As the Dallas Mavericks anxiously wait for the NBA Draft to arrive on June 21st, the evaluation of top prospects that could potentially be available for them at No. 5 is well underway. We’ve already talked about why DeAndre Ayton would change the course of the Mavericks, and how Jaren Jackson Jr. is an ideal two-way fit for the team. Today, Marvin Bagley III is in the spotlight, and I believe he could potentially end up being the most versatile big man in this draft if he lands with the Mavs.
The 19-year-old super-athletic big man had an unbelievable freshman season at Duke, averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds in the ACC, one of the toughest, if not the toughest conference in college basketball. Bagley chose not to attend the NBA combine, but it’s reported that he stands at 6’11” tall, weighs 235 pounds and has a 7’0” wingspan. His wingspan would be a good bit shorter than some of his peers projected to go in the top-5, and that could have been a reason he decided to avoid the combine.
It’s yet to be seen how that decision could potentially affect his draft stock, but Mavs fans should be hoping that he falls to Dallas at No. 5, similar to how Dennis Smith Jr. fell to them at No. 9 in last year’s draft.
Bagley originally wasn’t even supposed to be a part of this 2018 NBA Draft class. Instead of waiting another year, Bagley skipped his senior year of high school after reclassifying himself. That makes his accomplishments at Duke this season even more impressive, considering that he should just now be getting ready for college ball.
Bagley isn’t the top prospect in this draft class, but he has the potential to be the best player from this class when it’s all said and done. Where he lands and how he can further develop his three-point shot will determine how high he can go.
Relentless motor — Bagley is going to be one of those guys that will never be questioned when it comes to effort. He’s a high-energy player that has an incredible second jump, which, in my opinion, helps him make up a little bit for his lack of wingspan compared to other top bigs in this draft. Bagley will work hard on the offensive boards to try to get his team extra possessions and second chance points.
Position-less player — Some will view Bagley as a center, some will view him as a power forward, but I don’t think we can put a position label on Bagley just yet. I think he's a position-less player in a league that is definitely trending in that direction. Bagley’s ability to run the floor, handle the ball and score from pretty much anywhere is a big strength for him. There aren’t many 6’11” guys that can do stuff like this.
I’ve mentioned this before in one of our Mavs Moneyball roundtable discussions, but it really wouldn't surprise me at all if Bagley ended up expanding his game enough that he starts to see a little time at the small forward position. After all, if you’re going to call a guy a “position-less” player, you have to have high hopes, right?
Lack of length — As mentioned earlier, Bagley doesn't possess the same outstanding length as other big men in this draft do. Although he’s listed as being 6’11” tall and having a 7-foot wingspan, you have to wonder if there’s potential for those measurements to be overstated a little bit, especially since Bagley declined to attend the combine. Out of Bagley, DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Mo Bamba, Bagley had the worst block percentage this past season, which could be a result of him not having the longer wingspan like the others do.
Defense (for now) — It was rumored that Duke had to switch to a 2-3 zone defense this past season mainly because of Bagley not being able to defend opposing players one-on-one. Does this mean Bagley doesn't have the potential to be a decent defender? Of course not. He has the tools to make it work. Bagley will just need to work on his positioning and rotations. As bad as Bagley was on defense for Duke, there were still glimpses of what he could be. This play below not only shows some of Bagley’s defensive potential, but also how he could be a versatile “position-less” player, as mentioned earlier.
Fit with the Mavericks
Bagley would fit seamlessly in Rick Carlisle’s system. Imagining Bagley alongside Dennis Smith Jr., who is also extremely athletically gifted, is almost too good to be true. Smith running the pick-and-roll or the pick-and-pop with Bagley would make them one of the most exciting and talented young tandems in the NBA. Having a guy with Bagley’s size and being able to take the ball up the court in transition would really open things up for the Mavs’ offense and would give them a lot more flexibility, instead of always having to rely on their guards to initiate the offense.
Discussing Bagley’s fit with the Mavs could be pointless, being that he could likely be selected in the top 3 of this year’s draft. If that’s the case, barring an unexpected trade up, the Mavs will miss out on the opportunity to find out what Bagley could become. If, somehow, Bagley does fall through the cracks and is available at No. 5, Dallas shouldn’t think twice about making him their selection.
Although I think Bagley’s ceiling could look like something similar to Kevin Durant -- “KD-lite” if you will — he’s a long ways off from that. Bagley shot nearly 40-percent from the college three-point line, but he only attempted 2 threes per game. He will need to prove that he can consistently knock those down from the NBA’s three-point line and further improve his handles to reach the ceiling I've set for him. However, I think a more reasonable pro comparison for Bagley is Chris Bosh. Bosh was a versatile big that could run the floor and shoot threes, and he has nearly identical physical measurements to Bagley.