2018 Potential NBA Draft Bust: Marvin Bagley III

Synopsis: Marvin Bagley III capped off an impressive freshman year at Duke by earning ACC Player-of-the-Year and consensus 1st Team All-American honors. Based on his accomplishments, he deserved to be considered as the top pick of the 2018 NBA Draft. However, that distinction went to Arizona center Deandre Ayton instead. With the 2nd overall pick, the Sacramento Kings couldn’t pass on the former Blue Devil power forward. Given his size and skill set, Bagley should be able to avoid becoming a bust. I just worry his performance might suffer when he doesn’t get the recognition he craves playing in the shadow of nearby stars Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Oh yeah, there’s also a guy named LeBron who just took his talents to the same state.


At the halfway point of the 2017-18 college basketball season, it seemed as if Marvin Bagley III would be the 2018 #1 overall pick. Of note, the Duke power forward averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds through his team’s first 17 games. He also tallied 14 double-doubles, including three games in which he recorded at least 30 points and 15 rebounds. Whether due to fatigue or tougher competition, Bagley “only” averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds in his last 16 games of the season.   

In contrast, Arizona center Deandre Ayton peaked at the end of the season and moved ahead of Bagley as the likely top overall pick. When releasing the T10B 2018 Mock NBA Draft, I made the following prediction.

Given that Marvin Bagley seems to be the only top pick willing to play for the Kings, he’s the odds-on favorite to go #2. Unfortunately, the chip on his shoulder for going 2nd overall may not do him any good playing in the NBA’s purgatory.

Based on his size and skills, Bagley draws comparisons to future Hall of Famer Chris Bosh.

Player Stats  PPG   RPG   APG   BPG   SPG  Excess Value
Marvin Bagley College (2017-18) 21.0 11.1 1.5 0.9 0.8  
Chris Bosh NBA Career 19.2 8.5 2.0 1.0 0.1 1.7x

Note: “Excess Value” indicates how much more productive the comparable player was relative to production from an average draft pick. In this case, Chris Bosh was 1.7x more productive than the average #2 overall pick. 

By making the comparison, I don’t mean to suggest that Bagley will match Bosh’s tally of 11 All-Star game appearances. However, I wouldn’t bet against the Kings’ new power forward matching these numbers for long enough to be considered a star player. Just like Bosh, Bagley may help his long-term standing as the 2nd or 3rd best player on a super-team instead of being the best player on a perennial loser. Good news Marvin, you’re only four years away from free agency.

ESPN Analysts Jay Bilas and Chauncey Billups apparently agree that Bagley has star potential.

  • Plays hard every play.
  • Elite size and athleticism.
  • Best offensive big guy in the draft.
  • Explosive off the floor.
  • Elite in transition.
  • Relentless rebounder – has the best 2nd and 3rd jump that Bilas has ever seen since covering the draft.
  • Concern: Not great on defense.
  • Views Chris Bosh as a comparable NBA player. Hmm, where have I heard that before?
  • Likes Bagley’s motor (i.e. how hard he plays).
  • Predicts a phenomenal rookie season for the #2 overall pick. 

I don’t disagree with these assessments of Bagley; however, I’m reminded of when the Sixers took fellow Dukie Jahlil Okafor as the 2015 #3 overall pick. Specifically, I wrote back then:

Perhaps the biggest potential contributor to any downside in Okafor’s career relates to being selected by the dysfunctional Sixers. Given the team’s desire to accumulate high draft picks at the cost of winning games, Okafor’s best hope may be that he does well enough to get traded. Otherwise, he might be stuck in an untenable situation which could permanently damage him as a young player.

Okafor had a strong rookie year, but has fallen on hard times since. The player’s role in the downfall cannot be minimized. At the same time, it’s fair to suggest that he may have done much better with a more stable franchise.

Jahlil attacking hecklers outside a bar after a loss in Boston. The following video clip memorizes the incident.

Unfortunately, Bagley may find himself in a similar situation to Okafor. I predict that Bagley will put up decent numbers (13 points, 8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks per game) as a rookie and ultimately will become a 20/10 player. I fear his game may suffer if he remains incognito in Sacramento given the team’s irrelevance. Overall, I give him a 20% chance of becoming a star (i.e. at least three All-Star appearances) and a 15% chance of becoming a bust. While highly unlikely, there’s a 5% chance he becomes a Top 10 Bust candidate due to being in an untenable situation.

%d bloggers like this: