Will Things Improve for Zion, Bagley, and Lillard?

Card Ladder
Nov 12, 20214 min read

Zion Williamson:

Everyone knows the rundown on the Zion situation it seems but not everyone has the same opinion on him. The immensely talented #1 overall pick was an all-star last year and looked like he turned the corner after playing 60+ games. Somehow Zion broke his foot in June and no one found out until media day a week before the season. Pelicans general manager David Griffin said he had a good shot to play the season opener at media day and yet here we are today… Zion is now rumored to be over 300 pounds which history tells us is problematic when it comes to players with foot and knee injuries. He still does not have a timetable for his return and when he does return by the looks of things it might take him a while to get in-game shape.

So that leads us to the question of will things improve?

Yes, things are only going to go up for Zion from where things are today. With that being said things could just come crashing back down with another injury but look at Zion’s market it seems people are giving him another chance. After all, despite all the injuries, he still is just 21 years old.

Over the last week, you can see that Zion Prizm rookies in different colors graded are even up noticeable percentages. The question with Zion is not can he play but rather can he stay healthy? That is why for the short term, things will only get better for him.

Marvin Bagley:

Bagley will forever be judged as the guy who was taken before Luka Doncic, whether that is fair or not that's an entirely different discussion. As Luka achieves more and more in his career, Bagley will be viewed in an even worse light. The injury-riddled forward has only played 57 games since his rookie season (2018-19). Truth be told when he does play, he is pretty solid. The problem is simply that he isn't Luka Doncic… Averaging a career 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds, his numbers are comparable to draft mate Jaren Jackson Jr.

This season took Bagley by surprise as on opening night he was entirely out of the rotation. Luke Walton is a horrid coach and a lack of communication seems to be a problem with all his teams. Bagley nor his agent knew about this and were furious when Bagley was getting DNPs (did not play). More drama and even national headlines broke out when video showed Bagley refusing to go in the game during garbage time. It is clear the relationship is fractured and nothing will fix it as long as Walton is in charge.

So that leads us to the question of will things improve?

They simply cannot get any worse for Bagley and it is clear he needs/wants a change of scenery. This is a consensus from fans to management to Bagley himself but the problem arises is if the Kings will actually trade him. He has wanted out for over a year now and after shopping Buddy Hield for 2 years, he is still on the team… Sacramento hasn't made the playoffs in 15+ years for a reason, they are dysfunctional as hell. The only way things get better for Marvin is if he gets traded and even then, expect him to be a 6th man off the bench.

Using the Card Ladder’s player index, we can see Bagley’s market is at an all time low. In the last month alone we see a 30% change in his pricing. At this point his whole career hinges on being traded to a team that believes in him similar to Markelle Fultz in Orlando.

Damian Lillard:

Named as one of the 75 greatest players in NBA history, Lillard was coming into the season with rumors circulating of him possibly leaving the Blazers after almost a decade. Although expectations were not high, it's always expected of Lillard to get buckets. From 2015 to 2020 he averaged over 25 points per game which is only a handful of players accomplished.

It was clear something was wrong just a few games into the season as it looked like one of the Monstars from Space Jam took all his powers. 12 games into the year he is shooting 38% from the field and just 25% from three. Something is wrong but no one truly knows what is going on and what went wrong. Lillard after a loss to the Clippers complained about the rule change citing the “calls missed and explanations are unaccepted”. With FIBA allowing hand checking and the new NBA rule seemingly allowing players to play physically against stars, how did Lillard perform in Tokyo? Coincidence or is there something to him shooting 38% from the field in Tokyo and 38% this season? Although we did not think of Lillard as a rule exploiter like James Harden, it is fair to point out that Lillard is fourth all-time in drawing 3 point shooting fouls. With the new rule change, teams could be playing him differently as he no longer can draw shooting fouls.

So that leads us to the question of will things improve?

Yes, you do not average 25+ points per game for half a decade then simply become an 18 point per game scorer who shoots 38% field goals. It is going to take some time for him to get adjusted to the new rules. In his last 3 games alone he is averaging 26 points on 50% field goals which shows he is on the right track. The real problem at hand is the Blazers cannot win a game to save their lives on the road with an 0-6 record. Sitting at 5-7 it's clear that the Blazers could use a trade possibly moving on from Lillard or McCollum as it is not working 8 years after the duo was assembled.