Marvin Bagley III had long been considered the top prospect from the potential 2019 NBA Draft class, so his decision to reclassify and commit to Duke University drastically changes the outlook for the current class of 2018. An already top-heavy class adding a player of Bagley’s caliber shakes up the top of the lottery, and gives bad teams a further incentive to tank. What would a team be getting by selecting the 6’11” power forward?
To start with, Bagley is an explosive leaper off of one and two feet, allowing him to finish dunks easily, even through some defensive pressure. He has long strides, which he combines with a long wingspan and capable ball-handling ability to score from a variety of angles down low and with force.
Contact doesn’t faze him much, as he powers through defenders when he needs to while also using his length to finish over top with floaters and finesse layups. He shows signs of a developing post game with the ability to finish jump hooks with either hand, but he seems to prefer working as a face-up big because his number of post-ups is limited in comparison.
On the negative side, Bagley relied a lot on his size and athleticism in high school to finish down low. At 220 lbs, he will need to gain weight to truly compete in the post at the NBA level.
Bagley is more than capable as a jump shooter with a smooth left-handed release, a solid base, good rotation, and a nice follow through.
The only thing to nitpick about his form is that he tends to square up with one leg in front of the other instead of the whole body being in line. As a face up big, he shows ability to move off the bounce and finish through traffic. When he gets the ball in the post, he immediately moves into face-up position and uses a variety of jab steps and a solid handle to work his way to the rim. He also has a developing turnaround jumper, but he lands off-balance and will sometimes switch what leg he is going to land on in midair.
The biggest thing about his jumper is his confidence in it, even off the dribble. For an athletic big man who can score inside, having the confidence to shot from range opens up greater possibilities on the offensive end, while also making him playable down the stretch.
While he hasn’t taken many shots from three-point range, Bagley does have the ability to step out and hit that shot when he wants to. He will probably never be an off the dribble threat, but as a trailer on a fast break or the open man in a busted assignment, he could become more than capable of making the defense pay.
This is an area where Bagley separates himself among everyone else in the class as a special talent. While he is not a Ben Simmons or Lonzo Ball type passer or ball handler, he is an unstoppable grab and go threat. His handle is good enough to lead a break by himself, and he has the vision to hit the open man in the corner or on cuts. Plus, look at this pass.
How many big men in the league could make this pass? Not many. In addition to his skills on the break, Bagley also can punish teams as a passer out of the post. He has the patience to wait for his teammates to get open and will hit them with open passes as he draws the double team.
One thing that he does need to work on is his tunnel vision. When he slows the game down and lets it come to him, he’s deadly. But, as the best player on a high school team, he wants to make all the big important plays, leading him into things that he is unable to handle, like bring the ball up the floor in a half court set with a game on the line.
Along with his transcendent offensive talent, Bagley has all the tools to be an elite rebounder. He attacks the ball when it comes of the rim, using his incredible athleticism to sky over everyone and grab the ball.
Those instincts continue on the offensive end. Bagley battles on the glass, fighting to secure extra possessions for his team whenever he can.
He does struggle recognizing bodies on the defensive glass and moving to box out, relying on his natural tools to get the ball in every circumstance. The NBA is a league based on strength, so Bagley will need to bulk up and learn how to hold off opposing rebounding threats to truly achieve his rebounding potential.
This is Bagley’s biggest weakness at the moment. He shows some solid rim protection potential, as he has all the tools to contest and block shots at the rim.
He struggles most with his defensive instincts. Often times, Bagley will stick with his man and not move into rim protection position. When he does, he can arrive too late to make a difference or will get into position and not rise up.
Other times, he will be too aggressive and will jump at simple fakes, allowing opponents free access to the rim.
Maybe his instinct issues are more a problem of shouldering an immense offensive burden, which will not be a problem at a powerhouse program like Duke, and he’ll show greater comfort at the college level. Regardless, it’s an area that needs improvement.
His athletic ability also translates on the perimeter. He has solid feet for a big man and good lateral quickness, so switching on screens and containing ball-handlers for short bursts won’t be a huge problem.
However, good ball-handlers and elite scorers will take advantage, preying on his over-aggressiveness and drawing fouls or getting easy buckets.
There are two big things to point out in this category. First, Bagley is not a good screen setter, which will be a big problem in the NBA. Most NBA offenses run the majority of their plays through the pick and roll/pop, and he has the ability to be one of the best threats in the game there. But, his screens are lacking, rarely freeing the ball handler for an open drive to the rim or an open passing lane.
The second thing is a lack of urgency at times in big stages. In the clip below, Bagley’s team is down by one point with three minutes left. His team misses the free throw and he runs down the court looking in the opposite direction as the ball-handler moves right past him and scores.
Granted, it is a Drew League game, so urgency isn’t at his highest point, but it is still poor game awareness. It’s something to watch closely as the season moves along.
Marvin Bagley III is one of the most purely talented prospects to come out of high school in a long time. He has the natural tools to do pretty much whatever he wants on the basketball court. The question is whether the mental side of his game will match up to the physical side. If it does, he will be locked in as the first overall pick in the draft, and a potential all-star down the line.