Marvin Bagley III made his highly-anticipated college debut this weekend, and he and the Duke Blue Devils got off to a quick 2-0 start.
After reclassifying to 2017, Marvin Bagley signed with Duke and college basketball fans’ excitement to watch this kid play has been percolating all summer long. At 6-11, Bagley gives the Blue Devils a go-to scorer whose length and athleticism bother opposing teams incessantly. His first two games as an “amateur” weren’t perfect, and that’s fine.
After beating Elon on Friday and Utah Valley on Saturday, Bagley is averaging 24.5 points and 10.0 rebounds while shooting 65.7 percent from the field. He’s the ACC’s leader in field goals made (23), and his total points (49) ranks second. There have been, however, noticeable flaws in his game. Luckily, none of them are too flagrant to affect his draft position this early in the season. Scouts will, however, be checking to see if those deficiencies improve as the year goes on.
The Good – Low Post Scoring & Tenacity
During his young career, Bagley’s at his best when playing close to the rim. His outside shot hasn’t come around, and he’s attempted three triples in the two games, making one. The encouraging part is that Bagley isn’t falling in love with low-percentage shots. Being a natural scorer, that’s not a shock, and he works hard to position himself where he can get the ball and put it in with minimal effort. His scoring moves aren’t too diverse, but, at this stage, they don’t have to be because Bagley has the physical tools to make up for any lack of polish.
When Duke is bringing the ball up court, Bagley’s quick about getting into the lane and sealing off his man. If he doesn’t do that, he’ll hang out on the perimeter and wait for the defense to collapse on whoever’s down there. When that happens, he slashes and hammers home a wide-open dunk.
Outside of producing points, Bagley’s most substantial impact comes on the glass. Duke has corralled 90 rebounds in their two contests, the eighth-highest total in the country. It’s been a team effort. Bagley is their leader in that category, and, being the size that he is, he’s always in the right position to grab those boards. Additionally, he’s a quick leaper and has a second jump that’s just as rapid. Combine that with his reach, Bagley’s able to sky and take the boards from his opponents; he can deflect them out toward his teammates. He won’t get credited with the rebound, but that ignites transition opportunities for Duke
The Bad – Bagley’s Right Hand
Ask anybody what it like guarding a left-handed hooper. They’ll tell you how cumbersome it is. Since a small percentage of the players don’t use their right hand, defenders lose focus and forget to take away their opponent’s left. In Bagley’s case, the defense can spend the entire game trying to force him right, and he’ll still go toward his dominant side. He’s too quick and skilled for the defender to stop, but that reliance will eventually come back to haunt him — if not in college, then once he gets to the pros.
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Bagley doesn’t look comfortable posting up and going to his right hand. Whenever defenses send him to that side, he’ll do whatever possible to spin back to his left. There was an instance against Utah Valley where Bagley caught the ball a few feet above the right elbow. He faced single coverage. He drove left and spun to his right, and Utah Valley didn’t send a double-team. Bagley’s shot was a left-handed floater from about seven feet out, which isn’t a difficult shot for him. However, the caveat is that he had to adjust his body when going up with the right hand would’ve been much more fluid.
The shot nearly fell, and that’s how dominant he is with his left. As the season progresses, the development of Bagley ambidexterity is going to be vital.
The Ugly – Free Throws
Free throw shooting appears to be a lost art. Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, the first two picks in the 2017 NBA Draft, finished their freshman seasons shooting 67.3 and 64.9 percent from the charity stripe, respectively. They’re both guards. That’s a terrible mark, especially since both were elite shooters. When bigs go to the line, we don’t expect much. Bagley is different because he’s a scorer, but I don’t know what the expectations were because his outside shot lacks. Regardless, it’s been a miserable start from the charity stripe for the future lottery pick.
In two games, Marvin Bagley’s gotten nine free throws. He’s made two. That’s 22.2 percent. It’s painful to watch because the shots aren’t rolling around the rim and falling out — they’re bricks.
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