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Marvin Bagley’s three-point shot is trending in the right direction

The 21-year-old big man is manifesting a shiny new weapon in his shooting arsenal.

Entering the season, the general discourse surrounding the potential outcome of Sacramento's season revolved around development. That development discourse couldn't be more veracious for Marvin Bagley III, and so far he's manifesting a propitious three-point shot.

Through 19 games, Bagley is converting on 37% of 2.8 three-point attempts per contest. Conducting deeper dives reveal more intriguing numbers that we'll discuss later, but this fresh 19-game sample is arguably the best of his young career. The latter months of Bagley's rookie campaign exhibited the potential of his long ball: 44% on 1.8 attempts in 10 games in March and 37.5% on 3.2 attempts in five games in April.

The third-year big is performing well at the rim (69% on 72 attempts for the season), and though the mid-range struggles are evident (33% on 76 attempts), Bagley proffering a 37% clip with this sample-size cushion is something you snag and run with any day of the week -- and we've yet to see his best from deep.

Let's watch some tape:

Corner threes bear the most fruit for Bagley. Per Cleaning the Glass, Bagley is drilling 46% (11/24) of his corner threes, slotting in the 77th percentile, a career-high mark.

Prior to the Miami contest on Saturday, Bagley perched at 40%, a salivating rate nonetheless. But the Duke product concluded the match converting on 7-8 attempts, including 3-4 from three. All four attempts came from the left corner, where Bagley is 10-19 (52%) on the season, per NBA.com's shot chart data. We'll delve into how Bagley fares in other regions as we progress, but Bagley has claimed his ownership of the left corner. It's his territory, and the coaching staff seems cognizant of it.

In the clip, Richaun Holmes is operating in the high post as Buddy Hield comes to collect the dribble hand-off. Hield and Holmes flow into a pick-and-roll but watch how Kelly Olynyk drops the Bagley assignment to construct a wall before Hield. That wall bars two things: Hield's path to the rim and the roll pass to Holmes.

Throughout the game, you may have noticed how Miami defended Hield, especially on pick-and-rolls and dribble handoffs. They would immediately deploy two defenders to blitz him and force Hield into quick decisions. Miami's scheme against Hield is worthy of its own article, but in this specific play, Hield's only plausible option is the pass to Bagley, who was situated in that corner from the start. Olynyk contests to the best of his abilities, yet it doesn't matter.

Before you read any further, play the clip above and observe the top of your screen for the duration of the video. Go.

Now that you're back, let's discuss it. It's another play where Bagley is situated in the left corner for a possession. De'Aaron Fox penetrates the paint but not enough as Jimmy Butler forces him to move the ball. Harrison Barnes bullies the smaller Duncan Robinson from the right corner to the rim in two seconds, forcing the weak side help from Olynyk along the opposite baseline.

Bam Adebayo and Olynyk find themselves in a pick-your-poison sitch. Should Adebayo provide the help and let Olynyk split the difference between Bagley and Holmes? That's tough because Olynyk might not recover in time to prevent Holmes from deploying his patented push shot.

At the bottom of your screen, Butler is splitting the difference between Holmes and the kick-out pass to Hield, who is roaming the perimeter. It's all nuance.

Barnes takes advantage of what Miami dealt and delivers the pass. With the shot clock ticking and Olynyk now arriving with a hard closeout, Bagley comfortably drains the catch-and-shoot three. The assist from Barnes is riveting because when Barnes is on the floor, Bagley is shooting 39.5% from deep. When Barnes is off, Bagley's percentage dips to 31.2, per pbpstats.com.

You've viewed Bagley's finest makes -- here's the miss. Again, it's from the left corner, and he's open, so an airball doesn't seem accurate, right? Well, notice Bagley's attempts from the first two clips: simple catch-and-shoots. This attempt is similar as Kyle Guy delivers the pass. But carefully watch Bagley's feet in the first seconds of this clip. He's relocating to the corner instead of stationing himself there like the other plays.

