Bryce McGowens: The Art of Rim Pressure
In a draft class full of high variance upside swings how do you determine which gambles are worth making?
Credit University of Nebraska Athletics
Bryce McGowens - 19.6 - Fr
Wing/Guard - Nebraska
Height: 6’7 - Wingspan: 6’9 - Weight: 180
A true test case of glaring strengths and weaknesses. Turn on almost any Nebraska game this year and it wont take long to see the intrigue with McGowens nor the holes that could sink a ship. Simply put, there are few prospects in this class with his combination of rim pressure, shooting touch and athletic potential. How far can those strengths take a prospect when the rest of the cupboard feels bare? That is the question I will delve into in this profile, but first, Kendrick. Lets dive in.
Box Score Stats Pts/Reb/Ast - Stl/Blk/To - Fg/3p/Ft 16.8/5.2/1.4 - 0.7/0.3/2.1 - 40/27/83 Shot Distribution (% Assisted) Dunk - Rim - Mid - 3PT 18/19 - 91/162 - 29/89 - 40/146 94.7% - 56.2% - 32.6% - 27.4% (26.4) - (17.2) - (80.0) Advanced Stats USG/TS - AST/TO - 3PAr/FTr 27.2/53.3 - 08.6/13.4 - .368/.491 BLK/STL - OR/DR - OBPM/DBPM 01.0/01.2 - 02.4/14.6 - 2.2/-1.3 Points Per Possession (Synergy %) PnR OBH - Spot Up - Cutter 0.832 (70) - 1.024 (74) - 1.476 (91) PnR DBH - Dribble J - Isolation 0.783 (42) - 0.615 (26) - 0.741 (43)
Hits: Rim Pressure, Spot-Up Shooting, Athletic Projection
There are few things more valuable in the NBA than a player’s ability to break down a defense and get to the rim. Whether using a ball screen, attacking a closeout, or taking his man off the dribble McGowens brings rim pressure to the table in a variety of settings. Being able to create looks at the rim may be the most valuable skill in the NBA and McGowens is able to do that in spades as evidenced by nearly 74% of his shots at the rim being self created. A very fluid athlete with a great, albeit thin, frame he is able to not only get all the way to the rim but draws fouls at an elite rate for a wing prospect (.491). While some of his efficiency numbers are less than stellar a deeper examination into his play-types shows the foundation of a very good wing scorer at the next level.
When attacking the rim McGowens averages 1.103ppp using a ball screen, 1.417ppp rejecting the screen and 1.129ppp attacking closeouts while shooting 38.2% on spot-up jumpers. His overall efficiency numbers are greatly diminished by contested dribble jumpers, and whew buddy are there a lot, but that isn’t particularly concerning when factoring in how he will be utilized at the next level. It isn’t that he can’t get to his shot or create looks off the bounce, he’s actually had some really impressive flashes there this season that could become something down the line. The rim pressure may be his best and most translatable skill at the next level, but the ease with which he gets into his shot leaves a lot of runway for improvement as a three level scorer in the league.
Nebraska had anything but an optimized roster around him this year and he was asked to create more than he probably should have been. It was obvious from the first tip that the team was going to ride McGowens until the wheels came off and now the wheels are scattered all around the Big 10. Fortunately he will not be tasked with primary scoring opportunities his rookie year, or the first few seasons for that matter, and his projection as a secondary creator looks a whole lot rosier. He’s an excellent cutter, can run a secondary PnR, he’s a good enough shooter off the catch that you have to conest and he’s capable of putting dudes through the rim.
In total there is a lot of fat to be trimmed in his shot diet but with a careful development plan and a shorter leash than he had in Lincoln I don’t see much stopping him from excelling next to one of the many star creators in the league. The ability to hit spot up jumpers and get to the rim seemingly at will should ensure a high enough floor that he will see the court; the league is constantly searching for players who can capitalize on advantages. Unlike some of his contemporaries in this class there is a real case to be made that he will eventually be the one creating his own advantages, an archetype in an entirely different stratosphere of value.
Nits: Defensive Awareness, Passing Vision, Shot Selection
While there are real flashes of ground coverage defensively, particularly closing out to shooters, the defensive side of the ball leaves a lot to be desired. He has the athleticism to be an impactful defender on the wing but he does little to deter drivers with digs, gets caught standing flat-footed with back cuts, struggles to get through screens guarding ball-handlers and misses box-outs on the defensive glass. On a macro level he isn’t impactful on-ball, in help, or finishing possessions. Not ideal.
