For a little over half of an hour Monday night on ESPN, the basketball world was glued to the television screen awaiting the next step in Marvin Bagley III’s career.
Would the 18-year-old five-star forward go back to Sierra Canyon High School for his senior season? Or would the Class of 2018’s top prospect forgo that final year of school and make his jump to college? And if so, where would he play?
Well, through multiple teases and cliff-hanging commercials, ESPN and Bagley finally chopped it up shortly after 11:30 p.m. and revealed the information that many had waited to hear. Bagley would be heading to college this fall to play for the Duke Blue Devils.
Oh, how the rich get richer.
While already sporting commitments from the Class of 2017’s top point guard (Trevon Duval), top shooting guard (Gary Trent Jr.), and No. 4 overall prospect (Wendell Carter Jr.), the Blue Devils had the second-ranked recruiting class in the nation. Adding Bagley to the mix almost makes things unfair.
However, for as important as a singular season in college will be for Bagley, the ultimate goal for a player of his caliber will always be the NBA. And with his transition to college this year, the 6-foot-11 forward will become eligible for next June’s draft where he will almost certainly be in the mix for the top overall pick.
At his current size, 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot wingspan, Bagley possesses a unique size for the set of skills that he employs on the basketball court. As a ball-handler, Bagley is well above average for players with similar builds, and he even excels in the open court with the rock using his abilities to make plays for his teammates or create his own shot. While he isn’t a knockdown shooter by any means at this stage of his game — just 28-116 from beyond the arc in 49 Nike EYBL and Sierra Canyon games — his age and upside suggest Bagley could clean up his jumper as he moves forward.
Through the power of social media, casual basketball fans know the names of Zion Williamson and LaMelo Ball. So much so that nearly a million people logged on this summer to watch a live stream showing between the two players’ respective AAU teams. Williamson is lauded for his freakish athletic ability and rim rocking dunks, while Ball is well-known because of his deep three-pointers, his outspoken father, and his older brother who just so happens to be the point guard of the Los Angeles Lakers.
That’s all well and good, they can keep their spotlight. Neither player is in the same atmosphere of talent as Bagley.
ESPN’s director of recruiting, Paul Biancardi believes that Bagley is in such a rarified air, that he may be the best player he’s seen come out of high school in quite some time.
“This class has a once in a decade type of player in Marvin Bagley,” Biancardi told USA Today. “He may be the best prospect I’ve seen in my time at ESPN.”
At the top of next year’s draft, Bagley will be vying for the attention of NBA front office personnel with Michael Porter Jr., DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Miles Bridges and Mohamed Bamba. Bagley’s reclassification essentially makes a loaded top half of the draft lottery next season even more loaded. But what makes his jump look even more impressive is that Bagley immediately leapfrogs almost every one of those players, sans Porter Jr., in the discussion for the best player available.
On the heels of Bagley’s decision, Jonathan Givony of ESPN released his first edition of the 2018 NBA Mock Draft. Where did Bagley make his debut after being a part of this draft class for less than 12 hours? Second overall, right behind Porter Jr.
Bagley is coming in hot next season to college, and it would be safe to assume that just about every decision maker in the NBA will be keeping close tabs on the talented forward.
Despite dealing with some life altering decisions this summer, Bagley still made his way onto the court and a pretty famous court at that. Bagley suited up alongside James Harden and Chris Paul in the famed Drew League for LAUNFD, logging minutes playing with and against NBA players.
There was even reportedly a sequence where Bagley guarded JaVale McGee — who’s now a world champion — and dealt with multiple offensive moves and crossovers, sticking with McGee the whole time and ultimately forcing a 24-second shot clock violation. Obviously, McGee isn’t Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns, but he’s a legitimate NBA player, and an 18-year-old kid stuck with him the entire time. There’s something to be said for that.
After seeing him for a short time in the Drew League, LAUNFD’s head coach Wally Moore was as sure of his skill as almost everyone else who gets a chance to watch Bagley play.
“Coming out of college after a year there, he’s going to be top three pick in the NBA Draft easily,” Moore said. ‘He’s going to have a lengthy professional career. He’s really well seasoned. Now in the NBA, you’re tall, long, can run the floor, dribble, you can last 15 years.”
The takeaways from Bagley onlookers usually end with rave reviews. However, being a teenager, there is still plenty of room to grow for this super prospect. Despite being nearly seven-feet tall and having a decent frame, Bagley weighs in currently at about 220 pounds. In order to avoid getting banged around down low at the professional level, he’ll need to put on some size. But being just 18 years old means that Bagley’s body still has plenty of time to mature, so that concern will most likely be addressed at some point.
In terms of his on-the-court ability, Bagley can do just about everything. Despite the inconsistencies in his shooting, Bagley brings a unique ability to create his own shot and get to the basket from the perimeter for someone his size. And while he gets praised for his ability to be able to switch defensively on multiple positions, there are consistently questions about his “motor” and if Bagley can continuously compete with 100 percent effort.
When a prospect is as naturally talented as Bagley there will always be a reason to nitpick at flaws. No player is perfect, so finding areas that could use improvement always become magnified for the players that separate themselves from the pack.
For his detractors though, Bagley knows they aren’t as informed as they think they are.
“I just laugh at them. I put a lot of work into this. I wasn’t just born with this,” Bagley said. “I worked hard. I do a lot to make sure that I’m ready for big moments. They don’t really know what goes on behind the scenes.”
If Monday night was the first time you heard the name Marvin Bagley III, consider that your introduction to the player who could very well be basketball’s next superstar.
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