If Ayton Is The Gem Of This Draft, Then Bagley Is More Than Just A Consolation Prize

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Last August, the college-basketball world erupted when the No. 1 recruit, Marvin Bagley III, reclassified to the class of 2017 to play for Coach Krzyzewski and his Duke squad. It is now impossible to find a NBA mock draft that doesn’t have him listed amongst the names of Deandre Ayton of Arizona and the EuroLeague phenom, Luka Doncic. Most draft analysts see Bagley going anywhere between 2nd and 4th, with Ayton being the consensus number one pick on most mocks.  It’s safe to assume that Ayton will most likely be gone by the time the Grizzlies are on the clock on June 21st, with a more realistic chance of Bagley still being there. The Grizzlies front office needs to be prepared for all possibilities just in case Bagley, who I view as very comparable to Ayton, becomes available.

If you were to casually look up their stats separately, you would quickly realize how similar Ayton and Bagley’s numbers are. Both played within tenths of each other in points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage, minutes played, turnovers, personal fouls, and steals. These two prospects are so similar in almost every statistical category, yet Ayton is projected to be number one on nearly all accounts.

At 7’1” 250 lbs., Deandre Ayton boasts both conference Freshman and Player of The Year honors as he led Arizona to the best record in the Pac12. Arizona’s offense utilized him in different ways: as a guy to dump the ball to down low and as an active pick and roll man. He averaged 20.1 pts off 61.2% from the field. 11.9 out of his 12.9 field goal attempts were inside the three-point line where he shot 63.5%. He had 11.6 rebounds with 8.2 of them off the defensive glass. Compared to Bagley, even strictly from appearance, Ayton is much more physically dominant. But then that’s where you wonder - was he able to be dominant on the court  in college due to his size or his talent? Don’t get me wrong, he has a lot of talent. You can’t average 20 and 10 in the Pac 12 and be a bum, but it’s also fair to ask why he didn’t consistenly do more than what he did. He’s 7’1”, 250 pounds, and a 43-inch vertical. He’s as big as Hakeem Olajuwon and can jump as high as John Wall, but left a lot to be desired on the defensive end and was often criticized for not being locked in as much as you’d like to see from a potential franchise center-piece. He has all these physical tools that he just doesn’t use.

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As I said earlier, Bagley and Ayton have very similar statistics. The expectations that Bagley imposed on college basketball media members and fans prior to the season never faltered throughout his freshman season averaging 21.2 pts and 11.1 rebounds (4 ORB/7.1 DRB). His game is smooth and explosive. He, similarly to Ayton, shot 61.5% from the field. The biggest difference between the two could possibly shooting, which shows that Bagley shot close to two threes per game (1.8) at a 38.6% clip while Ayton only shot one per game at 34.3%. Bagley is 6’11” and 235 pounds of pure athleticism. He goes after offensive boards and runs the fast break as good as anyone else out there. He’s often been compared  to Chris Bosh, long but not big, active everywhere with a rough but developing jump shot.

Despite Ayton being projected as the overall pick and Bagley being projected anywhere from 2-4, Bagley is just as, if not, more intriguing and valuable as a prospect. A power forward with his size and skill would be a great complement to Gasol, which is really the plan for this draft. Find a guy to complement what we have left of the Core Four that could carry the franchise when the inevitable transition into the next era happens. Bagley could be that piece and should be if available.

GrizzEric Lentz