Marvin Bagley's First Minutes: An Overreaction

Marvin Bagley struggles in his first NBA showings.

It has been a whirlwind of an offseason for the Sacramento Kings. They struck gold in May’s draft lottery and ended up with the second overall pick. Kings fans spent the next 37 days speculating about who the team would select, and a high percentage of them were enamored with European sensation Luka Doncic. On draft night, however, Sacramento surprised most by selecting athletic Duke big man Marvin Bagley III.

Many still-faithful Kings fans are trying to talk themselves into loving the Bagley pick, and his first taste of NBA action did him very few favors.

Sacramento and Golden 1 Center played host to the inaugural California Classic early last week, a three-day event featuring games between the Kings, Lakers, Heat, and Warriors. The event provided a rare chance for Marvin Bagley III to get his first NBA minutes in his home arena. The building buzzed with energy on Monday evening when the Kings and Lakers game tipped off, despite the fanbase’s skepticism of the front office.

Bagley started off with a bang. He dropped 18 points on 6 of 11 shooting, grabbed six rebounds and even blocked three shots. He had his “Welcome to Sacramento” moment less than six minutes into the game, when he put fellow rookie Moe Wagner on a poster and send the home crowd (and his teammates) into a frenzy.

For a full 24 hours, “MB3” was the toast of the town. Fans temporarily forgot the name Luka Doncic and focused instead on how high Bagley’s ceiling could be.

Unfortunately, the Kings had to play two more games in the next three days.

In Tuesday’s game against Jordan Bell and the Warriors, MB3 struggled mightily. In 26 minutes, he scored seven points on 3 of 16 shooting (18%) and had trouble on both ends of the floor. Despite blocking two shots, he had trouble staying with an “experienced” NBA player like Bell. On the offensive end, his post moves looked pre-meditated, almost “going through the motions”-like. He shot multiple airballs and went 0 for 5 from beyond the arc. The Kings were blown out in an embarrassment.

Thursday’s game was worse. In 29 minutes, Bagley attempted just two field goals, made none, and had a game-worst plus/minus of -21. The Kings lost by ten, and MB3’s weaknesses were put on display. The Miami Heat’s big men combined to score 45 points on 16 of 35 shooting, Bagley not being able to stop anyone. Those same big men also exploited another huge weakness for the rookie: his off hand.

MB3 is known to be left-hand dominant, and the skills that he posses with his right are a huge question mark. The question mark is being erased and the results are not good. If guys like Derrick Jones Jr. and Duncan Robinson are forcing Bagley to be uncomfortable on the offensive end, I don’t want to be around when Draymond Green comes to town.

One possible reason for the rookie’s struggles in the final two games could be attributed to the absence of De’Aaron Fox. Fox played in the first game against the Lakers, and had a huge game. Sacramento was able to display the type of up-and-down basketball they hope to play this year, but the offense looked completely different with Fox out of the lineup. There is no doubt that Bagley benefitted from the quick-paced style that the Kings ran in Game 1, and struggled mightily without it. It is safe to say that the health of De’Aaron Fox is crucial to the development of the entire team.

As for Marvin Bagley III, the jury is still out. It actually feels like we know less than we did two weeks ago.

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