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Positivity Corner, Week 1: Marvin Bagley is a Wrecking Ball

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We hear you: Sactown Royalty is too negative. Why do you criticize everything. Why are you so anti-Vlade/anti-Joerger/anti-Slamson. Are you guys secretly Lakers fans. Blah blah blah. Stockholm Syndrome has set in: fans jump to the defense of every move made by the very franchise that has tormented them with 11 straight years of losing basketball. Even better, the team is going for a clean dozen this year, without an incentive to be bad via the draft. But, we get it. Sports is supposed to be about hope and dreams of glory. And, it’s not like there aren’t reasons to be hopeful about this team.

So here we go. We proudly present the Positivity Corner, a criticism-free zone where we can all dream about great times to come. Debbie Downers, Negative Nancys, and Tim Maxwell can all go kick rocks.

This week’s edition features Marvin Bagley III. Bagley dominated college basketball’s toughest conference last year to the tune of 21 points and 11 rebounds per game on a blistering .643 TS%. But it’s strange to see how many believe that the Kings drafted a Mikki Moore clone second overall last June, a tall bouncy guy only good for assisted dunks and hustle points.

Well, Bagley has already begun to put that idea to rest. He’s off to a great start in the first two contests, despite playing limited minutes against the Jazz. Bagley is averaging 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, good for fifth and third among rookies, respectively (he leads rookies in rebounding per 36 minutes, and is 3rd in points per 36 minutes among the top 20 rookies in minutes). He’s shooting 62.5% from the field and 83.3% from the FT line, for a clean .671 TS%. It’s a very positive start to his rookie campaign.

But beyond the numbers, Bagley has been far from a garbage man. The Kings made a big deal of looking for a go-to scorer in last year’s draft, someone you can just throw the ball to and expect to get points. So far, Bagley’s absolutely delivered on that front. The Kings have let him go one-on-one on several possessions, and Bagley has been awesome. He’s too tall and long for small defenders, and too quick for bigger ones.

There was this impressive move against Anthony Davis, perennial DPOY candidate and the league’s best shotblocker last year:

And then he went at Nikola Mirotic. Although Mirotic’s physique reminds you more of the Michelin Man than a world-class basketball athlete, Mirotic has been a solid defender for the Pelicans, a big part of their success in the Playoffs last year.

There was also Julius Randle, a stubby but quick big man who had hype as a smallball center a la Draymond Green last season:

Against Utah, Bagley had a chance to go against Jae Crowder, a guy who has been very useful for the Jazz as a smallball PF. The league is littered with big, thick wings who spread the floor and stymie traditional 4s in the post, so it’s important for Bagley to be productive against this type of defender. Bagley had no issues with Crowder’s defense, scoring with ease over him not once, but twice:

These are All-Star caliber moves against a diverse array of defenders. Everyone (fans, commentators, etc.) is screaming that Bagley is easy to defend because he has no right hand, but that’s not completely true: Bagley drives right pretty effectively, he just never finishes right. It’s a weakness in his game, but Bagley’s become so adept at slithering his way into lefty finishes that it’s not a fatal flaw at the time.

Bagley is 19 years old with a ton of work to do on his jumper and defense, but early returns are glowing. He’s already become so much better since Summer League, it’ll be exciting to watch him develop even more this season.

Boom. Positivity.