His low-post game is solid but not refined. His outside shot demonstrates pretty good mechanics and decent results but he is far from a finished product in that area. His defensive rotations, fundamentals, and timing all need work. He can handle the rock but just okay in tight spaces, the most important aspect of handles at the next level. He dominates the glass but sometimes that has more to do with his athletic advantages than his rebounding fundamentals.
For these reasons, some experts dismiss him as one of the top guys in the class. One of the most detailed and thorough draft sites out there, The Stepien, has him all the way down at their 7th overall prospect in the 2018 class (if you want a more detailed look at some of his shortcomings, look here).
Many others, however, are far more optimistic about Bagley’s skill level and tout him as worthy of the first pick. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Bagley might have the highest ceiling in this class (outside of DeAndre Ayton), that’s noteworthy considering the talent coming out this year.
He is posting 22.1 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.1 BLK, and 0.8 STL on 62.6 FG% and 33.3 3PT% for the Blue Devils. Those numbers are approaching unprecedented territory for a true freshman. Bagley is simply too fast for anyone his size to keep up and too big and strong to put anyone significantly smaller on him.
He has been said to be a tireless worker and it shows up on the film. He often outworks and out-hustles his defensive assignment, he leaves nothing out there on the floor. While being pretty good at everything but not elite at any one skill might be his biggest knock right now, it might also be the biggest source of optimism for him as a prospect. Let us not forget that he’s still an 18-year-old kid.
Bagley is about as well-rounded as it gets. There is really nothing that he can’t do or realistically could not learn to do. His outside shot is a work in process but it also happens to be way ahead of where guys like Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Joel Embiid, or DeMarcus Cousins were at this point in their careers.
His defense has steadily improved as the season has come along and some of his interior defense questions might be more attributed to position than ability. Duke plays mostly zone defense and Bagley is usually not in the middle of that zone because he shares a team with fellow center prospects Wendell Carter and Marques Bolden. Maybe he has more skills there then we are being led to believe and they are just being hidden by scheme.
While his ball-handling isn’t great in space, it’s overall very good for a big man. Not a lot of big men can create off the dribble for themselves or teammates anyway so what he can add from that aspect is mostly a bonus.
To me, Bagley and Doncic are the safest picks in the draft due to athleticism and motor for the former and unparalleled skill and production level for the latter. That matters a lot. Bagley at the very least should be a double-double machine in the NBA.
The biggest question for Bagley will be if he is able to effectively play center in the NBA, particularly on the defensive end. His skill questions in the other aspects of his game completely go away if he is playing center and not power forward in the league. Think about the difference (in today’s NBA) in what you ask of your power forward and center to do. There is a big discrepancy there and it matters.
In my opinion, Bagley would be a terrific fit for the Mavericks. The pick-and-roll between Dennis Smith Jr. and Bagley could be potentially devastating for opposing teams. There likely wouldn’t be a more athletic PG-PF/C combination in the league. Once again, Marvin Bagley III has shown nothing to indicate that he is anything but a relentless worker. This, of course, is particularly important to head coach Rick Carlisle.
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The key here would be surrounding Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes, and Marvin Bagley III with outside shooters and above average defenders. Wes Matthews would actually be the ideal shooting guard to play with these three because of his shooting, defense, and veteran leadership.
If Bagley is a power forward at the next level, you ideally want Bagley to continue to develop his jumper and handle and then you would want a strong rim protector inside. If Bagley is a center, you ideally want a versatile defending, solid shooter that could help Bagley with his interior defense at times. Maxi Kleber is this type of a player but you would need some huge leaps in development from him to rationalize committing to him as a core starter (this could happen but likely improbable at this point).
Next: Should the Mavericks Hold Interest in a Nikola Mirotic Trade?
Marvin Bagley III sits in his own mini-tier for me at this point. Luka Doncic and DeAndre Ayton are solidified as my number 1 and 2 prospects and it is hard to see that changing. Then it is Bagley third because of his production, athleticism, high floor, and what appears to be a positive work ethic. For those reasons, I place him a step above my other favorite prospects which include Mo Bamba, Michael Porter Jr., Jaren Jackson Jr., Wendell Carter, and Trae Young. Those players all have either noticeably bigger red flags as prospects or team fit questions with Dallas in my opinion.