3 ways Marvin Bagley III helps Detroit immediately

Detroit Bad Boys

After months of speculation and reported mutual interest between the Detroit Pistons and Marvin Bagley III, Pistons GM Troy Weaver was finally able to get his man on the day of the NBA trade deadline. Tonight, he suits up for the first time for the Pistons.

Taken with the second overall selection in the 2018 draft, Bagley has struggled to carve out a consistent role in the league due to injury and perhaps franchise incompetence. Prior to Thursday’s trade, the former Duke Blue Devil had only been able to suit-up in 148 of 282 Sacramento games. Now in his fourth year as a pro, the notoriety that comes with being the second pick has all but faded, the time is now for Bagley to show how he can contribute to winning basketball.

While there are plenty deficiencies within the 22 year-olds game, the arrival Bagley is a welcomed addition to a team that lacks front court size. With the current state of the Pistons’ roster, Bagley’s physical profile and skillset helps this team from day one. In this piece, I’ll delve into three aspects of Marvin Bagley III’s game which help the team from the moment he steps onto the court.

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Pick and Roll Threat

Upon finding out about the Bagley trade, without even looking at the numbers, my initial thoughts were that the roster now FINALLY has a decent pick-and-roll partner to pair with the team’s young guards.

Per NBA.com, Detroit ranks in the bottom-7 for points per possession (PPP) on pick and roll play-types. While some of the poor execution is due to inconsistent shooting from the team’s ball handlers, the absence of an effective roll-man has resulted in some ugly possessions. Detroit currently rolls out two of the league’s most inefficient roll-men in the league in Kelly Olynyk and Isaiah Stewart. Both players currently rank in the bottom 20th percentile of the league as pick-and-roll partners, with Olynyk having the least efficient season of his career.

Pick and Roll Man Statistics

Statistic Kelly Olynyk Isaiah Stewart Marvin Bagley III
Statistic Kelly Olynyk Isaiah Stewart Marvin Bagley III
Points Per Possesion 0.83 0.89 1.12
FG% 37.5% 42.6% 54.2%
Score Freq. % 36.1% 43.7% 57.7%
Percentile 11.8 18.6 51.5

2.13.2022 | NBA Player Sortable Stats – Playtype – Pick and Roll Man


Standing at 6-foot-11, Bagley’s height and vertical pop provides pick-and-roll ball handlers a dynamic lob threat. While he’s not one of the absolute elites, Bagley has provided decent return as a pick-and-roll man during his four seasons in the NBA, consistently averaging above 1.04 PPP. This season, the 22 year-old ranks in the 52nd percentile with a return rate of 1.12 PPP.

Prior to being dealt, Bagley was able to create some great chemistry with former Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton. Hence, the vertical spacing which the Californian native provides should help the likes of Cunningham and Hayes create more effectively in pick-and-roll situations. Cunningham, in particular, seems to benefit the most as his ability to manipulate a defense has, at times, been hindered by not having a dynamic pick-and-roll partner.

Bagley has also shown an ability to finish plays in short roll situations, an area where Stewart has especially struggled. Similar to his former front-court partner Richaun Holmes, Bagley has developed an effective left handed push shot. Per Synergy, the former 5-star recruit shoots 58% on these types of looks, with a decent return rate of 1.18 PPP. The 5-to-15-foot push shot is one of Bagley’s most efficient and preferred looks, in turn making him a viable option to finish short-roll plays. The next step for Bagley would be making passing reads out of the short roll, however, for the purpose of this article we’ll stay focused with what he can do as of today.

Interior Finishing and Scoring

Throughout the season, a lot has been made about Detroit’s inability to hit an outside shot. However, for as bad as they have looked from the perimeter, this year’s Pistons team currently rank dead-last in the league from two-point range, shooting an abysmal 49% inside the arc. Even with his shaky jump-shot, Bagley is currently shooting 54% from two-point range, good enough to place him near the top of the team.

While the former lottery pick doesn’t rank highly as an at rim finisher, he still finishes a solid 67% of looks at the basket. More importantly though, he provides Detroit with a versatile scoring option in the paint, something they have lacked in recent years. In his fourth season, Bagley has shown some encouraging progress as a post-scorer. This season he’s shooting a tick below 60% on post ups, ranking him in the 93rd percentile amongst all players. The former-Blue Devils efficiency in the post has potential to serve as a safety valve when the Detroit offense breaks down or stagnates.

Another interesting aspect of Bagley’s game is his willingness to make cuts towards the basket. Per Synergy, in Bagley’s 30 games with the Kings this season. 14% of his possessions come in the form of basket cuts. In fact, he has scored his third most points (47) from this play type. While his efficiency requires improvement, any form of off-ball movement is a welcome addition to a Piston offense that far too often becomes stuck in the mud. The four-year pro’s offensive repertoire on the inside stands to significantly aid a Detroit team that ranks 23rd in the league for points in the paint.

Rebounding and Second-Chance Opportunities

When sifting through Marvin Bagley pre-draft evaluations, you don’t have to scroll far to find how gifted a rebounder the former Blue Devil was in college. Bagley is the height of a traditional big, blessed with the coordination and agility of a wing. Dubbed as a generational second- and third-leaper, the fourth-year big-man is blessed with all the physical tools to be an elite rebounder, particularly on the offensive end.

Even in a season where he has seen a reduction in minutes, Bagley has continued to average more than two offensive rebounds a game. Per NBA.com, amongst players that average 25 minutes or less, Bagley currently ranks 9th for second-chance points, a number that only strengthens a Detroit team that sits in the top-10 for the aforementioned category (turns out, it helps to miss all those shots the first time around).

Moving from one end of the court to the other, Bagley’s rebounding ability on the defensive end will be a welcomed sight for a Detroit team that currently ranks 28th in the league. Per Cleaning the Glass, the newest Piston ranks in the 82nd percentile for defensive rebounding percentage.

When assessing the Pistons depth chart post-trade deadline, it only makes sense that Bagley the role of the player he was traded for, Trey Lyles. After a turbulent season, Bagley now has the opportunity to seemingly settle into a consistent role with a team prioritising the development of its young talent. For Bagley, the reputation of being a second-overall selection will stay with him forever but, it’s important he embraces his role as an energy big and doesn’t try to do ‘too much’. The same logic should be applied for how us as fans view his play, he’s a reclamation project, Cade Cunningham is the saviour.

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