Kings: Bagley Needs To Prove Himself From Three

Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III (35) shoots over Chicago Bulls guard Wayne Selden (14) on Sunday, March 17, 2019 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)
Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III (35) shoots over Chicago Bulls guard Wayne Selden (14) on Sunday, March 17, 2019 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images) /
Sacramento Kings
Sacramento Kings Marvin Bagley (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Marvin Bagley will likely be starting at the forward spot this season, and Sacramento needs as much spacing as they can get. Bagley needs to prove himself from beyond the arc.

Nemanja Bjelica started 70 games for the Sacramento Kings in the 2018-19 season, while the most recent second overall pick Marvin Bagley III started just four. It came down to one aspect: Bagley shot 31% from three and Bjelica shot 40% on more than double the number of attempts.

Bagley probably should have started more games, and him not doing so seems to have been a major factor in former coach Dave Joeger’s eventual firing. But the spacing that Bjelica provided was crucial for De’Aaron Fox and others to have open driving lanes. Bagley shot well from long range during certain stretches of the season, but the lack of consistency and total attempts still left a sense of uncertainty. Defenders will close out harder once they fully respect the jumper, which will lead to easier drives to the basket and allow Bagley to continue to develop his overall offensive game.

A major issue with Bagley not being even close to the same spacer as Bjelica last season was the fact that Willie Cauley-Stein was the starting center for nearly every game. Cauley-Stein shot two threes all season long, and even made one, giving him the best percentage on the roster.

Bagley will likely be starting alongside Dewayne Dedmon who has recently emphasized and successfully developed his three-point shot, shooting 38% overall and an exceptional 43% from the corners. All five players on the floor having the versatility to shoot from distance will allow for more easy cuts and drives to the rim, and the defense will be on their heels no matter who they help off of.

Sacramento Kings
Sacramento Kings Marvin Bagley III (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The shot looked promising from Marvin Bagley, but we need to see the proof. Having totaled less than 100 total three-point attempts in his rookie season gave us a preview, but not enough to draw definitive conclusions.

Over Marvin’s first 21 NBA games, he shot 7/23 (30%) from three. Over the 10 total games played in January, he finished 2/16 for a frightening 11%  on a notably smaller sample size. February was an improvement, when he finished 5/18 (27%). Again, the sample size of these makes it difficult to draw any real conclusions from this — aside from the obvious that Bagley is not a lights-out shooter from deep.

The final stretch of last season leaves Sacramento with reasons to be optimistic. In 14 games played from March ’til the season’s end, Bagley had 34 three-point attempts and converted on 14 of those, a 41% clip. That is the efficiency Kings fans like to see.

More opportunity for Marvin Bagley, and hopefully more three-point attempts across the roster with Luke Walton now running the show, should allow us to really see if he will remain streaky or if he levels out. Finishing at 31% on the year isn’t a terrible starting point, as long as it is just that —  a starting point.

The Fox-Bagley pick-and-roll should become a future staple for the offense, especially when the Kings need some creation outside of transition. Having the option to pick-and-pop with Bagley, which took place 35 times last season per Synergy, will cause yet another dynamic that defenses have to prepare for. If Aaron Gordon can get up 4.4 threes attempted per game, there is no reason why Bagley can’t, at a minimum, surpass three per game.

Now, while this will be of great benefit to the players surrounding Bagley, I believe Marvin has the highest offensive potential on this roster. He can be elite at driving to the hoop, using his length, agility, athleticism, highly coveted second jump, and touch. But the difference in how opposing teams close out on a 31% shooter and a 37% shooter will eventually allow for better opportunities to put the ball on the floor and attack those closeouts.

Sacramento Kings
Sacramento Kings Marvin Bagley (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Bagley has shown off his mid-range game, shooting 46% during his rookie campaign, placing him in the 83rd percentile, per Synergy. Taking a couple of steps back and turning those twos into threes will help Bagley. I have faith in his three-ball progressing into a real threat, but he needs to prove it with the increased opportunity this upcoming year.

Consistency, increased opportunity, and confidence in himself and from the coaching staff around him should allow Bagley to take a step forward with his three-point stroke.

The aspects of the offense that open up with an improved three-point shot could be just what Marvin Bagley needs to get his name into the Most Improved Player conversation in his sophomore season, along with helping the Kings get that much tougher to guard and prepare for.

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Bagley being a legitimate threat from beyond the arc could lead to a few more games in the win column, and the Sacramento Kings need everyone that they can get to sneak into the playoffs in what promises to be a wild year for the Western Conference.