Marvin Bagley III ready to ‘get this thing rolling’ with Pistons

After three-plus years of not being Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III was ready to relaunch his NBA career somewhere other than Sacramento. After watching the Pistons he created for the first 50-some games too often in need of an athletic big man, Troy Weaver was ready to make Detroit that place for Bagley.

“A big, athletic guy who can run, rebound and put the ball in the basket,” Weaver said after Bagley went through his first Pistons practice on Sunday. “We’re excited to add that to the mix. We don’t have a guy like that. I’m charged with making sure we have enough tools in the toolbox and we’re exciting about adding it.”

Bagley, 22, was the second pick in a loaded 2018 draft that saw Deandre Ayton go first and Doncic, Trae Young and Jaren Jackson Jr. taken 3-4-5 after Bagley. Bagley’s wasn’t the first NBA career to be derailed in Sacramento, but the perception of Bagley is colored heavily by the success of the players taken after him, Doncic especially. His career averages of 13.5 points and 7.2 rebounds don’t exactly say “bust.”

Relieved of the burden of relentless expectations in Sacramento, Bagley appears energized by wearing a Pistons uniform.

“I’m excited,” he said Sunday. “It’s a new start. We’ve got a lot of young guys on this team. They play hard every night. That’s something that caught my attention and I’m super excited about finally being a part of it. I can’t wait to get this thing rolling.”

Bagley was the crown jewel of Duke’s 2017 recruiting class. He was the nation’s No. 1 prospect and originally was supposed to be a high school senior in the fall of 2017, but instead announced that August he was reclassifying and committing to Duke for the 2017-18 season. In his one year, playing alongside fellow future lottery pick Wendell Carter plus Gary Trent Jr. and Grayson Allen, Bagley averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds. He shot 65 percent overall and 40 percent from the 3-point line.

The Pistons traded Trey Lyles, Josh Jackson and two future second-round picks on the bet that those tools are still there and they’re willing to enjoin Bagley in drawing them out. The risk-reward ratio of the deal made it an irresistible one for Weaver and Dwane Casey.

“He’s going to have an opportunity to show what he can do,” Casey said. “Nothing against Sacramento, but sometimes guys are not a good fit. This league is about opportunity and our situation provides that for him, whether it’s at the four or the five, to show what he can do.”

Bagley said he spent a lot of time at power forward in Sunday’s practice and that is almost surely where he’ll start out, essentially taking over Lyle’s role with the second unit playing alongside Kelly Olynyk. But Bagley’s size, agility and ability to operate on the perimeter at both ends mean he should be a pretty easy fit no matter whom he’s playing alongside – Olynyk, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart or anyone else Weaver might acquire going forward.

“I’ve seen him on video, coached against him, one day at practice,” Casey said. “We’ll evaluate everything about him and try to plug him into what we’re doing.”

Bagley’s debut should come Monday when the Pistons play at Washington. Then he’ll have 25 more games to make the case for being a big piece of the franchise’s future. Weaver addressed the logic of trading for Bagley as opposed to waiting for free agency this July.

“We wanted to bring him in the fold, work with him and know how he fits as a person and as a player instead of just waiting for free agency,” he said. “I always believe in getting guys in house, similar to what we did with (Hamidou) Diallo (at last season’s trade deadline ahead of him becoming a restricted free agent). We like guys to come in and get within the walls and assimilate in the locker room, find out who they really are.”

There is connective tissue for Bagley to Detroit. The Pistons drafted his grandfather, Joe Caldwell, with the second pick in 1964 out of Arizona State. “Jumpin’ Joe” Caldwell spent 1½ seasons with the Pistons but blossomed into a great player with the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks and the ABA’s Carolina Cougars, becoming a two-time All-Star in each league.

“It’s crazy how it comes back around,” Bagley said. “I’m excited to be here and be able to have something in common with him. When I’m at the dinner table talking to him, we can share Detroit stories.”