Marvin Bagley III’s aggressiveness, effort impress Detroit Pistons during debut

Detroit Free Press

WASHINGTON D.C. — It didn’t take much time for Marvin Bagley III to show his skills.

A couple of minutes after making his Detroit Pistons debut in the first quarter of Monday’s game against the Washington Wizards, he maneuvered around Deni Avdija in the post and finished a spinning layup. Not long after, he knocked down a hook shot to tie the score at 22 points.

During the opening possession of the second quarter, Bagley drew a charge on Wizards forward Anthony Gill. Bagley, who arrived in Detroit a few hours ahead of 3 p.m. trade deadline last Thursday, had justa few days to acclimate himself with his new team. But he made a difference during his first game with the Pistons, finishing with 10 points and eight rebounds — three offensive — in just over 20 minutes of action.

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Bagley’s effort on both ends of the floor was appreciated by head coach Dwane Casey and his new teammates, and he was a bright spot for the Pistons during an otherwise disappointing 103-94 loss to the Wizards. 

“I liked it,” Casey said of Bagley’s debut. “He’s long. His timing’s off a little bit, understandably, but he has an advantage in the post with his length and his ability to score around the basket. I really like that. And first play down the floor, he took a charge. I love that. He’s a little rusty but I like the way he plays.”

Bagley arrived in Detroit after three up-and-down seasons with the Sacramento Kings, who drafted him second overall in 2018. His size and athleticism made him one of the best prospects in a stacked draft class, but injuries, lack of development and a contentious relationship with the Kings’ front office led to the organization  with their former prized prospect. The Pistons capitalized and see Bagley as a player they can potentially build around.

He’s still finding his rhythm, as he was a healthy scratch multiple times  during the Kings’ last seven games before the deadline. But his touch and athleticism around the rim bring a different dynamic to a Pistons roster that has lacked both this season.

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The coaching staff is now tasked with figuring out how to best utilize Bagley’s skillset. Casey staggered Bagley and Stewart on Tuesday, and Bagley split his minutes playing center next to Jerami Grant and power forward next to Kelly Olynyk. Neither Bagley nor Stewart is a consistent outside shooter, and staggering the two players enabled the Pistons to maximize their floor spacing.

That doesn’t mean Bagley and Stewart won’t play next to each other this season, however.

Casey said the decision to stagger the two players Monday was partially because of matchup advantages against the Wizards. They’ll continue to tinker with the rotation and see which lineups Bagley can thrive in. 

“This is an experiment to see where he fits, and he can fit with both groups,” Casey said. “He can play the four, tonight with (Rui) Hachimura or their smaller five with (Anthony) Gill, who’s able to do that. I said before the game he’s very flexible and he’s very versatile in the positions he can play. He can play on the floor, he can play on the block, but I like the way he came in and contributed.”

It wasn’t a mistake-free game by Bagley, who missed four of his six free-throw attempts. He also committed a flagrant-1 foul on Hachimura early in the second quarter, over-committing while closing out on Hachimura’s 3-point attempt. Hachimura landed on Bagley’s foot and was visibly in pain.

But he made an overall positive impression and will get an opportunity to build on his performance Wednesday against the Boston Celtics before the Pistons take time off for All-Star weekend.

“He was aggressive,” Saddiq Bey said. “It was good to stay on the offensive glass. Took a charge early. Shows his defensive awareness. We’re definitely going to need him and use him down the stretch.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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