When drafting players in any sport, general managers need to be able to consider both a player’s college production and how they may adapt to the professional game. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this year’s top prospects and grade their fit with Memphis’s projected 2018-19 roster. Today, we’ll focus on two big men the Grizzlies will need to consider if picking high in the draft: Duke’s Marvin Bagley and Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr.
Marvin Bagley, PF/C, Duke, 18.9 years old, 6’11, 234 lbs
Marvin Bagley is a name any college basketball fan should know. He was the top-rated player in the class of 2017 and was the crown jewel in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s one-and-done heavy recruiting class. Bagley was voted as the ACC Player of the Year in his lone season at Duke, where he averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds in about 33 minutes per game. He’s a dominant scorer when engaged and has shown the ability to space the paint by hitting midrange shots – shots that eventually could become three-pointers at the NBA level. However, because Bagley will likely be a center in the NBA, his defense will need to improve, as he only averages one block per game and is not a rim protector. In fact, Bagley has the lowest freshman year block rate (2.6%) of any big man that has been drafted in the top 10 of the NBA draft since 2010, including defensive liabilities such as Greg Monroe (3.8%) and Jahlil Okafor (4.5%).
The Grizzlies might be the only team picking near the top of the draft where Bagley would immediately slot in as a power forward, playing next to Marc Gasol. The two would actually fit pretty well together, as both could space the floor with shooting, leaving driving lanes open for other players on the team. However, Gasol is not as good of a defender as he was two or three years ago, and because of that, a Bagley-Gasol frontcourt has the potential to get roasted defensively. Still, as an eventual successor for Marc Gasol, Bagley has the potential to be a franchise center for the Grizzlies.
Fit with the Grizzlies: A-
Jaren Jackson Jr., PF/C, Michigan State, 18.5 years old, 6’11, 242 lbs
While Jaren Jackson’s college stats appear much worse than Bagley’s, many NBA scouts consider him to be the better prospect between the two 18-year-old big men. This season, Jackson averaged 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 39% shooting from three-point range on three attempts in 22 minutes per game. However, the tools that Jackson has shown to possess have NBA GMs salivating as they try and create the perfect modern big man. Jackson has that potential. He has the ability to switch any screen defensively, and can stay with guards and wings on the perimeter, while also being a dominant rim-protector, as he is averaging 5 blocks per 36 minutes this season. While Bagley has the lowest freshman year block rate of any top 10 big since 2010, Jackson has the highest (14.3%), above elite defenders such as Anthony Davis (13.7%), Nerlens Noel (13.2%), and Joel Embiid (11.7%). Jackson can also space the floor, and as the season progressed, showed an improved ability to create off the dribble. Jackson is not without his flaws, as he does foul a lot while playing defense, but he is also the youngest player in this year’s draft and will not turn 19 until September.
Because of Jackson’s offensive and defensive versatility, he is one of my favorite players in the draft for the Grizzlies to take. Like Bagley, Jackson is an NBA center that would likely have to start his career at power forward with the Grizzlies. However, unlike Bagley, Jackson is a defensive stud already and has the ability to take over basketball games without the ball in his hands. Jackson could be an off-ball threat for the Grizzlies, giving them immediate spacing out to the three-point line, and if he continues to improve his dribble-drive game, he could be a huge offensive threat as well as a defensive stopper. Bagley might be a better offensive player, but Jackson’s defensive versatility and room to grow offensively makes him my preferred power forward for the Grizzlies between the two.
Fit with the Grizzlies: A+
Written by: Jacob Boughter
Edited by: Colin Castleberry