There had been rumors going around for the past few months that Marvin Bagley might reclassify, and this week the rumors proved true as Marvin Bagley, the #1 player in the 2018 class, committed to the Duke Blue Devils. This move changed things at every level, it moved him to the #1 spot in the 2017 rankings, it moved him in as the favorite for the #1 pick in the 2018 draft, and it also moved the Blue Devils to the #1 recruiting class of the year. So with all this hype, what does Bagley actually bring to the table? Let’s break it down and see for ourselves.
Pace and space, it’s how today’s game is played. So as a big man, the first thing we’re looking for is whether or not you can play at the right pace. That means running the floor and making yourself an option in transition. And in Bagley’s case, this comes naturally because of his high motor. Aside from the skill you’ll see on display, I want you to notice his motor throughout the entire breakdown. Rim running and sprinting the lanes is not a skill; it’s an effort level and a mindset. But what separates Bagley is that not only does he run the floor well, at 6’11 he can push the break himself. Most times the teams will send a guard back on defense when the shot goes up, so if Bagley rebounds and pushes the break, he can find himself with numbers, and a clear advantage over smaller guards. This isn’t something we see everyday and it’s one of the reasons that Bagley is such an intriguing prospect. He’s one of the most versatile bigs that we’ve seen in a few years, and he’s going to make a major impact in transition for the Blue Devils next year.
Now we’ll go to the half court and take a look at his ability to dominate the paint. 4-Out offenses are becoming increasingly popular at every level. And in this case, Bagley can be used to flash into open spaces in the paint. He’s got great hands and he’s very good finisher around the rim. This will allow guard penetration because teams will be very reluctant to help off of him. And it’ll also open up the floor because he’ll draw so much attention in the lane. But where he separates himself from other bigs is his polished skill set when catching it in the post. Traditional big men seem to be a dying breed, but I will say this, post scoring will never go away. Just because you make yourself more versatile, adding additional perimeter skills, you should never neglect the development of a strong post game. This is something Bagley understands and is one of many reasons why NBA scouts think he’ll be an elite big man at the NBA level. Versatility means you can impact the game in a number of ways, so as a big, if you learn how to shoot the 3-ball but are a non-factor in the paint; you’re actually not versatile at all. Marvin Bagley dominates the paint, and as you’ll see soon, he can also work the perimeter, that’s true versatility.
So now that we’ve seen him dominate the post, we’ll take a look at his ability to take bigs to the perimeter. This is an area where mismatches occur. Many times bigs have a hard time guarding the perimeter, so when Bagley attacks from the top of the key, the wings, or the corners, he’ll often get a step on them and get to where he wants to go. He keeps it simple, using only as many dribbles as necessary. And what this does is it forces opposing bigs to leave the paint, opening up driving lanes for others as well. And if teams decide to put a smaller, more versatile match-up on him, he can simply take them back inside. This will also allow for Duke to use different line-ups. They can easily play Bagley and Carter together, but they might even try an occasional big line-up with Bagley on the perimeter with Carter and Bolden inside. I’m not sure I’d go that route, but the point is that with Bagley, they’re able to use more combinations with more size, and that will carry over into the NBA as well.
On the same topic of playing from the perimeter, it’s crucial to be able to knock down the 3-ball. If Bagley had a broke jump shot, opponents would just sag off, taking away his driving lanes. But because he can knock it down, they’re forced to guard him on the perimeter. But right now he’s not a lights out shooter; he shot 29% from three during high school ball and 23% in the EYBL. So to me this is a process for him. He definitely has good mechanics on his shot, so as he progresses from high school kid to pro; this will get more and more consistent for him.
In today’s college game, we’re seeing more and more teams run a 2/3 zone, mainly because it clogs the lane and eats up time on the shot clock. So teams need a guy who can flash into the high post or short corners and go to work in those spots. This is a unique weapon that Duke just acquired with Bagley. One he’s a huge target for getting the ball to the middle of the zone, two he has the poise and skill to attack in a crowd, three he’s comfortable knocking down the mid-range jumper, and four he’s big enough to see all of his options as the defense collapses on him, which will result in wipe open three’s for the Blue Devils.
Bagley averaged 26 points and 16 rebounds in the EYBL, and of those 16 rebounds, 6 of them came from the offensive glass. These effort plays result in second chance points and extra possessions. This is what you call having a nose for the ball and rebounding outside of your area. It just means you actively pursue the ball by any means necessary. And although I love the skill set that we’ve broken down thus far. This area is actually what put Marvin over the top in my mind. I just like competitors and hard workers, guys who aren’t above getting their hands dirty in order to get the job done. This will pay dividends throughout his career and it’ll result in a lot of winning along the way.
Next we’ll take a look at him on the defensive end of the floor. At 6’11” with over a 7-foot wingspan, good athleticism and a quick jump, you can imagine why Bagley is considered an elite rim protector. He averaged 3 blocks per game but the real value is in how many shots he alters at the rim. At the end of the day he’ll make guys miss when he rotates over to protect the rim. And as we broke down earlier, he does a great job of grabbing boards as well, with 10 of his 16 coming from the defensive end of the floor. And when you put it all together, Bagley is a double-double machine who can impact the game in just about every category. He’s got all the tools to become a high level pro, but in the meantime, enjoy the show.