Detroit Pistons get ‘what are we doing here’ award for Marvin Bagley III trade

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons made one trade before the NBA deadline Thursday afternoon, acquiring athletic power forward Marvin Bagley III from Sacramento in a four-team deal involving seven players.

Bagley, as has been well chronicled, did not work out as the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2018 and it cost the Kings dearly. This season, the 22-year-old was phased out of the rotation to start the year and when he did earn minutes, was often parked in the corner, where he took 15% of his shots on corner 3s and made just 24% — the fourth percentile among all power forward/centers, according to Cleaning The Glass. Outside shooting is not his strength — he’s a career 29.9% 3-point shooter. Health and defense have also dragged him down.

Instead, he is an athletic, lanky (6 feet 11, 235 pounds), offensively skilled player with touch around the basket, which will serve the Pistons well, specifically franchise player Cade Cunningham. There’s a reason Bagley was the No. 1 player in his recruiting class and starred as a freshman at Duke.

The Pistons didn’t give up a ton of future value in the deal, trading away Josh Jackson, Trey Lyles and two future second-round picks (least favorable of Golden State/Cleveland in 2023, Sacramento’s in 2024). The Kings’ pick could land in the 30s, but that’s a few years away and is the price of getting a look at Bagley, whom Pistons second-year general manager Troy Weaver has seemingly wanted for a while. Bagley can become a restricted free agent this summer, meaning the Pistons will be able to retain him if they choose.

Let’s get into what NBA analysts are saying about the trade, besides our own Omari Sankofa II, who wrotePistons’ trade for Marvin Bagley III is a high-upside, low-cost move.

ESPN, Kevin Pelton: D-minus

Pelton has the Pistons as the clear loser in this deal, going Kings A, Clippers A-minus and Bucks C-plus.

He likes the Kings’ acquisition of Donte DiVincenzo and his potential fit at shooting guard to space the floor around Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox.

For the Pistons, Pelton doesn’t think it was a good value move.

“After showing signs of at least being a useful volume scorer his first three seasons, Bagley has backslid in year four, using plays at a below-average rate (19%) while also scoring inefficiently,” Pelton writes.

“To compensate for his shortcomings defensively, Bagley has to become a plus scorer, and he hasn’t yet gotten to that point. Sacramento could also never quite figure out a position for Bagley. As a power forward, he doesn’t offer enough floor spacing. … At center, his rim protection is a major shortcoming. Perhaps the best option is having Bagley play center and switch everything, since he has been decent defending guards one-on-one.

“Given the Pistons will have enough cap space this summer that they could likely have signed Bagley outright, they’re not necessarily getting much value for a pair of second-round picks.”

Pelton notes in less than two years, Weaver has now acquired five players drafted in the lottery since 2015 that didn’t stick with their original team (Bagley, Jackson, Lyles, Dennis Smith Jr., Jahlil Okafor).

“The thing about Weaver’s reclamation projects is none of them have hit yet,” Pelton writes. “Jackson had his moments but ultimately didn’t prove a keeper. Nor did Lyles, while Okafor and Smith Jr. are long gone. We’ll see whether the latest attempt to get lottery value at bargain prices pays off.”

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The Athletic is split

Former Memphis Grizzlies front office executive John Hollinger gave out awards and gave the Pistons his “what are we doing here award.”

Hollinger, who also wasn’t a fan of the Pistons’ moves during the 2020 draft and free agency, doesn’t get this move of giving up draft capital for a player with little evidence to suggest he’s good, when he could have been signed in free agency without giving away picks.

“Trading two second-round picks for Marvin Bagley is possibly defensible if there is no other pathway to obtaining his services, but this just isn’t the case,” Hollinger writes. “Detroit will have roughly $25 million in cap room, depending on where its first-round pick lands. It can sign Bagley with room, and his cap hold is larger than any reasonable amount they would sign him for; thus, his Bird Rights are near-worthless for Detroit.

“The only advantage I can think of is the two months of examination before he hits free agency. Even here, two seconds is a pretty expensive price to pay for a ‘free look’ in a lost season, especially if Bagley might have been bought out had he not been traded.”

As we have written previously, the Pistons can’t trade a first-round pick until the draft and now are down a few more second-rounders.

Meanwhile, Hollinger’s colleague, Zach Harper, liked the move for the Pistons, grading it an A-minus.

“I love this deal for the Pistons,” Harper writes. “Grabbing a big man like Bagley at this point in his career makes a lot of sense. He failed in Sacramento for various reasons.

“He gets a fresh start in Detroit for a team that is willing to take the time to develop and doesn’t feel the pressure of breaking the longest playoff drought in the league (Sacramento). Bagley is still very skilled, and Cade Cunningham should be able to get him some easy buckets. Dwane Casey can work on getting him plenty of opportunities all over the floor to get some rhythm shots and build his confidence. … Time to build this prospect back up.”

IN HIS BLOOD: Why Marvin Bagley III was destined to join the Pistons

Bleacher Report, Dan Favale: B-minus

Favale gave the Pistons the lowest grade in the deal, giving the Kings an A, Bucks an A-minus and Clippers a B.

“Bagley is the quintessential distressed asset,” Favale writes. “He fell out of favor in Sacramento forever ago and is more recognized as ‘the dude who the Kings drafted over Luka Doncic’ than for anything he’s done on the court. To be fair, he hasn’t done much of anything on the court since the end of his rookie season, in part because of various injuries.

“But he still tantalizes at times as a big who can run the floor and attack with the ball, in open space. … Detroit has every reason to give him the green light from deep.

“Coughing up any Kings second-rounder for a player with minimal market value is slightly cringeworthy, but their offense could use the theoretical shot of off-ball adrenaline that Bagley provides. And if he becomes a hit for the rest of this season, they should have no trouble keeping him in restricted free agency.”

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CBS Sports, James Herbert: B-minus

Another writer who had the Kings as a clear winner (A-plus) and the Pistons at the lower end.

Herbert writes Bagley is a gifted scorer for his size and “make plays that most players his size simply can’t.” But he says teams typically aren’t dying to accommodate bigs who don’t protect the rim.

“I’m being a bit generous here,” Herbert writes of his grade. “Strictly based on value, I’m not sure that getting a look at Bagley for a couple of months is worth two second-round picks. Detroit is exactly the type of team, though, that should take a chance on Bagley, and acting now means it controls whether or not he’s on the roster next season.

“It is within the realm of possibility that the Pistons could have kept those two picks, let Jackson’s and Lyles’ contracts expire and signed Bagley on the open market in the summer. If another team was willing to go get him now, though, then Detroit would have had to outbid that team in July.

“This way, the Pistons have a chance to get to know Bagley, to see how he acclimates to his new environment and make a more informed decision about what to offer him in free agency. It’s the same thing the Kings are doing with DiVincenzo, and it’s up to Bagley to make this look like a smart move.”

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