The 2018 NBA Draft was an unfortunate watershed moment for the Sacramento Kings. We've hashed this saga out hundreds of times before, so to make a long story short: Vlade Divac had an opportunity to draft Luka Doncic and effectively erase his reputation as a poor general manager while being directly responsible for turning this franchise around, and he just missed on it. He didn't think Luka Doncic was as good as everyone else did.
Divac selected Marvin Bagley with the 2nd overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, and after a promising rookie season, Bagley's sophomore campaign has been littered with injuries and setbacks.
At this stage in Bagley's career, considering how much court time he's missed, it's hard to project what his prime looks like. He'll be the single most intriguing King when the NBA returns at the end of July, and for better or worse, how he performs in those 8 games in Orlando will heavily influence his career narrative as the organization heads into an immensely important offseason for this young core.
ESPN's Kevin Pelton and Mike Schmitz took a fresh look at the 2018 NBA Draft by ranking sophomore players by star potential.
Both Pelton and Schmitz agree that Luka Doncic is in a class of his own. He's probably the best young player in the entire NBA regardless of draft class. Zion Williamson is the only other player in the conversation.
Where analysts rank Doncic among young NBA players isn't very compelling. We all know the answers there.
Where analysts rank Marvin Bagley is much more interesting as I often find myself wondering the same thing. We know Bagley isn't Doncic, but what can he be, and is that worth building around? These are questions the Kings have to answer, and topics Kings fans discuss all the time.
Pelton and Schmitz both ranked their top-10 NBA sophomores. Pelton didn't have Bagley on his list at all, opting for Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jaren Jackson Jr., Deandre Ayton, Devonte' Graham, Mitchell Robinson, Donte DiVincenzo, Duncan Robinson, and Mikal Bridges over the Duke big man.
Schmitz gave Bagley the nod at no. 10 on his rankings.
I went with Bagley at No. 10. I wasn't all that high on him as an elite prospect heading into the draft, as bigs who don't make 3s consistently, create for others or defend at a high level aren't what teams tend to look for. Still, I think Bagley has a bright future as a mismatch, scoring center given his rare fluidity and ability to handle at 6-foot-11. Although not always efficient, he's still averaging 21.0 points (49.7% FGs), 10.8 rebounds (3.1 fouls), and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes through 75 NBA games. Watching him push off the break and spin past Rudy Gobert for a finish makes me wonder what he could look like in a year or two once he improves as a shooter and decision-maker.
I can't disagree with the assessment from Schmitz here. That is the conundrum with Bagley. He's best utilized as an interior center offensively, but he doesn't have the strength or defensive skills to put him in that position for significant stretches. If you play him with another interior center like Holmes or Len, you can hide his defensive deficiencies, but all of your offensive spacing goes away with it.
The Kings have tried to find a solution to this problem. Dewayne Dedmon was supposed the be the defensive floor spacer that would allow Bagley to focus on what he can do while hiding what he can't, but Dedmon seemingly forgot how to play basketball here. There just isn't an abundance of modern NBA bigs that can space the floor and defend the rim, and the emergence of Richaun Holmes at center on a team friendly contract complicates optimizing Bagley even more.
I wouldn't take Pelton or Schmitz's word as gospel, but I find value in reading outside voices whether I agree with them or not. It's important to check your perception once in a while. In this case, it seems like the majority agree on Marvin Bagley: It hasn't always been great, and the injuries complicate everything, but it's too early to call.