On Wednesday night, the Sacramento Kings beat the Los Angeles Lakers 125-116, and in an unexpected storyline, Marvin Bagley had a solid impact in the Kings’ win over their rival Lakers. Bagley finished with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal on 7-12 shooting. Let’s take a look at what went well, what the areas of improvement are, and what the overall long-term takeaways from this game are for Marvin Bagley’s future:
Offensively, Bagley was rolling, especially as he got closer to the basket. Tyrese Haliburton did a great job of setting up Bagley in the pick & roll, shown below. He was efficient overall, and he did a good job of finding holes within the porous Lakers defense.
Marvin Bagley also grabbed a team high 9 rebounds, which helped the Kings tie the Lakers at 45 rebounds each for the game. Bagley has always been a good rebounder, and without Anthony Davis, he was able to feast on the glass.
Defense has always been an issue for Marvin Bagley, especially towards the rim. The defensive gameplan was clearly to keep Bagley away from 1 on 1 drives, and overall shots near the rim, due to his subpar defensive decision making and lack of length to help him effectively contest shots at the rim. One of the first plays of the game highlights just why keeping him out of the pick & roll defensively, especially in shots that end at the rim, can be so important in maximizing Bagley’s minutes.
Another weakness for Bagley, not necessarily from last night, but overall, is his 3 point shooting. He went 1-2 from 3 against the Lakers, but is shooting 23% from 3 on the year on 2 attempts per game. Being able to stretch the floor will be key for him maintaining an optimal role going forward.
Long term takeaways:
The Kings did a great job of keeping Marvin Bagley in the right spots on defense, and he came out on top with a game-best plus/minus of +16. The Kings kept Bagley out of the pick & roll almost every defensive possession he was out there. Bagley had a passable grade in defending Lebron James, which was a matchup Lebron hunted almost every time down, yet he could not make the Kings pay.
While the Lakers were cold as a whole and missed some good looks, the Lakers still went 26/65 (40%) from the field while Bagley was on the floor. A big part of that was him not missing rotations, and being a relatively sufficient off-ball defender.
Since Bagley is unlikely to return to the Kings in 2022-23 as a free agent, teams looking to sign Bagley as a reclamation project off the bench should follow this game’s formula in how to maximize his minutes: abuse the pick & roll offensively featuring Bagley, an area Bagley has always shown flashes of thriving in, and on the defensive end, keep Bagley on pure shooters, make sure he is attentive off-ball, and refuse to engage him in complex pick & roll situations. It’s easier said than done to do this on a nightly basis, but it happened Wednesday night, which should make teams optimistic that it is possible to pull off.
The best case for Bagley going forward is to be an elite bench big that plays limited minutes, very similarly to former Maverick Brandan Wright, a fellow top 10 pick that did not meet early standards. When he matched with the perfect coach for him as a reclamation project in 2011 in Rick Carlisle, Wright immediately became an elite pick & roll finisher and an historically efficient per minute big man that did what he does best offensively in limited bunches, while not being exposed on the defensive end. If Bagley’s next team can copy that formula for success, they might just find a sneaky, affordable bench piece as a reclamation project that can be useful in limited minutes.