Projections Top 10 NBA Draft Busts

2018 Potential NBA Draft Bust: Marvin Bagley

Synopsis: Duke power forward Marvin Bagley capped off an impressive freshman year by being named ACC Player of the Year and consensus 1st Team All-American. Based on his performance, he certainly deserved consideration as the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. However, that distinction went to Arizona center Deandre Ayton instead. The Sacramento Kings couldn’t pass on Bagley and took him with the second pick. It probably helped that he seemed to be the only top pick eager to play in Sactown. Bagley should be able to put up numbers to avoid becoming a bust. I just worry his performance might suffer when he doesn’t get the recognition he craves playing near 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 would be the likely #1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Of note, the Duke power forward averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds through the 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 slipped ahead of Bagley according to most draft analysts. When releasing the T10B 2018 Mock NBA Draft, I made the following prediction regarding the 2018 #2 overall pick.

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.

I offer the following summary of Bagley’s stats at Duke last year with a comparable NBA player.

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. 

I don’t imagine Bagley will match Bosh’s Hall of Fame career but also wouldn’t bet against the Kings’ new power forward matching these numbers for long enough to avoid becoming a bust. Apparently, ESPN Analysts Jay Bilas and Chauncey Billups agree.

  • 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.
  • Comparable Player: Chris Bosh (where have I heard that before).
  • Likes motor (i.e. how hard he plays).
  • Predicts phenomenal rookie season. 

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, but 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 as Okafor. I predict that Bagley will put up decent numbers as a rookie, but may become incognito in Sacramento given the team’s irrelevance. I give him a 15% chance of becoming a bust and a 5% chance of becoming a Top 10 Bust due to being in an untenable situation.


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