Is Marvin Bagley the best prospect for the Kings?
I recently wrote a piece about the possibility of Mo Bamba making his way to Sacramento. While some folks pushed back on that idea quite a bit, defensive cornerstones are hard to come by. Bamba might become one of the best defensive bigs in the league.
In that piece, however, I made one notable disclaimer: You don’t draft Bamba over Luka Doncic, DeAndre Ayton or Marvin Bagley. As things currently stand, the latter could very well be available to the Kings.
It’s impossible to predict the lottery since the odds are close to random towards the top. But the Kings currently hold the 6th pick based on record. They’ll almost certainly be hovering around that range on draft night.
Bagley shouldn’t be available at six, but there are plenty of bigs who have thrown their names into that conversation. Ayton is locked into the top two, but Bamba, Bagley, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Wendell Carter Jr. all feel relatively fluid on most boards.
I find it difficult to drop Bagley past the third spot on my board, even with some of his obvious flaws at Duke. His talent is evident, and it’s important to remember that he entered college a year early. Averaging 21 points and 11.1 rebounds per game, he was one of the most productive players in the country from start to finish.
If it weren’t for Jalen Brunson and Trae Young’s historic seasons, Bagley might have gotten some legitimate Player of the Year love.
The Kings have built their roster on young, high-character talent. De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic are going to be good NBA players, while Buddy Hield’s shooting should give him a role for the foreseeable future.
What Sacramento lacks, however, is the guy. They don’t have that central piece to build around yet, and Bagley could give them just that.
At 6-foot-11, Bagley can almost get by on athleticism alone. His motor makes him the best rebounder in this class, while his mobility and quickness allows him to attack off the dribble and finesse his way through traffic around the rim.
His touch needs to improve in some instances, but Bagley is already a silky scorer around the rim. His footwork is solid, while his quickness generally gives him the advantage over more traditional fives.
Perhaps the biggest area of improvement for Bagley has been his 3-point shot. He’s still not a consistent threat from range, but he showed signs of becoming a viable shooter towards the end of the season for Duke.
He shot a more-than-respectable 39.7 percent from deep on 1.8 attempts per game this season. His mechanics leave some to be desired, but there’s certainly a workable shot there. Since he’s just 19 years old, the expectation should be that he becomes at least an average shooter long term.
Where Bagley needs the most work is defense. Despite his undeniable athleticism, he doesn’t defend well in space and lacks awareness on that side of the ball. He gets lost in rotations and isn’t nearly as long as some of the other bigs in his tier, meaning he won’t be much of a shot-blocker.
That, above all else, is where most draftniks have their reservations.
With his motor and highly-touted work ethic, though, defensive improvement seems inevitable. He won’t be an elite rim protector like Bamba or Jackson, but he should be capable of switching out to the perimeter and impacting plays with his athleticism.
Like most teenagers, it might take Bagley a few years to find his footing on that end. That shouldn’t impact Sacramento’s decision – they can wait on his development.
Even in a draft class as talent-packed as 2018, the lottery almost always comes down to upside. There are players with translatable skills, but there are never sure things. Bagley has the potential to be one of the best bigs in the league if everything goes his way.
Given how hard he works and the talent he flashed all season at Duke, taking him anywhere past the No. 2 spot seems reasonable. If he falls to Sacramento, Vlade Divac and company shouldn’t hesitate when pulling the trigger.