2018 NBA Draft revisited: Kings’ Marvin Bagley, Magic’s Mo Bamba among biggest uncertainties from their class

We’ve already revisited the 2018 NBA Draft’s most surprising players and biggest disappointments. Wrapping up our three-part series is the final group: the draft class’ biggest uncertainties. These are the players who we can’t quite say have been disappointments so far due to lack of playing time or injuries, and we also can’t say they’ve worked out either for the same reason.

It’s not surprising that all of the players on this list are bigs, since developing a big man in today’s game typically takes tremendous time and patience, unless they’re an Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns who started strong out of the gate. While none of the names on this list will likely be that caliber of player, the ruling is still out on what they’ll actually become. Here are three players who we’re still unsure about two-and-a-half seasons into their career.

You were probably expecting to see Bagley under “biggest disappointments” considering the narrative that has surrounded him since the moment he was drafted. He’s the butt of every joke that involves Luka Doncic, and the Kings are incessantly criticized for selecting him over the versatile guard with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. Don’t get me wrong, the Kings should still be heavily criticized for passing on Doncic, who should’ve gone No. 1 in that draft, but when it comes to Bagley, he just hasn’t played enough to seriously consider what he could potentially be in this league. 

Of the 14 lottery picks that year, he’s played the second-fewest games (99), and has only one season in which he played over 60 games, which was his first season. Bagley actually performed well in his rookie season, putting up nearly 15 points, 7.6 rebounds and averaging a block a game, which earned him All-Rookie First Team honors. But he also missed 20 games due to a right foot injury.

He showed glimpses of the offensive versatility that made him so special at Duke, with his smooth jumper:

… and his ability to go coast to coast with the ball in transition like a guard:

But there’s also glaring weaknesses to his game. Despite shooting 39.7 percent from deep in college, Bagley’s 3-point shot hasn’t translated over into the league as well, where he’s shot just 31.9 percent from long range over his pro career. He has a solid jumper, but he’s wildly inconsistent in knocking them down from pretty much everywhere on the floor.

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There’s also the issue of Bagley not being much of an interior threat on defense. While he did average a block a game in his rookie season, that’s not really indicative of his ability to be a rim protector and a strong presence down in the paint. In reality, he does little to impose his will down low, and is often outmuscled by bigger centers and forwards on defense. 

Then there’s the injuries. Bagley hasn’t even reached 100 games played yet, whereas other guys who have become quality players drafted the same year will all surpass the 200-game mark by season’s end. Bagley only played 13 games his sophomore season due to a thumb fracture and foot injury. 

On the positive side, though, he has played in all of the Kings’ 24 games this season where he’s shown in some games that he could be a 20-and-10 guy. But then there’s also the games where he goes 3 of 8 from the floor and 1 of 4 from deep for just seven points while playing nearly 25 minutes and finishing the game with a box score plus-minus of minus-27. It’s that type of inconsistency mixed with the injuries that makes it hard to evaluate what he really is as a player. He’s either going to be a consistent double-double player who can form a strong tandem with De’Aaron Fox, or injuries will cause him to fizzle out of the league. But at this point, it’s too early to tell which path he’s heading down.

Bamba’s rookie season was derailed when he suffered a stress fracture to his lower left leg, causing him to miss the last 29 games and the playoffs. But prior to that, we didn’t really get to see Bamba’s full abilities anyway, as he was averaging just 16.3 minutes a game. 

The Magic drafted him because they saw loads of untapped potential with Bamba, who could become an elite shot-blocker and eventually develop into a jump shooter on the other end. However, Orlando hasn’t really been in rebuild mode, which would allow for the natural development of a young, unpolished player like Bamba. So, while the Magic have been making the postseason for the past two years, Bamba’s minutes and development have been stifled.



















When he is on the floor, he’s shown limited flashes of being a dominant rim protector (1.3 blocks per game), and at least the ability to shoot 3s, but he hasn’t had great success in that area. Last season, he finished in the 13th percentile on pick-and-pop plays, which accounted for 65 percent of how he was used in pick-and-rolls. He has yet to show the ability to sink that shot at a high enough rate to become a real threat from deep.

When asked recently about what Bamba would have to do to receive more playing time in Orlando, head coach Steve Clifford was pretty straight forward in his response.

“As I explained to him, the reality is this: Our best position by far is the five spot. By far,” Clifford said via The Athletic. “[Nikola Vucevic] is playing at an All-Star level. Khem Birch is not just good now; Khem Birch is having a terrific year. So a lot of it is that. [Bamba] is playing behind two guys who [are excelling.] Every night, it’s not even close — our best position is the five.”

He’s not wrong. Vucevic is the best offensive player on the Magic, and Birch is a more established big who can offer better resistance inside than Bamba. But then why did the Magic draft Bamba at all then at the No. 6 spot if they weren’t going to give him the necessary time to develop? They could’ve easily taken a guard like Collin Sexton, or traded down to get less of a project in a center. 

Instead, it’s been two and a half seasons into Bamba’s career and because of lack of opportunity we don’t know what to make of him just yet. It may take a trade for Bamba to be given a bigger role, because right now he’s just toiling away on the Magic’s bench.

Carter has been given ample opportunity in Chicago since being drafted in 2018, starting in every single game he’s played. However, in each season since he’s been in the league, he’s missed significant time due to injury. He’s played in a little over half the possible games (101 out of 188) in his career, making it hard to get an accurate read on him as a player.

It’s made even harder because Carter doesn’t really excel at any one thing. He’s not the most physical presence in the post, or an electrifying rim runner, but instead favors floaters and baby jumpers around the rim. But he isn’t remarkably efficient in those looks. Some of the facets of his game at Duke — mainly his 3-point shooting — also haven’t translated to the league. He connected on 41.3 percent of his 3s (1.2 attempts per game), in his lone college season, while in the NBA he’s shooting just 21 percent from long range.

He’s had a handful of 20-point games over his two and a half seasons, but those look more like outliers than the standard for him. Carter has increased his scoring averages across each season, but he’s still just averaging around 11 points during his career. Some of this can be pinned to the injuries he’s suffered, which curtail any meaningful progress he makes over the course of the season.

This season by far had been his best to date, having the most efficient shooting campaign across the board inside the arc. But that, too, came to a halt after suffering a quad injury that will keep Carter out at least a month.

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He was still showing timidness on offense which results in turnovers, and in crunch time head coach Billy Donovan typically opted to go with veteran forward Thaddeus Young over Carter for his defense. But for a guy who hasn’t played over 50 games in any season of his career, it’s understandable that he wouldn’t trust his shot that much or have strong enough chemistry with teammates to make the correct reads on defense.

The expectations for Carter should be high given he was a top 10 pick, and lauded for being an efficient scorer and tough defensive presence, but it’s hard to really measure how well a player is doing when he’s sidelined with injuries for significant chunks of time. 

There was a point in time this season when Carter was averaging 14.3 points, 8.6 boards and 3.0 assists while shooting 57.9 percent from the field, which indicates that he can be more productive than his numbers suggest. But he hasn’t been able to do that over the course of a full season, which is why you don’t really know what type of player you’re getting with him.

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