Kings forward Marvin Bagley III is headed for free agency after the team let Monday’s deadline pass without signing him to a rookie-scale contract extension, the latest chapter in a star-crossed career for the former No. 2 pick from Duke.
The Kings had until 3 p.m. to sign Bagley to an extension. That deadline came and went without an agreement, adding to the uncertainty about Bagley’s future in Sacramento as the Kings prepare to visit the Portland Trail Blazers in Wednesday’s season opener.
This stalemate sets up a number of possible and potentially complex scenarios for the Kings. They could trade Bagley this season, re-sign him this summer as a restricted or unrestricted free agent, or simply let him walk away, severing a seemingly ill-fated relationship that started when Sacramento picked Bagley over Luka Doncic in the 2018 NBA draft.
Kings coach Luke Walton said contract talks are between players and the front office, but he has every expectation Bagley will remain focused and committed to his team as he plays out the final year of his rookie deal in Sacramento.
“All that type of stuff, I’m very clear with my players all the time, any of that is upstairs,” Walton said. “When we’re on this court, it’s about basketball and team, so that just keeps it simple for everyone.”
ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks noted the 2018 NBA draft class has set a record with more than $1.1 billion in contract extensions. The Dallas Mavericks signed Doncic to a five-year, $207.1 million extension. The Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young, Denver Nuggets’ Michael Porter Jr. and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander signed five-year, $172.5 million deals.
Jaren Jackson Jr., the No. 4 pick in the 2018 draft, agreed to a four-year, $105 million deal with the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday. Jackson averaged 15.4 points and 4.7 rebounds while appearing in 126 games over his first three seasons with the Grizzlies. Bagley averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in 118 games for the Kings.
Bagley hasn’t been able to cash in after three trying seasons marked by injuries and family feuding, with his father famously demanding a trade on Twitter, but he isn’t the only one. Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, couldn’t reach an agreement on a max extension with the Phoenix Suns. No. 6 pick Mo Bamba, No. 8 pick Collin Sexton, No. 9 pick Kevin Knox and No. 12 pick Miles Bridges also failed to reach agreements with their respective teams as well.
Each of these players will find themselves testing the free-agent market this summer. Under rules of the collective bargaining agreement, Bagley will be eligible for a qualifying offer of either $14.8 million or $7.2 million, depending on whether he meets “starter criteria.” To meet the criteria, a player must start at least 41 games or play at least 2,000 minutes in the previous season, or as an average of the previous two seasons.
Bagley started 42 games last season. He would have to start a minimum of 40 games to hit the two-year average of 41 or log 2,000 minutes this season to reach the criteria for the full qualifying offer. The qualifying offer for a top-14 pick who does not meet “starter criteria” cannot exceed the qualifying offer for the 15th pick in the same draft class, according to Larry Coon’s NBA Salary Cap FAQ. Troy Brown Jr., the No. 15 pick in 2018, will have a qualifying offer of $7.2 million, according to various estimates.
If Bagley doesn’t hit those marks, his qualifying offer will drop by more than $7 million. Either way, Kings general manager Monte McNair will have a decision to make this summer, assuming Bagley isn’t traded first.
The Kings can make Bagley a restricted free agent by tendering a qualifying offer, which would give Sacramento the right to match if Bagley signs a more lucrative offer sheet from another team. If he doesn’t get a more desirable deal, Bagley could choose to accept the qualifying offer and spend one more season in Sacramento before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2023.If the Kings choose not to extend the qualifying offer, Bagley will immediately become an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with any team in the league.
Sacramento’s decision could come down to the price and, to some extent, the Kings can control the price tag depending on Bagley’s role this season. Walton hasn’t disclosed his plans for the starting lineup, but there are indications Bagley will be coming off the bench.
Bagley might be considered a huge risk at $14.8 million after missing 108 of 226 games due to injuries over his first three seasons, but a $7.2 million qualifying offer might change the calculous for the Kings. Bagley was an NBA All-Rookie First Team selection after averaging 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds as a rookie. He appeared in 62 games that season, but he was limited to 13 games in 2019-20 and 43 games in 2020-21, stunting his growth and slowing his development.
Under former general manager Vlade Divac, the Kings believed in Bagley’s potential enough to draft him over Doncic, a decision that ultimately contributed to Divac losing his job. Under McNair, they have continued to nurture and support him, starting him in 42 of the 43 games he played last season despite deficiencies at both ends of the floor.
Bagley should be highly motivated to prove he is worth of a long-term, big-money investment, especially to the Kings, who have already invested so much in him. Time will tell if he can find that fire within himself.
Bagley faces an uncertain future in Sacramento, but he seems to be in the right mindset as he enters his fourth season with the Kings.
“Right now, I’m not worried about none of that,” Bagley recently told The Bee when asked about the deadline for his rookie extension. “The biggest thing for me is coming in every day, just focusing on the big goal of making the playoffs and just continuing to build winning habits. I think that’s my only focus, my teammates and just being around the guys and enjoying the moment.”