With the recent news that 2018 PF Marvin Bagley is likely to reclassify into 2017 a lot of questions have been unearthed. Firstly if he does reclassify where are the likely landing spots for the 6’10 versatile power forward? Most in the know think it would be a two man race between the Duke Blue Devils and the USC Trojans should he reclassify. With Bagley visiting the Blue Devils July 21 – 23 all eyes are on what he says and how he says it in the days leading up to and the days that follow his visit. If reclassifying is to happen it behooves all parties to get it done sooner rather than later.
The talent level of Marvin Bagley is obvious – the kid is next-level – that’s never been in question really and being an 18 year old right now he fits in the 2017 class in terms of not only age but he very well could be the best player in that class along with Michael Porter and DeAndre Ayton.
As a fan seeing a stacked roster is always a source if pride and I’d be lying if I said that Bagley in a Duke uniform isn’t an exciting prospect. But if I take my fan glasses off and look just beyond the implications for a higher class ranking I can see some possible pitfalls. Before you gasp in disbelief and burn me at the stake. Ask yourself what it takes to win an NCAA Championship. I’d say the top few things would have to be:
Duke this upcoming season can definitely check off the box for talent. Bagley increases that talent level exponentially. Experience for this team is clearly an iffy one. With Grayson Allen being the lone senior there are some gaps in that regard. Bringing in 6 freshmen and possibly adding a 7th definitely makes this coaching job a much harder ask. It’s rare that a team as young as the Blue Devils are catch fire and get to a final four. Rare but not impossible. Obviously there is no accounting for luck but if you have a more experienced team with also a lot of talent you can reduce the need somewhat for luck as a factor. Now the major question mark for adding Bagley would be cohesiveness. It’s not just about the want to win, or guys buying into what coach is saying but it can be about a couple of other things:
1. Ego – as much as we want to say guys have to check their ego at the door, the reality is every basketball player has an ego. Most feel that they should start, most feel that they are earning their minutes in political capital each month or year they are in the program. Guys come in with that sometimes as well. This isn’t me saying that Bagley has a giant ego or that the Duke players have over inflated egos. Just saying that it’s something that coaches have to deal with even if those feelings aren’t audibly expressed things can fester and sometimes materialize on and off the court. Ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
2. Bonding – Currently the Duke freshman are on campus, each day they spend together in a shared space, in a shared experience they are building a bond. That bond leads to trust and each day that a potential player isn’t there sharing that is a day they are behind.
3. Abbreviated timeline – Coming in and playing catch-up is easy for us on the outside to dismiss as not a big deal. Either two things happen – either that new entity / player gets rushed and can lose out on the detail that other players have the luxury of pacing themselves with or everything has to either stop or slow down to accommodate that new player. Neither of those are great options. Again that isn’t me saying it will happen that way but it’s at least a school of thought to be considered when shaking up your team. Part of the issues, in my opinion, that Coach K and staff have had – they’ve even admitted to this. Is having to get players ready on a much quicker timeline than previous years because of the one and done rule. You take away a month or two of an already tight timeline and you risk putting a young player not in a position to succeed but between a rock and a hard place. It’s a factor whether we want to admit it or not.
There are obviously counterpoints to all of that and none of this is me saying that Duke shouldn’t be all in for Bagley, but it does mean how you add him as well as when you add him is a factor and should be done the right way. I trust in the coaches to figure that out but to automatically assume that there will not be extra growing pains for an already young team is to look at this through rose-colored glasses.
That being said, I’d love for Duke to have a player with that talent on this roster.