The 2018 NBA Draft is nearly here and, before it arrives on June 21, the Peachtree Hoops staff gathered in roundtable fashion to answer a few pertinent questions. In the third installment, our writers evaluate Duke’s Marvin Bagley III when compared to Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. for the potential No. 3 selection.
Brad Rowland: Good luck. I’ve had them side-by-side on my board for weeks and, well, I’ve flip-flopped about 12 times. Bagley is undeniably the more explosive offensive prospect and I have little doubt that he will be a productive and efficient player on that end of the floor. With that said, his defense could be a legitimate problem and, as a tie-breaker of sorts (and ONLY as that in a “best player available” scenario), his fit with John Collins isn’t ideal. On the other hand, Jackson Jr. is the best defensive prospect in this class in my opinion and he has the skill set of a modern big man with the ability to shoot threes, handle the ball and score efficiently. Still, questions about his ability to be a primary offensive option are legitimate and, if you don’t value defense as much as I do, it would be easy to center on Bagley. Right now, I’d lean Jackson Jr. by a nose but that could change, even before June 21.
Jeff Siegel: You can’t go wrong with either guy, but I think Jackson will develop into a more well-rounded player long-term, which I value ahead of being dominant on one end of the floor or the other. Bagley will almost certainly be a more valuable offensive player than Jackson throughout his career, but the defensive concerns are real. Jackson’s not the sexy pick at the top of the draft, but there’s a very real chance that he turns out to be the best player in this class.
Graham Chapple: I have to say I’m torn, which is a surprise even to me. I’m a defense-first guy, part of the reason I am frustrated with the likes of Dennis Schröder and Taurean Prince -- their defense isn’t good. So, Jackson should be the obvious choice? But he isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love his defense, love his ability to switch, block shots, he’s got a great body, great length to him… But is he the player the Hawks need now? The Hawks could do with a foundational/franchise player: is Jackson that player? Can he do enough offensively? I don’t know… Bagley on the other hand, while I don’t enjoy his game massively from what I’ve seen, could be that franchise player, that offensive focal point. Yes, there are questions about his defense but do people really care about James Harden’s defense these days? It’s not going to stop him winning MVP. But having a, possibly, defensive juggernaut in Jackson might be the way to establishing an identity, and an identity the Hawks are going to run with Lloyd Pierce. So, I’m torn: I think both will be good NBA players and I wouldn’t be upset if either of them end up in Atlanta. The Hawks could do with what Bagley and Jackson offer on their better respective ends of the floor.
Zach Hood: I have Bagley No. 2 on my board and Jackson No. 4, but I had a really tough time differentiating the guys at the very top. Bagley’s explosiveness and potential as a primary scorer makes him hard to pass up, while the defensive questions are certainly valid. I see Bagley as a guy who can really do everything on the offensive end, post-up, fill the lanes in transition, shoot the three, shoot the mid-range, and crash the boards for second chance points. He’s polished and ready to score in bunches. However, Jackson probably has a higher ceiling due to his ridiculous length and defensive dominance as a college freshman. He already has a solid stroke from three and if he develops a face-up game he could become a two-way star. I would have no issues with the Hawks taking either of these guys as I really can’t stress enough how I much I believe in each of the top five prospects in this draft.
Glen Willis: I am almost completely neutral on this one. The Hawks are lacking at least two types of players that they will need to have when they start to operate with serious intentions again. They are lacking a dominant scorer and a big man that can play in almost all if not all potential post-season match ups. I do believe Bagley has the potential to become a dominant scorer in the league. And I believe that Jackson possesses the skill set that is ideal for the center position in the modern NBA. So with either, they will have acquired a player that will hopefully fulfill one of those two roles. So I will be happy whichever way they end up going if these are the options when it is their turn to draft. If it were completely up to me, I would take Jackson simply because he is so young and skilled that we don’t know that he might not eventually be able to become a dominant scorer himself.
Xavier Cooper: Marvin Bagley is obviously the better offensive player. To me, this will be more valuable in the NBA if he becomes so good that it forces the opposing team to constantly double team him on defense. Jaren Jackson Jr. is obviously the better player on defense. With his ability to be switched on smaller players and still hold his own on that side of the ball, this too will be great for teams that want to stand a chance against teams that like to expose mismatches. Overall, I believe Bagley has to be taken before Jackson because he’s shown the ability to just takeover a game time and time again. Jackson is the younger prospect and is honestly a better player right now overall but Bagley can take over a game. This is something every team wants. Bagley is an aggressive scorer and you can’t always teach a player how to be aggressive. There are so many players in the league that are good but don’t like to do too much and sometimes that can be a curse. Bagley has no problem putting a team on his back and going all in to a game.
Sam Meredith: If I were to have been asked this question about two weeks ago, my answer would have most assuredly been Marvin Bagley. However, after some extensive film watching on both prospects, I’m pretty much set on Jaren Jackson Jr. being the best big man available, outside of Deandre Ayton, in this draft class. Jackson’s ability to effect the game on both ends of the floor makes him a natural decision with his ability to hit three pointers being a fairly big draw to me as well. Bagley might have a slightly higher ceiling but Jackson is the much safer bet to become a top prospect right away.
Greg Willis: I have Jackson sitting at No. 3 on my my board, well ahead of Bagley who sits at No. 6 overall. Bagley is a fine prospect but I have some doubts as to whether he will develop a polished, dominant game on the offensive end. And, as others have noted, there are legitimate questions about his defense. For me, Jackson is in the top tier with Ayton and Doncic. He is younger than Bagley, has the more NBA-ready body, has a more diverse offensive game and is easily a stronger defender.
Josh Lane: I will go with Jackson because he is talented and would be a great fit for this year and future teams. Jackson can be plugged and play with just about anyone. Let’s imagine the that Hawks will have a top pick again next year. With Jackson, I feel that he would be able to play with a guy like Zion Williamson. If Bagley is on the roster, the Hawks would need to plug in guys around him that would fit his skill set...spoiler: this does not include Williamson.