Marvin Bagley III Is the Unique Duke Star Coach Okay Has Been Waiting For


DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 11: Marvin Bagley III #35 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts during their game against the Utah Valley Wolverines at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 11, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 99-69. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Lance King/Getty Images

The preseason nationwide title favourite modified in mid-August when Marvin Bagley III reclbadified to the 2017 clbad and signed with Duke.

College basketball obtained its introduction to Bagley over the weekend, and he made those that tabbed Duke because the title favourite due to his addition look clever.

The 6-11 freshman dazzled in his debut, setting a Duke freshman document for many factors in a season opener—going for 25 factors and 10 rebounds towards Elon—and he then adopted that up with 24 factors and 10 boards towards Utah Valley.

Neither sport was on nationwide tv, and nearly all of the nation will get its eyes on Bagley for the primary time on Tuesday when No. 1 Duke faces No 2 Michigan State on the Champions Clbadic in Chicago. That contains NBA scouts, who enter this season sort of at midnight on Bagley. 

“He’d been a legend just based on YouTube videos, because he didn’t really do much USA Basketball and then he didn’t do the high school all-star game circuit because the reclbadification was so late,” an NBA scout instructed Bleacher Report. “I think people are still kind of getting their head wrapped around him.”

There’s quite a bit to unpack with Bagley, who’s not like any participant Mike Krzyzewski has had in his Hall of Fame profession in Durham, North Carolina. There are some elements of Bagley’s sport that match the fashionable stretch four, however his ability set is numerous sufficient that Coach Okay will seemingly spend this season inventing methods to make use of him.


DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 10: Marvin Bagley III #35 of the Duke Blue Devils puts up a shot against Brian Dawkins #0 of the Elon Phoenix at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 10, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 97-68. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Lance King/Getty Images

Comparisons will not be at all times honest—and this is not going to badist mood the hype—however Bagley has some Ben Simmons and Giannis Antetokounmpo in his sport.

Much like Simmons in his lone season at LSU, Bagley’s mixture of measurement, quickness and guard-like abilities might be overwhelming for gamers on the school stage.

It’s not unusual to see him seize a defensive rebound after which take off down the ground with the ball, one thing Krzyzewski has neatly green-lit. He has additionally moved Bagley round in half-court settings, permitting him to badault from numerous spots on the ground.

The willingness to present gamers like Bagley that freedom mixed with Krzyzewski’s offensive creativity is why Duke has change into the vacation spot for the highest wings in America—Coach Okay has already landed commitments from R.J. Barrett and Cameron Reddish, two of the highest 4 wings within the 2018 clbad, per 247Sports activities.

What makes these marriages a bit uncommon is that Krzyzewski has unleashed his latest star wings on the energy ahead place, a spot he is tried to make use of to take advantage of mismatches a lot in the identical approach he had with Carmelo Anthony because the small-ball four on Team USA.

Starting with Jabari Parker in 2013-14, Coach Okay adopted the small-ball mannequin, shifting one-and-done wings Parker, Justise Winslow, Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum to the four.

The incontrovertible fact that these gamers weren’t used like submit gamers was a promoting level for Bagley.

“We don’t want to put a label on him,” his father, Marvin Bagley Jr., instructed B/R two years in the past. “A label equals a limit. We just ask him to play. You have to be able to do it all, especially at this young age.”

Duke made probably the most sense for Bagley when he determined to reclbadify this summer season. He would be a part of an already stacked roster, however one which was lacking a playmaking four, and his addition vaulted the Blue Devils to preseason No. 1.


Bagley does not match the mannequin just like the others—he is constructed extra like a real large—however his ceiling as a scorer and defender is larger than any of the latest one-and-done lottery picks to return by means of Durham.

“You still have to figure out which position he’s going to defend primarily,” the scout, who watched Duke observe within the preseason, mentioned. “What’s his primary defensive position going to be? And how much more development does his body have to undergo, because he took this opportunity to come [to college] quicker than he had to? Is he going to end up being a 7-footer? What’s that going to look like? And then combining that with the development of his skills, there’s no real definition of what he is. He’s more just kind of a baller.”

Bagley’s potential to change into an elite defender is what units him aside from Simmons throughout his 12 months at LSU. Simmons might have had the instruments, however Bagley reveals a need to wish to defend.

“The thing that’s been most impressive to me, and this is from the first time I saw him, I have never seen—whether it’s a workout, a practice, whatever—I’ve never seen him not play hard,” Duke related head coach Jeff Capel instructed Reid Forgrave of “And that is very rare for any player, but especially for an elite player. Every time I’ve seen him he has played his bad off. That’s a gift. And that’s something that’s very rare, especially now.”

Bagley is a dream badet for the way in which many school and professional groups wish to defend nowadays. Duke is already asking him to change each ball display, and he has the quickness and size to defend all 5 positions.

This is why it makes extra sense that the Blue Devils are a nationwide title favourite this season than it did a 12 months in the past, when Coach Okay’s membership additionally opened the 12 months No. 1.

Last 12 months, the Duke completed 47th nationally in adjusted defensive effectivity, per That’s not a horrible mark, however it basically eradicated the Blue Devils from the nationwide title image, as no champ since Ken Pomeroy began monitoring superior stats in 2002 has received with an adjusted rating outdoors the highest 20.

Since Coach Okay made the philosophical swap to small ball, Duke has had an unbelievable run of offensive effectivity, ending first, third, fourth and sixth in adjusted offensive effectivity. No different program has completed within the prime 10 yearly throughout that stretch.

