Sacramento Kings: Evaluating Marvin Bagley III’s rookie season

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images /

Marvin Bagley III had an encouraging rookie season for the Sacramento Kings, with some areas for improvement.

Sacramento Kings rookie Marvin Bagley III had a stellar rookie season. The second overall pick out of Duke averaged 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game on 50.4 percent shooting — impressive numbers for a rookie, especially considering Bagley only played 25.3 minutes per game. His accomplishments were enough to earn All-Rookie First Team honors and one hilariously absurd vote for All-NBA Third Team.

In addition to the numbers, his game is impressive. At 6’11” and 234 pounds, Bagley is already a force down low and at only 20 years old with a wide frame, it is likely he’ll add more muscle over the years. In addition to his size, Bagley is springy, often throwing down impressive alley-oop dunks. Combined with his high-energy style of play and ability to run the floor well, Bagley is a force on the fast-break. He’s also not afraid to go at players and will dunk on them.

Bagley has some work to do on the offensive side of the floor. He has a nice inside game, but has room for improvement. He will most likely improve as he ages and gets more repetitions.

Furthermore, Bagley has room for improvement as a shooter. The rookie shot 31.3 percent from 3, taking 1.5 a game, and his motion is a little slow. However, this is not concerning for a rookie of his size, as his shot will most likely improve with age. Rather, his desire to take these shots is encouraging given the direction the NBA is headed.

For a young, skilled player, Bagley’s shot selection is encouraging. He often shoots close to the rim with 36 percent of his shots coming from three feet or closer to the rim. Only 19 percent of his shots came between 10 feet from the rim to the 3-point line. Bagley avoided the mid-range jumpers that coaches and stat heads fear.

For context, Deandre Ayton, who went first overall and plays a similar position, shot 30 percent of shots from this range. Kevin Garnett, Marvin Bagley’s ceiling (and then some) as a player, shot 54.5 percent of his shots in this range, although he played in an era with a different style of basketball.

The main problem the Kings and Bagley will have in the future is that he’s not a natural fit at the 4 or the 5. While an elite leaper, Bagley is not a great rim protector, a necessity for a 5 in today’s game, averaging only 1.0 blocks per game.

However, Bagley is not a natural fit at the 4 either. He often gets torched when switched upon smaller players in pick-and-rolls. Given the direction the NBA is heading — more wings who can shoot and penetrate, less bigs who rebound and post up — Bagley might often be the victim of mismatches. He will need to improve his interior defense to avoid playing the 4.

Bagley would be best as a 5 given his elite speed for his size. Given his speed and leaping ability, he should transform into an elite interior defender. Considering his young age, it is likely he will be able to put on the muscle needed to play against centers and play enough to improve his defensive positioning.

If Bagley is forced to play as a 4 his entire career he will often be the victim of mismatches on the defensive side. On the offensive side, he would have to significantly improve his shooting if he cannot play center.

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In conclusion, Marvin Bagley had an impressive rookie season with a lot of positives to encourage Kings fans. There are certain areas of his game that need improvement, but given his young age and this promising start to his career, it’s likely he’ll get there.