WITH THAT SAID, he has shown some ability to recover to shooters and fight through screens. While there aren’t many stats that can accurately gauge individual defense, the fact he is only giving up .808PPP (70%) on spot up possessions at least lends some credence to his ability to recover back to shooters with his quickness. What may help artificially boost that number is his lack of impactful help defense. If you aren’t stunting hard on drives to deter them from getting middle it’s a lot easier to recover and contest shots on the perimeter.
There just isn’t consistent effort or awareness rotating off ball in team defense and that kind of weak link can really kill defensive possessions. He certainly has the tools to be better but hasn’t shown much evidence of being able to do so. While I am a strong believer that prospects with plus physical tools should be able to develop into at least passable defenders at the next level there are always exceptions and at this point in time any positive defensive impact is purely projection.
There are a lot of moments on ball like the above where he gets blown by with little resistance but that is probably the least concerning aspect of his defense in my eyes. He has the tools to slide and contain ball handlers, he just wasn’t nearly engaged enough in doing so. A smaller role and shorter leash should help alleviate some of that, but help defense, that is an entirely different can of worms.
On the other side of the ball he isn’t much of a creator for others despite his usage, an assist% below 10 is a really rough number no matter how many shots his teammates were missing He’s able to get to the rim but doesn’t leverage that into quality looks often enough. He is able to create advantages but too often elects not to capitalize on it for a heavily contested jumper or a headstrong drive into traffic.
This goes hand in hand with his shot selection where he routinely takes incredibly difficult jumpers and rim attempts rather than moving the ball and creating a better look for the offense. That has improved as the year has gone on, but over the course of the entire season it was a really prevalent problem and is an enormous part of his middling efficiency. He certainly doesn’t have high level feel as a passer, but he shouldn’t need to in order to thrive in a role at the next level. We see players improve in their ability to make reads through film study and repetition every year, it just takes time and a willing participant.
Fits: Indiana, Dallas, Phoenix, Denver
While I think there is a real case to draft McGowens in the middle of the first round, that potential value is going to have a lot to do with the existing talent on your roster. The last thing I want is for him to be taken into a situation and be tasked with initiating offense as a 20 year old. The ability to attack advantages off a lead ball handler would be an enormous boon for his early career minutes, at least the ones not spent in the G-League, and I think he can learn to thrive there.
Playing off Luka or Jokic would be really interesting and he would add something neither of those teams have, a real threat to pressure the rim. That is a big reason I would love to see him in Indiana as well, a roster with connective pieces galore but lacking a true advantage creator. It isn’t hard to imagine him playing next to any two of Haliburton, Brogdon, and Duarte in a synergistic way. Pheonix is another really interesting landing spot as they have the defensive talent to cover his weaknesses but could really use another weapon getting to the rim as CP3 further enters the twilight of his career.
There will need to be a real defensive identity for him to truly reach his potential and all of these spots have that, or at the very least, a coach that won’t tolerate inattentiveness and lack of effort on that end of the floor.
Wits: What happens when peer pressure turns positive?
Bryce McGowens is a real test of scouting philosophy. The kind of player who’s game in college will not directly correlate to the next level with stark weaknesses that could cause him to burn out of the league before he can actually grow into his skill set. I thought The Art of Peer Pressure was a really fitting song to use for this breakdown not only because it inspired the headline but because of the general idea behind the record.
Everyone will behave differently dependent on their environment; act out of character in ways that are not reflective of their values or nature. Nebraska was a tire fire this year ranking the 24th percentile of all defensive possessions per Synergy and finished with a 10-22 record, not exactly an environment conducive with consistent defensive effort or principles. On top of that McGowens was asked to play a role offensively that he wasn’t ready to shoulder which led to some pretty ugly moments early on, but even in that context he made real strides throughout the year.
The shot selection cleaned up, he was able to get better looks at the rim and he began to consistently put up impactful performances down the stretch. I’m all in, McGowens has become one of my favorite prospects in this years class and I’m willing to bet the improvement he showed in season continues once he is in the league. The draft isn’t about getting every pick right, it’s about making bets you can live with in the long run. I’ll be fine if it never comes together and he ends up at the end of a bench somewhere, there are just too many signs of a positive growth trajectory for me to feel comfortable missing out. There are plenty of things to pick apart in every prospect but let me assure you of one thing: Bryce McGowens has the shenanigans, and that is enough for me.