NSJ Newcomer of the Year: Bagley fulfilled his promise at Duke

The one-and-done Duke superstar was NSJ’s expected newcomer of the year, and he lived up to title

Marvin Bagley was both the ACC Player and Freshman of the Year in his one season with the Blue Devils. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

At the end of last year, we predicted that Marvin Bagley III would be the 2018 Newcomer of the Year. Now, looking at the prediction, the first reaction is, “Really? That seems so long ago!”

Bagley hasn’t played around these parts since early March, but he packed enough performance into those first three months that we’re willing to stand by our prediction and name Bagley the North State Journal’s 2018 Newcomer of the Year.

The Duke big man had a head start on the title when the calendar flipped to 2018. He was already 14 games into his freshman season and averaging 21.9 points and 11.6 rebounds.

Bagley’s production didn’t slow much once he started playing the ACC schedule. He finished his freshman campaign with 21.0 and 11.1 averages. He also set the conference record for most 30-point, 10-rebound games.

In addition to that, Bagley set the Duke single-season record for dunks and the freshman marks for points, rebounds and just about every other significant statistical category. Many of the records shattered the previous mark. His 98 dunks were 34 more than the previous record. His 22 double-doubles broke the old mark by eight, and his 22 games with 10 rebounds were seven more than the old record. 

Bagley did all that while missing four games with an injury.

Bagley won the ACC rookie and player of the year and was a consensus first-team All American. The numbers barely scratched the surface when discussing Bagley’s dominance, however. He was an overwhelming presence on the offensive end of the floor and a must-watch presence for even casual fans.

As predicted from the day he announced he was headed to Duke, Bagley went one-and-done, declaring for the NBA Draft following the season. He was selected second overall by Sacramento.

His impact in the pros wasn’t as immediate and dominating as his splash into college, mostly because Sacramento insisted on bringing him along slowly, doling out playing time sparingly and letting him find his legs. But he’s rounding into shape.

“The game is starting to slow down very well for me. I’m starting to see a lot more things that I didn’t see the first couple games,” Bagley told CBSSports.com, “just by being more patient and just waiting for things to happen and looking around and seeing the floor. I think I was rushing a lot of things in the beginning of the season. … I was anxious. When I just started calming down a little bit and just playing basketball, I think that’s when it started slowing down. And it’s slowing down every game I’m out there.”

Bagley has had four double-doubles since mid-November, including a 20-point, 17-rebound outing against Golden State.

“He’s doing great things, with the ball and without,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “He continues to grow, and I’m certainly comfortable having him on the floor at the end.”

Bagley is averaging 12.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 53.6 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from three.

“He does what he does. He’s active,” Joerger said. “He wants to learn and he wants to do well and he wants to win. Those are fun guys to coach.”

Paired with second-year Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, Bagley has Joerger thinking of Kevin Durant, to go with Fox’s Russell Westbrook, as the Kings are playing over .500 one year after going 27-55 to “earn” the chance to select Bagley.

His progress will have to wait until after the new year, however. Bagley suffered a bone bruise in his knee two weekends ago and will miss about two weeks.   

Also Considered: Duke forward Wendell Carter Jr.; NC State coach Kevin Keatts; and Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore.