Marvin Bagley III isn’t a good defender, or at least he hasn’t been since the Sacramento Kings drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. It’s a large part of the reason he didn’t get much run under Luke Walton even when he was healthy.
With Alvin Gentry now at the helm, Bagley has been given another chance to earn a spot in the Kings’ rotation, and the thing that’s gotten him playing time as of late is, ironically, his defense.
“He’s been pretty consistent since he’s been able to get back out onto the floor,” Gentry said of Bagley following the Kings’ 104-99 win over the LA Clippers on . “I think he’s done a good job defensively of getting down me guarding perimeter players … but the big thing is that he’s come up with some big rebounds for us and been able to do some things to help us on the board.”
In 19:39 against the Clippers, Bagley recorded 12 points and 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. The Kings also held the Clippers to 76.7 points per 100 possessions with Bagley on the floor, which was the highest individual defensive rating on the team.
It was just one game, but it was the result of the work that Bagley and the Kings’ coaching staff have been doing behind-the-scenes.
“I’m just trying to get stops,” Bagley said. “We work on it in practice every day. Every day we practice, we work on defense and the schemes we use in the game, so it’s just locking in on it and going out and playing. I’m just playing the game, trying to get stops, trying to help my teammates in any way I can and it’s been working out good for me.”
It’s also a product of Bagley getting more reps, something he said has reenergized him in a big way.
“I’m just playing basketball, man,” Bagley said. “I’m comfortable out there just playing the game, just having fun, just enjoying the game of basketball. That’s [been] my main thing ever since I started playing: the love and the joy and not letting things or people take that joy from me. That’s always been my thing.
“To kind of be out there again and playing and smiling and helping my teammates and cheering my teammates on, that’s what it’s all about for me; everything else will come. That’s how I’ve always played the game and that’s how I will continue to play the game.”
We’ve seen stretches like this from Bagley in the past lead to nowhere, for reasons both in and out of his control, but given the mutual respect that he and Gentry have for each other, there’s reason to be optimistic about what the rest of the season has in store for the 22-year-old big man.
“We have a great team here,” Bagley said. “We work very hard every day in practice, coach Gentry’s doing a great job of coaching us the right way and it’s been fun playing for him. I think we’ll be alright.”