'A great piece for us': Marvin Bagley's athleticism creating options for Pistons

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — As Cade Cunningham dribbled down the court, he saw that the Pistons didn’t have the advantage, with only three teammates against the Atlanta Hawks’ five defenders.

It didn’t matter.

Cunningham seemed to sense where the advantage was, and as he looked off a defender, he lobbed the ball toward the rim. Marvin Bagley III soared to catch the alley-oop and slam it down, sending the fans at Little Caesars Arena into a frenzy.

It’s not quite the Lob City of the Los Angeles Clippers era, but maybe call it Lob Township.

The Pistons guards are getting acclimated to having a lob threat in Bagley, who is making quite an impression in his first few weeks with a new team since arriving from the Sacramento Kings at the trade deadline in a deal for Trey Lyles and Josh Jackson.

At 6-foot-10, Bagley is an athletic big man who can go up and get those lobs, as he did a couple of times in Monday’s win. He finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and he showed just how impactful he can be with his versatile skill set.

Forward Marvin Bagley III is averaging 13.8 points and 6.7 rebounds in the six games since joining the Pistons.

“It’s his athleticism. He gives our guys (a lob option). I think we got two lobs to him,” coach Dwane Casey said Tuesday. “That's a great threat, which is going to open up a lot of other things. It's going to shrink the defense where you have the kick-outs or the ball-handlers are going to be able to score.

“With that, he's giving us a lot and he may not even get credit for the play. We're really happy with the way he's playing, the way he's fitting in, and he's creating a lot of options offensively, and defensively, he's giving us another rebounder.”

Bagley played with the starting group in the second half, after Isaiah Stewart left because of a knee injury, and he fit in almost seamlessly, bringing that size and athleticism, as well as some needed defensive presence in switching to guard the Hawks’ Trae Young.

More: Knee injury to sideline Pistons' Isaiah Stewart for a week

“He did a great job of commanding the boards and scoring when he had to, and cleaning up the offensive boards,” Casey said. “He did an excellent job of getting out and switching out on Trae Young, which is not an easy task, and using his length.

“I said it last week — he is a great fit for us going forward, a great piece for us.”

Casey has said Bagley is just scratching the surface of what he can do, and as his confidence grows with each improved outing, he’s showing that he can be a nice piece for the Pistons’ rebuild.

Although he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer, the Pistons seem poised to match any offer that another team makes. The remainder of this season was like a tryout, and so far, Bagley is passing with flying colors.

“He's a post-up threat, and if the defense collapses, he can kick it out. (He’s a) lob threat and he can run the floor. He gives you a lot of different options,” Casey said. “He's a good screen-and-roller and passer in pick-and-roll situations. There are a lot of skill sets there.

“He's not a finished product, but still, work can be done to continue to develop.”

Bulls at Pistons

Tipoff: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Bulls (39-26) were atop the Eastern Conference, but they’ve tumbled with their five-game losing streak. The Pistons (18-47) have made a recent push behind Cade Cunningham and Jerami Grant, winning six of their last eight games.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard