Editor’s Note: Welcome to our 2020 Kings Season Preview series, where we’ll be looking ahead to what this season will bring for every member of this Sacramento roster and pondering both best and worst-case scenarios. Today, let’s continue with Marvin Bagley III.
How did he get here?
Bagley was selected second overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by previous general manager Vlade Divac, who took the Duke product over Luka Doncic and Trae Young, citing the presence of point guard De’Aaron Fox.
Dave Joerger was the head coach in Bagley’s rookie season, and he brought him along slowly. Bagley played 25.3 minutes per game in his first year, averaging 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 50.4 percent from the field.
The 21-year-old didn’t make the splash most fans were hoping for. It wasn’t easy seeing Doncic light up the league while Bagley struggled to find his footing. Still, he put up some good numbers his rookie year when Sacramento won 39 games.
Bagley’s sophomore season was marred by injury. He only suited up for 13 games, averaging 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds while playing 25.7 minutes per contest. He suffered a thumb injury during the first game of the 2019-20 campaign and never fully recovered. He appeared in 12 more games before the league shut down because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Things got worse while the Kings were getting ready for the restart in Orlando. Bagley sprained his foot during practice and missed all eight of the team’s games. Even when Bagley was on the court, the underlying numbers weren’t encouraging.
Sacramento won just two of the 13 games he played in, and the team was 11.7 points better per 100 possessions with Bagley off the floor, per NBA.com.
What is his best-case scenario for 2020-21?
As the cliche goes, the best ability is availability. Bagley has to stay healthy this season for the organization to know what he brings to the table. When he is healthy, Bagley has been a solid contributor both scoring and rebounding the basketball.
The third-year forward put up nine points and four rebounds in 16 minutes of action during the Kings’ preseason win over the Golden State Warriors. It was his first game action in nearly 11 months, so it wasn’t surprising to see him a bit rusty. Bagley needs to turn into a double-double machine this season and begin to show why Sacramento selected him No. 2.
Bagley’s size and athleticism make him the prototypical 4 in today’s NBA. He has the tools to be an excellent fit with De’Aaron Fox in the pick-and-roll and allows head coach Luke Walton the option to play small by sliding Bagley to center. His per-36 minutes are fantastic, so if he can stay in the lineup, look for Walton to increase Bagley’s minutes compared to the 25.7 he averaged last season. It would also be a significant win for Bagley and the Kings if he can develop his outside shooting and stretch the floor for Fox and co.
Defensively, Bagley has the quickness not to be a liability when switching onto opposing guards. If he can have more of a shot-blocking presence and learn how to be a better positional defender, it would go a long way to cement his status with the franchise for the foreseeable future.
What is his worst-case scenario?
Bagley suffers another long-term injury. Playing in only 13 games last season slowed down his growth, and if he can’t stay in the lineup this season, general manager Monte McNair will have to decide if Bagley is durable enough to be a cornerstone for the team.
If Bagley doesn’t improve defensively, Walton could look to keep him around 25 minutes per game. Sacramento has Richaun Holmes, Hassan Whiteside and Frank Kaminsky on the roster, plus Walton has shown that he’s comfortable playing Harrison Barnes at the 4. If Bagley can’t hold his own — especially on the defensive end — he could find himself buried behind the quartet of veterans.
This is a massive season for Bagley. The franchise hopes he can develop into the Robin next to Fox’s Batman so the team can build around the pair for years to come. No. he won’t equal Doncic’s production, but if Bagley can stay healthy and continue to refine his game, he can undoubtedly become the double-double machine the Kings hope he can be.
It’s way too early to give up on Bagley yet, but the onus is on him to show that he can be a long-term answer for the franchise. If he can’t this season, his time with the team could end after his fourth season.
How do you think Bagley will perform this season?