He gets set, but it's not in the same vein as the others. He's still moving during the release, whereas the others required simple up-and-down maneuvers. Little nuances like that illustrate the differences between where Bagley is making strides and where there's room for improvement.

Bagley's individual success is permeating throughout the roster, too, as Sacramento pours it on from deep when Bagley steps on the hardwood. When Bagley is playing, the Kings are shooting 54% from corner threes, good for the 98th percentile, which is an 8.5% difference when he's off the court; Sacramento shoots 37.6% from non-corner threes, supplanting in the 69th percentile, a 6.2% difference when he's off; and on all three-pointers, the Kings are converting 41.6% with Bagley (93rd percentile), a 6.4% difference when's he off. All stats courtesy of Cleaning the Glass.

You just inhaled a bunch of numbers. In other words, when Bagley's playing, the Kings are lighting it up from deep. The problem, however, is that the frequency of those attempts is truncated. Despite the opulent shooting percentages, the Kings are in the 30th percentile and below for attempts in corner threes (30th), non-corner threes (21st), and all threes (21st) with Bagley on the court (all percentiles via Cleaning the Glass). The next step is to augment those attempts while maintaining similar efficiency.

And for Bagley, weaponizing a viable three-point shot is one step in the right direction. He's playing within the offensive flow, reimbursing his teammates with assists rather than posting up on empty-set isolations and generating feeble looks. Soon, you hope the Kings complicate the playbook for Bagley by involving him in more pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops, using him as the €œpop€ option off double-drags instead of rolling to the rim, and so much more I can't incorporate into this piece.

The left corner is fruitful, but Bagley's also 6-16 (37.5%) on above-the-break threes. However, he's 1-5 (20%) from the right corner and 3-14 (21.4%) down the middle. Part of Bagley's progress will rely on the staff to find opportunities for Bagley to attempt simpler looks in these red-light zones, such as the green-light catch-and-shoot attempts from the left corner.

Nonetheless, there's plenty of untapped potential in Bagley, and the developing long ball is a buoyant sign of that potential. Whether or not the Kings can extract that is a question Kings fans are anxiously waiting to see.

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King4life
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February 1, 2021 9:01 am

His 3 pt shot has gotten to the point where I am surprise when he misses, especially in the corners. Gotta give him credit for working on it.

Peja
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February 1, 2021 9:13 am

Team Bagley is about to tweet this article

TitleChaser
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February 1, 2021 10:00 am
Reply to  Peja

Hmmm, but it doesn’t advocate trading Bagley or firing Walton. Those are preferred criteria for a Team Bagley tweet.

Sir_tajj
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February 1, 2021 9:22 am

With the 3 point shot, it’s a different conversation about Marvin. It seemed as if he was improving after every game in his rookie year. He seems to be doing the same this year. So here’s to me, the guy who is wrong about Marvin’s potential at the beginning of every season 😔. Is Jermai Grant a good comp for him? Of course not Detroit Grant, Denver Grant. Assuming his defensive IQ catches up to his athleticism. I know his play making is no where close either but he has been getting better at decision making. I just hope his camp is not expecting a max contract tho. At least if they don’t offer the extension this year, we don’t have to worry about upsetting his camp. Since they’ve been upset since he was drafted. Lol

dhackett
February 1, 2021 9:30 am

every little bit helps

Marty
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February 1, 2021 10:30 am
Reply to  dhackett

We’ll have that backup center soon enough! 😜

RikSmits
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February 1, 2021 9:30 am

Finally he is playing within a well-defined, structured role that fits him, instead of being featured as a star player who initiates the (his?) offense from the high post. Good to see.

I hope he’s buying in, although I doubt that “Team Bagley” does, which is a potential problem, long term.

Next up: defense.

