We live in an instant gratification world. We want it now. All of it. From Amazon Prime, to DoorDash, to the way we binge watch TV shows, the word patience means something completely different than it used to.
This idea of instant gratification has spilled over almost all aspects of our daily lives, including how we view young players in the NBA. Unfortunately for the Kings’ Marvin Bagley, he has been caught up in the trend.
After another strong showing from Bagley in Wednesday night's win over the Magic, shooting guard Buddy Hield was asked a question about the Kings’ third-year big man and it clearly struck a chord.
“Y’all need to get off of Marvin’s back, leave that man alone, he’s 21 years old,” Hield said.
“He’s just trying to prove himself to the world that he belongs in this league and it’s going to take time,” Hield added. “He has to get himself situated first and once he gets situated and once he gets more games under his belt, he gets more comfortable, then it’s night and day for him.”
Bagley has had some ups and downs throughout his career so far, but he knows that Hield and others on the team have his back. They see the work he puts in and the talent he's able to show when cameras aren't rolling.
“That’s big to know that and to have teammates that just trust you, that’s a big thing for me,” Bagley said. “I never really listen to what other people are saying on the outside. It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day because they’re not in this position to wake up every morning and go to practice and do the job and be in the shoes that I’m in.”
It used to be that young players sat on the sidelines and watched early in their careers. They were allowed to get stronger, learn the game and develop. It was understood that big men developed slower than guards and that oftentimes, you wouldn’t know how good a player might become until their third or forth season in the league.
“Unfortunately the league has become very, ‘It’s now, it’s now, what can you do for me now,' ” coach Luke Walton said. “A lot of these guys are coming into the league very young. Young players used to not play at all in the league. Unless you were the No. 1 pick. You would come in as a rookie and wait and learn and everything else. And now we’re ready to judge and give up on young players and they aren’t even 22 years old.”
Walton has been through this before during his time with the Lakers. He had a stack of young players, including Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Jordan Clarkson. All four of these players are making a name for themselves, but not one of them still plays for Los Angeles.
It shouldn’t be a race, but building up young players is a difficult business. More often than not, a team like the Kings has failed in their attempts to bring the best out of lottery talent. They seem to be taking their time with Bagley, knowing that he’s missed a tremendous amount of court time in his first two seasons.
“We have to be patient,” Walton said. “He hasn’t had the experience he needs. He’s still a very young player. He’s a very willing learner. He’s a very talented player and it just takes time.”
After playing just 13 games for the Kings last season, the former Duke star has played in 17 straight this year. It’s one of the longest stretches of consecutive games for Bagley throughout his first three seasons in the league.
Not only did Bagley miss 55 games last year, but he played in the opener and then missed 22 games with a broken thumb. When he returned, he made it through eight games before injuring his foot. He came back from that injury and made it through another four games, but then had to shut down again.
During the offseason, Bagley made staying healthy his primary objective. He knows that in order to reach the heights he hopes to achieve, he has to stay on the court.
“Just being able to be there for my team --- available, that’s something that I wanted to do and I did everything in the offseason to make sure I was ready for that,” Bagley said. “I’m feeling good.”
The early returns this season were rough, especially on the defensive end, but Bagley is making strides. He currently leads the Kings in charges drawn and his improvements both on the perimeter and in his rotations are remarkable.
“I’m very impressed with how quickly he’s picking things up,” Walton said. “It’s been great to have him for these 17 games and it is wild to think that this is more than we had him all of last season.”
There has never been a question about Bagley’s ability to score or rebound. He is a walking double-double, even though he is still learning the ropes. What the Kings need from him now is to learn the finer nuances of the game and for him to start making plays that lead to wins.
Over his last ten games, Bagley is averaging 15.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and an assist per game. His field goal percentage is 54.4 percent over that stretch and he’s knocked down 38.7 percent of his 3-point attempts. He’s becoming more efficient and playing within the scheme of the offense.
“I felt like in the beginning of the season, I was thinking too much about certain things and just not being myself, as far as playing and letting the game come naturally to me and just having fun with it,” Bagley said.
The Kings understand that this is a process. They have taken a long approach to Bagley’s development and they are working hard behind the scenes to show the power forward some of the finer details of the game that can make him a more impactful player.
The Kings still envision Bagley as one of the building blocks of the franchise, they need him to stay on the court and to take in all of the information being thrown at him like a sponge.
“There is some serious improvement that he’s made on some of those things we’re looking for,” Walton said. “We’re going to keep working with him on it. The better he gets, the better we’ll get.”
With Bagley’s improved play, especially on the defensive end, the Kings are making strides as a team. He’s riding a streak of consecutive double-doubles. He’s finding a way to be involved in the game, even if the team isn’t running a ton of play sets through him.
For the first time in a while, Bagley seems like he is starting to get comfortable. He is showing the springing in his legs that made him such an intriguing prospect and he’s quieting some of the doubters.
“It’s just fun to go out there and prove everybody wrong,” Hield said of Bagley. “When you’re doubted, you fuel off that, you’re motivated from that. I think he’s using that doubt for motivation because he knows what kind of player he is. He just needs more games under his belt to be better. And he’s getting better.”
Whether he is using the outside noise as motivation or not, one thing is for sure, Bagley is getting better and that is music to the Kings’ ears. He’s fought through some bumps and bruises already this season and he’s finally able to gain some the experience he needs.
By watching him on the court, you get the feeling that we are just starting to see the tip of the iceberg of what Bagley has to offer.