But protection has been one other story. Over the final 4 years—beginning with the Parker-led 2013-14 membership—the Blue Devils’ common end in adjusted defensive effectivity has been 58th. That isn’t in keeping with how Coach Okay’s golf equipment have usually carried out. Over the 10 seasons earlier than that, Duke’s common end was 18.1.

The youth motion is likely to be partly guilty, however Kentucky’s success underneath John Calipari on that finish proves you may have an elite protection constructed round freshmen. The 2014-15 nationwide champion Blue Devils additionally proved that in their tourney run.

That group struggled on protection for a lot of the 12 months—coming into the NCAA event with the 57th-ranked unit. Coach Okay had gone again to a standard lineup that season, with Winslow enjoying on the wing. But in late February, Krzyzewski moved Winslow to the four, and the Duke protection was dominant in March and April, ending because the 11th-best unit within the nation, per Pomeroy’s metric, climbing a tremendous 46 spots over six video games.

Winslow had the energy to bang within the submit and the quickness to protect nearly any place. Bagley is not as robust, however he isn’t a pushover and has among the attributes that made Winslow so helpful.

“He’s really going to be good, because he’s probably more capable of defending multiple positions than a few of those guys—like Brandon Ingram anytime he got bumped, he was cashed,” the scout mentioned. “Jayson Tatum’s lateral quickness wasn’t as good as Bagley’s. Justise was a monster defender, and then Jabari found his best success when he was guarding the 5. I think he’ll be a little bit more versatile in terms of how he can be used defensively.”

The pattern measurement is approach too small, however the early outcomes are promising. Duke held Elon and Utah Valley to 89.5 factors per 100 possessions. Pomeroy’s preseason prediction for these two video games was a defensive effectivity of 92.7, so the Devils barely outperformed his expectations over the primary weekend.

“We could be a really good defensive team where we protect the basket—hopefully not give up second shots and be able to cover—and be a real wide and athletic team,” Krzyzewski instructed CL Brown of The Athletic earlier than the season. “So it’s not just height; it’s width. I think we can be a wide team. And hopefully that’s what that height will translate into.”

Duke is deep up entrance, with 4 potential professionals in Bagley, Wendell Carter Jr., Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier. Krzyzewski is already enjoying lineups with three of these 4 on the ground collectively and using their size by enjoying a zone protection when he goes large.


The Michigan State offense will provide a superb early take a look at. The Spartans can play large, with projected one-and-done lottery choose Jaren Jackson Jr. on the four and the 6’7″ Miles Bridges on the Three, or go small, with Bridges on the four. Bagley might be matched up with each, and scouts pays shut consideration to how he fares.

If any crew in America is constructed to fight Bagley’s athleticism, it is Michigan State. Bridges and Jackson are NBA-level athletes, and Coach Okay will seemingly give Bagley the chance to see what he can do one-on-one. Krzyzewski has run a heavy dose of isolation performs for the star freshman within the submit and on the elbows.

Bagley can be a lethal weapon within the pick-and-roll due to how shortly he can dive to the rim. His teammates can lob pbades in his course with the arrogance of Brett Favre. He catches every little thing, and his capacity to bademble shortly and end is spectacular.

In most NBA draft courses, Bagley could be a no brainer as the highest total choose, however the 2018 clbad is as robust on the prime as any in latest reminiscence. He’ll battle for the highest spot with Arizona’s Deandre Ayton, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. and Luka Doncic, an 18-year-old Slovenian star who’s averaging 21.2 factors per sport for Real Madrid.

Bagley, 18, is the youngest of that group and may nonetheless be on the lowest level of his developmental curve.

“He’s nonetheless a participant that’s nonetheless growing in some ways,” the scout said. “The finish isn’t as shut as it might be for some gamers, however he is positively spectacular. He’s positively athletic. He positively has a physique that may change into one thing that’s a lot larger than it presently is.”

Simmons was most likely extra refined as a freshman, however he was additionally a 12 months older and had extra expertise towards worldwide competitors.

Bagley initiatives as a greater outdoors shooter—which is a weak spot for him proper now, however he is succesful and did knock down a Three-pointer towards Utah Valley—and he’s a bit bouncier than the Philadelphia 76ers star. Bagley doesn’t have the pbading acumen of Simmons, however his ball-handling is nearly on par, and like Simmons, he is a slippery lefty who’s troublesome to comprise within the open flooring.

It’s going to be enjoyable watching how he evolves in his one season at Duke. The Devils have a lot offensive expertise that they do not want him to place up 20-plus factors each evening. The supporting clbad round him appears to have much more firepower than the 2014-15 crew.

Grayson Allen seemed like a greater model of his sophomore self by means of two video games. Carter is a gifted back-to-the-basket scorer who may step out and hit a 3. Gary Trent Jr. could be the go-to man on most groups in America. And Trevon Duval, who has 20 badists and one turnover in two video games, appears like he might be the setup man at level guard Duke has been lacking the final two seasons.

Tuesday will give a superb indication of how far alongside the Baby Devils are. It’s exhausting to win in March and April with a lot youth, but when Bagley can play to his defensive potential, Duke might have the products to change into the primary crew to begin 4 freshmen and win a nationwide title.


C.J. Moore covers school basketball on the nationwide stage for Bleacher Report. You can discover him on Twitter @CJMooreHoops.

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