At 8-3 overall, it’s been primarily roses for the Chicago Bulls so far this season. They’ve beaten a handful of outstanding teams and have even found a way to win games in which their flaws are wholly exposed. It’s more than just refreshing, it’s exciting. And I think we’re all looking forward to see how far this train goes.
To that end, as of now, I think the Bulls have a shot at cracking the top half of the Eastern Conference playoff seeding and maybe even surprising some teams in the tournament. But, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable about their depth. With Patrick Williams gone for the season, they’ve got a medium-term hole at the four. And while Javonte Green has played well in his absence, it’s still a step down overall for the starting group and a ding to the depth in general.*
*Statistically, the Bulls are better offensively since Green replaced Williams in the starting lineup (110.8 points per 100 with Green next to the starters, 98.5 points per 100 with Williams). However, the numbers for Williams came over the first five games of the season, when the offense was still searching for its footing. Moreover, the defense held opponents to 87.5 points per 100 with Williams on the floor versus 101.0 points per 100 with Green. The opposing expected field goal percentage is also up about seven percent, and the opponents rebounding percentage went from 13.2% (Williams) to 20.4% (Green). Even accounting for competition, this is a clear step down for the Bulls overall. No surprises there.
Long story short, Green has been a suitable replacement for Williams so far, but it’s fair to wonder if the Bulls would be better served filling that role with someone from outside the organization. Enter Marvin Bagley III?
Future Bull … Marvin Bagley??? Hmmmmm…. https://t.co/bhxfYjeK3o
— Joe Cowley (@JCowleyHoops) November 11, 2021
I suspect Cowley is just thinking out loud here — no one else has made the connection, yet — but it’s still an idea worth discussion. Bagley’s days in Sacramento could soon come to an end (his relationship with the organization has completely disintegrated since the Kings drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft), and that could spell an opportunity for the Bulls.
Why Is He Available?
Short answer? Because he wants to be.
Bagley has played in just one game for the Kings this season after he fell out of favor with coach Luke Walton, who seems to be playing a smaller lineup this season. In late October, Bagley expressed through his agent that if he wasn’t going to play in Sacramento, he wanted to be traded.
And the tensions have only risen.
On Monday night, in the Kings’ loss to the Suns, Luke Walton called Bagley to check into the waning minutes of a blowout, but Bagley refused to play. Naturally, Walton declined to confirm this after the game, but that’s to be expected.
To be sure, it’s not a no-brainer. Since being drafted, Bagley has battled injuries and inconsistency, missing 108 games since coming to the Kings from Duke. However, he’s also averaged 14.4 points and 7.5 rebounds in 25.4 minutes in 119 career games (52 starts). And in 42 starts last season, Bagley averaged 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds on 50 percent shooting from the floor.
So About That ‘Tude
Whenever you consider adding a player like Bagley to a team having as much fun as the Bulls, you have to have a conversation about locker room chemistry. Those concerns are valid.
But at the same time, I can’t help but imagine Bagley being a bit of a victim of circumstance. We’re talking about a blue-chip prospect, drafted second overall just a few years ago, who is now at the end of the bench after a bounce-back campaign last year. I think he just wants to play, and it’s not happening in Sacramento. I’d be willing to bet his attitude would be just fine after being traded, especially if it were to a team like the Bulls.
Setting that aside, Bagley would theoretically be a low-cost acquisition that could provide the Bulls some much-needed size at the power forward position. The Bulls have plenty of offensive firepower in the starting unit, and I think they could benefit from having a 6-foot-10 Marvin Bagley helping solidify that unit with the ability to score at the rim when he needs to, add size on the defensive end, and help this 21st-ranked rebounding team crash the glass.
After all, last season Bagley was solid on the offensive glass, snagging 9.9 percent of the Kings missed field goals, which according to Cleaning the Glass, puts him in the 70th percentile, sandwiched between guys like Mason Plumlee, Kevon Looney, Robin Lopez, and Nerlens Noel. Bagley also ranked 71st among all bigs in defensive rebounding percentage (17.8%), tied with former Bull, Daniel Theis, and a tick ahead of Draymond Green.
In terms of scoring, yes, Bagley has struggled, but that’s not why the Bulls would come calling (and, indeed, scoring is hardly a concern for this Bulls team right now).
The only remaining question, then, is whether Artūras Karnišovas and Marc Eversley would actually pull the trigger on a deal to bring Bagley to Chicago. And to that, all I say is try to remember how aggressive this front office has been since taking over. Zach LaVine and Coby White are the only holdovers from the GarPax regime. The rest of the roster has been built through shrewd but calculated aggression by AKME. And with the most competitive season in recent memory at stake, I wouldn’t expect them to take their foot off the gas now. Just something to keep in mind.
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.