Last season, when healthy, Marvin Bagley III was essentially gifted a starting spot at the power forward position with the Sacramento Kings. Whether it was hopeful thinking that Bagley would finally stay healthy and break out or a lack of depth at the position, Bagley started 42 of the 43 games he was healthy last season.
Unfortunately, Bagley never took that step and was in and out of the lineup with injuries for a third consecutive season to begin his career. In his career, Bagley has only played 118 of a possible 226 games.
This year though, for a Kings team trying to finally end the 15-year playoff drought, someone with Bagley’s faults and injury history can no longer be penciled into that spot or even relied upon in a major way.
Vlade Divac, the man who made one of the worst draft blunders in NBA history, selecting Bagley over Luka Doncic, is no longer employed by the organization. Therefore, Bagley’s development shouldn’t be a major emphasis for the Kings this season. Committing such a major amount of minutes to a player with Bagley’s faults won’t be conducive to winning, barring major improvements by Bagley.
One potential hurdle with replacing Bagley in the starting lineup is that the Kings don’t have a ton of options at his position elsewhere on the roster. The two realistic options to replace Bagley would be to lean heavily on a three-guard lineup and have Harrison Barnes swing up and play power forward, or sub in one of the guards for Moe Harkless.
Both of these lineup configurations have flaws, but would still be a better plan than running Bagley out at the four spot once again and expecting a different result.
Through three years, Bagley has been one of the worst defensive bigs in the league, if not one of the worst defensive players in the league overall.
Bagley simultaneously gets lost on defense constantly but also gets pushed around a ton, by guys that he shouldn’t, a bad combination for a big man. If Bagley ever gets switched onto a guard on the perimeter he often looks like a deer in the headlights playing twister.
Bagley and his abysmal 117.3 defensive rating are one of the main reasons the Kings have remained so bad on defense.
Offensively, Bagley looks clunky a lot of the time playing with the Kings’ starting unit. Bagley in his heart of heart wants to get on the block, but Richaun Holmes is typically occupying that spot, so Bagley often gets relegated to spotting up in the corner.
Far too often, Bagley isolations end up in turnovers or bad shots, coupled with the fact that he shot a putrid 57.5% from the free-throw line last season. Bagley also struggles at some of the more traditional big man roles like setting screens and protecting the rim. Bagley has made some strides as a shooter, but it still isn’t enough to really justify him staying on the court.
If you look at his stats across the board, Bagley is largely the same player he was as a rookie, aside from improvements to his three-pointer. It’s fair to say that when healthy, Bagley has not performed like an NBA starter, even during his best moments.
If you couple his play with the off-court antics of his father and it’s fair to say that the Bagley and Kings pairing isn’t a long-term thing.
With all that being said, Bagley is just 22 years old and is still loaded with ability. Injuries are clearly a factor in Bagley’s stunted development, but even when he’s been on the floor he’s looked like the same guy.
At a certain point though, Bagley has got to realize he isn’t going to be a star in the NBA, and start doing some of the little things on the court.
The best-case scenario this season for the Kings and Bagley is that he comes out with a different mentality and is finally doing the little things that make teams succeed. Although, nothing he has done in his first three years in the NBA has indicated that is going to happen.
If Bagley comes out this season looking like a different guy, then by all means insert him into that starting lineup and give him a major role. But for a Kings team that is trying to get over the hump, having the same old Bagley play major minutes isn’t going to cut it anymore.