The highlight of the Detroit Pistons’ first preseason game, for me, wasn’t Marvin Bagley III’s game-high 25 points. The highlight was MB3’s defense against Saben Lee at the end of the fourth quarter.
MB3 scored 25 points against Phoenix’s G-League team. In 19 games in 2021-22, Saben Lee averaged 24 points a game for the Motor City Cruise. I would expect a former second-overall pick who specializes in post-offense to tear up third-tier competition.
We know Bagley can score. He would’ve put up decent points against any NBA competition. Efficiency would’ve been the difference between MB3 playing against starters and bench players, and the shift in offensive efficiency tells you the level of a player’s game.
Marvin Bagley III making strides on defense
Defense is another matter. It requires desire, focus, and will.
Staying in front of a guard whose go-to move is to burn by defenders off the dribble, that takes effort. Bagley showed a willingness to defend a lethally quick guard.
The willingness to make an offensive player work, especially when that offensive player is getting what he wants, that’s the type of effort that earns a player minutes.
In that one play, MB3 gave Pistons fans a reason to smile.
Monty Williams has indicated that defense will likely be the deciding factor in the battle for backup center, and he praised MBIII after the game for his effort and communication on that end.
The issue with Bagley III has always been consistent effort on the defensive end. We know he can score at a high rate around the rim, but can he maintain defensive intensity? While he did have a couple of nice defensive stands, he was also blown by on the perimeter, showing the highs and lows of MBIII as a defender.
Detroit is a young team that’s growing before our eyes. To enjoy this process, we need to acknowledge the weaknesses and appreciate the strides taken. That defensive possession by Marvin Bagley III deserves a nod.
He has positioned himself as the backup center because of his scoring, but it’s his defense that will ultimately keep him in or out of Monty Williams’ rotation.