College basketball came easily to Duke freshman sensation Marvin Bagley as he led the Blue Devils to the Elite Eight in route to becoming one of the most well-established prospects in the 2018 NBA Draft. He has the makings of a franchise player in the NBA with prolific scoring and unmatched physical gifts. Bagley has unparalleled potential, however, with such a high ceiling one particular question has to be asked; will Bagley be able to fill out his potential and not allow lofty expectations to interfere with developmental stages that may take longer for Bagley than typical tier-1 draft picks.
Marvin Bagley 2018 NBA draft profile
The physical gifts that Marvin Bagley possesses are simply astounding. A near 7-footer filing in at around 235 lbs Bagley moves with such fluidity and swiftness that can only be rivaled by the NBA’s best big men. His footwork in transition is exceptional and he has adapted to using guard-like dribble moves to attack the rim.
While he is not nearly as proficient of a ball handler as typical “Point Forwards” such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ben Simmons, Bagley has solid ball control due to him being able to move so smoothly. He is one of the best in this class when it comes to running the court in transition and filling lanes correctly. His ability to cut to the rim, particularly on backdoor screens, is exceptional due to his quickness and speed; and his footwork in the post was flat out unstoppable against collegiate bigs.
Another special blending of physical gifts that Marvin Bagley possesses is his reaction time and leaping ability. While not a ferocious athlete Bagley has great hangtime while he is in mid-air, but that’s not what makes him special. Bagley had the 3rd highest offensive rebound percentage in the ACC last season which is fully in part to his ability to go up for boards within a split-second of a shot bouncing off the rim. Once he reads the trajectory of the ball and positions himself Bagley can simultaneously go up immediately as the ball hits off the rim, secure it, and put it back in for second-chance points with little resistance.
Bagley was a First Team All American due primarily to the flat-out silly numbers he put up. He averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds per game with a 64.3% true shooting percentage. He finished 7th in the country in total field goals and 3rd in two-point field goals, as well as 5th in total offensive rebounds.
His efficiency was beyond ridiculous at Duke as he led the ACC in points per game, rebounds per game, field goal percentage, player efficiency rating, effective field goal percentage, points produced per game, offensive rating, offensive box plus/minus, and win shares. Needless to say, he won ACC Player of the Year.
Bagley also shot 23/58 (39.7%) on three-pointers, which needless to say will be a pivotal trait for him going into the NBA.
One of the most impressive things about Bagley is his innate ability to simply be in the correct spot. Since Bagley doesn’t have the best upper body strength, he is not one to body up defenders and try to finish through contact. Instead, he’ll camp out on either side of the rim on the baseline and position himself based on where the ball is. Often times Bagley will get a post entry pass off this and work with his back to the basket; but most times he’ll wait for a dribble drive from one of his teammates.
Essentially this is a read-and-react set for both Bagley and the ball handler. A quick point guard, such as Trevon Duval at Duke, will be able to beat his man off the dribble and attack an open lane. Often times in these situations big men will rotate and play help defense on the ball handler. In response, Bagley will immediately either rotate to the opposite side of the rim that the ball handler is attacking or move to the painted area. Either way the actions are too quick for a secondary defender to switch on Bagley in time and a good bulk of his scoring comes off of plays like these.
What will likely hinder Bagley at the beginning of his NBA career is the fact that in halfcourt offensive sets he is a liability as a face-up attacker. Bagley is fast and quick and moves his feet effortlessly well, but he struggles vitally to create space when a defender is on him. For a big man that excels as a ball handler, he needs to be able to get on a defender’s outside shoulder which in turn opens up the hips of the said defender. Bagley at this stage of his career hasn’t shown the ability to do this and it rendered him ineffective in an area where he should be excelling. Instead, he normally tries to plow through a defender’s chest when going to the rim, that obviously will not work against NBA big men who specialize in standing ground and keeping their hips square.
The mechanics of Bagley’s jumper are far from NBA ready as well. While the three-point shooting numbers were solid, they were mostly wide open and completely uncontested. Until he improves on consistently scoring in isolations NBA defenders won’t be afraid to play upon him on the perimeter. In these circumstances, Bagley’s jumper will likely be rendered ineffective.
The reason for this is his release is slow and he doesn’t shoot jumpers off the dribble, which he should be learning how to do given all the traits he has. It is also worth pointing out that when Bagley is left alone on the perimeter he has the time to position himself in a shooting stance before the pass is made to him, meaning that his feet are already set and his hips square to the rim. Even then the time between Bagley catching the pass and him taking the jumper takes several seconds when it needs to be a split second motion.
Bagley’s defense was also fairly pitiful at Duke, but given that Coach K was running zone defense with this team more than half the time it’s only fair to Bagley that we wait until he’s with an actual NBA defense before making rash judgments on that end.
Marvin Bagley scored 30 points or more seven times last season. This includes the PK-80 Tournament in which he scored 30+ in back to back games against two NCAA tournament teams in Texas and Florida. Perhaps the most unbelievable fact is that he shot 50% or better from the field in 30 of the 33 games he played.
NBA Comparison: Kevin Garnett
This is obviously a best case scenario comparison and won’t fill out unless he reaches his absolute full potential, but the sheer physical gifts combined with the immense skill level that Marvin Bagley has is a bit reminiscent of how Kevin Garnett was back in the day. Very few big men have ever possessed the blend of gifts that Bagley has, but KG was certainly one of them and pieced a Hall of Fame career doing things on the court that Bagley is capable of doing. Likely not ever to the same level that Garnett reached, but if all goes well we are staring at a special prospect that can wreck the NBA for years if he fills out.