SACRAMENTO -- The Marvin Bagley III era of Sacramento Kings basketball is upon us. He can hit you with a spin move, rise over you for a half hook and on Thursday evening at Golden 1 Center, he starting dropping in 3-pointers.
At 20-years-old, there is no telling where the ceiling is for the No. 2 overall selection in then 2018 NBA Draft. Since returning from injury, five games ago, he's been on fire, despite dealing with a minutes restriction.
"It was just a matter of time before I was able to show out and just go out and play," a confident Bagley said following the Kings' 116-100 victory. "Play without thinking and just play basketball. Whenever I'm playing like that I just play free and I'm not worried about mistakes."
For the third straight game, the former Duke star posted 20 points or more for Sacramento, finishing with 22 points on 8-of-16 shooting. He added 12 rebounds four his 14th double-double of his rookie campaign and blocked four shots as well.
Suiting up for the first time against fellow rookie, Luka Doncic, Bagley looked fresh and ready for the challenge. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, Doncic looked every bit the part of a rookie who has had to carry the scoring load for his team all season. The Slovenian-born guard finished the night with just 13 points on 4-of-19 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.
Following the game, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle raved about the Kings' rookie.
"Bagley is terrific," Carlisle told reporters following the game. "He's much improved. Shooting the three consistently, so he's a big problem."
While Bagley knocked down the 3-ball at the college level, it was in limited attempts. Since joining the Kings, he's taken a cautious approach to hoisting from the perimeter, shooting just 69 3-pointers through his first 51 games.
Tuesday against the Nets, Bagley shot and made two 3-pointers. On Thursday versus the Mavs, he looked confident in his five attempts, hitting a career-best three makes from behind the arc.
"It's just a progression," coach Dave Joerger said. "I've never told him not to, I've asked him that I prefer if the ball comes from inside the line where you're getting your momentum going forward."
For Bagley to take the next step in his progression and move into the starting lineup, the Kings need him to at least be a threat from the perimeter. If opposing defenses have to stay with him behind the 3-point line, it keeps the lanes open for De'Aaron Fox to attack the rim.
"He's a special talent, man," Buddy Hield said. "Sometime you don't even run a play for him. He just gets our misses and puts it back in. That's what comes with a special talent. He's just going to keep growing and getting better. He's still not to his potential."
In 10 games since the All-Star break, Bagley is averaging 20.1 points and 8.9 rebounds in 27 minutes per game. He's quickly living up to the hype and showing improvement at almost every step.
With just 11 games remaining in the season, Bagley would like to end on a high note. The Kings need him to continue to develop his perimeter skills during his first real offseason as well as at weight and strength for the long 82 game NBA schedule.