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Kings Progress Report: Marvin Bagley III

The Sacramento Kings will likely have to wait another year to see what they have in Marvin Bagley III.

Dallas Mavericks v Sacramento Kings Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Player name: Marvin Bagley III

Age: 21

Relevant stats: Bagley has been limited to just 13 games for the Sacramento Kings this season because of a fractured thumb he suffered on opening night against the Phoenix Suns, and because of a nagging foot sprain he suffered in December. In those 13 games, Bagley has averaged 14.2 points on 46.7% shooting from the field and 7.5 rebounds per game while averaging 25.7 minutes per game.

Contract status: Bagley is in the second year of his rookie contract. The Kings exercised Bagley’s 2020-21 option in October. He has another team option for 2021-22, and a player option for 2022-23.

Recap: The Kings drafted Bagley with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. With the success that several players drafted Bagley, including, but not limited to, Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, have enjoyed early in their careers, the pick has been heavily scrutinized, and justifiably so.

However, while it’s probably true that Doncic is a better player than Bagley (an argument that could have been before the draft, too), we can’t definitively say it’s because Bagley is a bad player — at least not yet.

As noted as the top of the story, Bagley has only played 13 games this season. To be more specific, he’s played 334 minutes through 13 games, six of which he started, this season. In those 13 games, Bagley showed a lot of the same things he showed last year: The ability to face up, put the ball on the floor and attack the rim with the unique speed he has for his size, even in moments where he probably should have passed it out.

But those same things made it hard for Luke Walton to integrate Bagley into the rotation (let alone the starting lineup) in the brief time that he had his young forward. That’s not to say Bagley should be condemned for his offensive versatility, or that Walton should have figured out how to best utilize him in that brief time; it’s just the reality of the situation.

On defense, Bagley continued to build up his reputation as a relentless rebounder, but he still has a ways to go on defense. Some of that has to do with his lack of strength — particularly his lower body strength — but most of his struggles can be attributed to him being 21 years old and unpolished. And, even with all that being said, he showed some progress and is farther along than a lot people thought he’d be after his lone season at Duke.

Future with Kings: Even in spite of all of his flaws, a healthy Bagley can help the Kings in a big way because he’s a pretty good basketball player — it’s really that simple. But in order for Bagley to elevate the Kings to heights that they haven’t seen in nearly 15 years, two things need to happen:

  1. Bagley needs to get better at the things that made him such a highly-touted prospect going into the draft, like shooting, shot-blocking and defending multiple positions. The hope is that will come with time, but he obviously has to put the work in too.
  2. The Kings need pair him with the right person in the front court. To the front office’s credit, they tried to do that when they signed Dewayne Dedmon, but his shot-blocking and shooting didn’t follow him to Sacramento. While the Kings have a nice big man rotation with Alex Len, Richaun Holmes, Harry Giles and Nemanja Bjelica, none of them are ideal fits with Bagley.

Until either of those things happen, or it becomes clear that it won’t, it will be nearly impossible for the Kings to understand what they have in Bagley. Hopefully that also means they won’t give up on him as a prospect until that happens.

Grade: I (Incomplete)