"Situational Analysis" is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
Marvin Bagley III is a 19-year-old guard from Tempe, Arizona, who averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Duke Blue Devils. Bagley is expected to be selected in the top-five, and as high as No. 1 overall. NBADraft.net currently has him projected to go No. 2.
The ability to deliver sustained intensity needs to be considered a skill, particularly for prospects with Bagley’s athletic makeup.
We’ve seen a number of prospects on Bagley’s level over the years fail to reach their potential due in large part to an inability to match the effort level we see on a nightly basis from 450 of the best basketball players on earth. That won’t be a problem with Bagley.
"High motor" often reads like a backhanded compliment in a scouting report, used to describe players who exceed limited talent through sheer determination. Matthew Dellavadova is a "high-motor" player, but you’d never say that about Russell Westbrook, as supernovas don’t require motors.
Bagley plays with Kenneth Faried’s motor, but in Chris Bosh’s frame. He attacks the glass, but not simply with reckless abandon. He combines excellent instincts with top-notch effort and positioning. Even though Bagley is a little on the skinny side, he rarely gets muscled off his spot. He might have the best second/third jump of anyone in this draft. Bagley’s night-to-night rebounding numbers take on extra meaning when one considers how easy it would have been for him to allow fellow lottery pick and human bulldozer Wendell Carter to clean the glass.
Offensively, Bagley is already an excellent lob finisher with terrific hands. He’s a nightmare in transition. He also possesses a handful of nifty close-to-the-rim moves, and he even flashes an off-kilter lefty floater and running hook.
Bagley’s jump shot starts from an encouraging spot, with solid form and mechanics. He canned 23 of his 58 attempts from beyond the college arc, and an optimistic outlook projects him as the most valuable of commodities — an athletic big man who is equally adept at rim-running and 3-point shooting. On a scale from 1 (Jerome James in every game other than the 2005 playoffs) to 10 (Anthony Davis), Bagley’s talent/athleticism/effort combination rates at an 8.
Bagley is an undeniably thrilling prospect, but much of that excitement derives from the potential of his diverse talents, not necessarily where they’re at right now. You can see glimmers and flashes of a wide variety of skills, but some need more work than others.
Bagley can handle the ball a little bit, but he still racked up more turnovers than assists. He was a fearsome shot-blocker in high school, but he collected only three blocks in his final nine games after he missed four games in the middle of conference play with a sprained knee. He shows excellent touch on elbow jumpers, but shot only 62.7 percent from the foul line — borderline hack-a-Bag territory.
If a few of these areas don’t develop correctly, it would certainly limit Bagley’s potential as a franchise centerpiece. Given his effort level and coachability, it seems like a stretch to imagine a scenario in which Bagley doesn’t have a long, successful NBA career. But there are some rough spots that need polishing if he hopes to ascend beyond a high-level role player.
Worst-case scenario, Bagley ends up being the type of player who drives a fanbase crazy because of his potential for so much more. Prior to the pace-and-space era, Bagley would have been a can’t-miss pogo-stick power forward. In today’s NBA, he might be a player drifting between roles.
On a scale from 1 (Anthony Randolph) to 10 (Giannis Antetokounmpo), Bagley’s likelihood of reaching his potential rates at a 7.
Bagley reclassified from the class of 2019 in order to play college hoops this season and make himself eligible for the upcoming draft. This decision makes him one of the draft’s youngest (turned 19 on March 14) and most intriguing prospects.
He has been on every scout’s radar before he even started high school. Northern Arizona and Arizona State offered him scholarships at age 14. Bagley handled this notoriety far better than most teenagers would have.
It would have been easy for Bagley to develop at least a few prima donna tendencies — or at least start taking plays/games off. The fact that he has continued to evolve as a player without a dip in his intensity level speaks volumes about the kind of person we’re dealing with.
He was surrounded by a bevy of potential NBA players at Duke, and received top-level coaching/mentorship from coach Mike Krzyzweski, who has seemingly gone out of his way to praise Bagley at every turn.
On a scale from 1 (Ben Simmons at LSU) to 10 (Gordon Hayward going from a lightly recruited 3-star guard to nearly hitting the greatest shot in college basketball history as a sophomore playing under Brad Stevens), Bagley’s pre-NBA setting rates at an 8.
Ideal NBA Ecosystem
Bagley is going to be a major contributor to any of the teams drafting in the top-five, but where would he have the best chance of maximizing his ability?
Not Phoenix, for starters. There is such a logjam at Bagley’s position with players that the Suns have already invested significant time and draft capital. Bagley is likely better than Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, but that’s a terrible situation for all involved.
Atlanta? Now that’s interesting. A potential Bagley/John Collins big-main pairing is fascinating. Dallas could work, as well, for many of the same reasons — but the Rick Carlisle/Nerlens Noel situation gives me slight pause.
I believe Bagley is going to put himself in a position to succeed simply through effort level. He will play with enough live-wire energy to justify the kind of playing time he will require to polish the rest of his game.
On a scale from 1 (Darko Milicic) to 10 (Donovan Mitchell landing in Utah and immediately becoming the face of the franchise), Bagley’s situational independence is an 8.