TerzoM
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February 1, 2021 10:35 am
Reply to  RikSmits

I do see him galloping less on defense – hope this 21-yo kid gets better

ForKingsandCountry
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February 1, 2021 10:40 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Yeah with Bagley it was so bad to start the year that I sort of feel like I’m just looking for any little signs of progress. The 3 point shooting and simply just playing within the offense is a big step in the right direction. I remember one of the things that I did appreciate about Bagley during his rookie year is that he showed an ability to improve on some of the little things as the year went on. If he can at least be not horrible on defense and he can play within a role he could have some utility as a floor stretcher and garbage man on the offensive glass. That provides a little value and it least makes him worth having on the floor.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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February 1, 2021 12:34 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Interestingly enough, It almost seems like the Kings are using him on offense as they would use Nemanja. There aren’t specific plays run for him, instead his job is to be the kick out for players like Fox, Buddy, and Barnes.

The Kings have rightfully stopped feeding Bagley the ball in the post and have him go to work where he either takes a contested half hook or turns the ball over, all while not passing out to shooters. They’ve basically flipped the script for him on offense.

jwalker1395
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February 1, 2021 1:25 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Finding a role for him was priority No. 1 going into this season and I like what’s happened so far. But to be sure, he wouldn’t fit in the role if it weren’t for his commitment to developing the skills required to fill it, namely his shooting, willingness to pass, and allowing the game to come to him. This is a rare example of good coaching and player development coming together for the Kings. I think the next layer may be running more plays for him coming off cuts/screens and looking for lobs and easy points around the basket. His inside scoring has not been as effective as it was, which has been a surprise and I would like to see them reinforce his abilities there over the course of the season. It could be chiefly due to the fact that when he is called upon to score inside, it’s often still in Iso situations. If his inside scoring could become more integrated into the larger offense, he may be a real offensive weapon waiting to be polished.

Kosta
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February 1, 2021 9:46 am

Marvin Bagthree

It’s in the bag!

Sacto_J
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February 1, 2021 10:40 am

Nice to see Marvin contributing, and even nicer to see that there’s some hope for this kid to be a viable NBA player, even it takes a little longer than anticipated. The “elephant in the room” for Bagley will be “can he make it through a full season (or 2?)” If he can do that this season and next I’d def shoot him a QO at the end of next season, tho he’d have to really step it up next season to be talking about a max. And if he doesn’t he’ll hopefully be at least worth a first rnd pick by then…

TheGrantNapear
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February 1, 2021 10:46 am

The idea that he can actually be part of the future core with Hali and Fox is a big improvement. Bags is only 21, so much room for improvement, he’s still like 6 years aways from his prime. Let’s just hope he keeps improving and playing within the flow of things and staying healthy.

RORDOG
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February 1, 2021 12:13 pm

I like that they seem committed to finding out if Bagley can play alongside a traditional center this season. It seemed like Walton was always hesitant to play him w/ Holmes last season. Roster construction is a whole lot easier if Bagley doesn’t need a special unicorn type to partner with in the frontcourt.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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February 1, 2021 12:35 pm

Another fantastic analysis with video, Sanjesh. Bravo!

jwalker1395
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February 1, 2021 1:18 pm

He’s still got a lot to work on but MB3 has undoubtedly been making strides in lots of aspects of his game that he was chided for before the season began. Defense, passing still needs a lot of work, but he’s clearly committed to developing his game. If he gets to a place where he has plus athleticism, rebounding, inside scoring and three point shooting, and his defense and passing become around league par, there’s a real chance he could become a 20-10 guy and our long-term solution at the 4. Excited to watch him continue to grow!

ajonez81
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February 2, 2021 12:10 am

Nice analysis, he has been showing improvement with being more patient and in flow of game. I like his corner 3s, the 3/4 angle ones are bad. He can just ditch the mid-range and stay in the paint. He’s also moving his feet and drawing charges. We’ll see, I’m not sold but progress is always good. Get a good coach and who knows…

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