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The Prospect Overview: Kobe Brown, the Meaning of Shooting Leaps, and the Value of Versatility
Missouri’s Kobe Brown is a versatile forward who has made big strides as a shooter this season. Maxwell breaks down what his statistical profile and shooting improvements mean for his NBA chances!
Feature: Kobe Brown, Shooting Leaps, and Versatility
Over the winter holidays, my wife and I were staying at her parents’s house. While there, I kept the same schedule I do at home, getting up at 3:40 A.M. on most days. From there, I take one of two paths. The first is that I make a cup of coffee and watch film. The second is that I work out, and then I make a cup of coffee and watch film. Coffee and film are my constants. Having someone else in your house who gets up that early would be a giant inconvenience for most families, but thankfully, given the nature of the work her parents do, they’re both usually up by 4 A.M. anyway.
Each morning, my father-in-law would also grab a cup of coffee and make some casual small talk. He’d ask who I was watching, what their style of play was: basic stuff. On December 29th, I was watching the Missouri Tigers systematically pick apart the Kentucky Wildcats. When my father-in-law asked about who I was watching, I gave him a quick rundown of Cason Wallace—he’s a guard who can shoot the ball well, he makes good decisions even though he’s not the flashiest, and he’s an excellent defender. Next, I went to describe Kobe Brown, and I found myself at a loss.
The Missouri senior is listed at 6’8” and 250 pounds. His offensive game is both well-rounded and potent. He ranks in Synergy’s 98th percentile for overall offense. Brown does a lot of his work inside the arc, taking 7.1 of his 10.2 shots per game as twos. He uses his strong, bulky frame to power his way to the cup and finish, converting 67.9% of his shots at the rim in the halfcourt, per Synergy. Brown isn’t totally ground-bound, either. Per BartTorvik, he’s dunked 24 times on the year and has some bounce to him.
Brown does a lot of damage in the post, and he doesn’t care which block he has to take someone on. Per Synergy, he tallies an elite 1.153 points per possession as a scorer in the post. His strength does a lot of the work for him, as he’ll bully his way into good looks. Still, he has the touch to finish even when he doesn’t get the cleanest of opportunities. Brown displays patience and solid footwork with enough burst to put the defender behind him when he gets them out of position.
Bullyball is a tricky skill to scale up, especially when a player isn’t a towering 7-footer. The good news is that Brown has started to display an inside-out element to his game. Brown has converted 45.6% of his threes on the season, taking 3.2 threes per game. Even better, he’s taking more difficult looks and showing an increased willingness to launch, with a 50% increase in threes per 100 possessions compared to a year ago. While he’s never going to be a player who flies off screens, he hit off basic “fill the opening” relocation and has good shot preparation footwork. If a defender sags on him, he’ll take the open look and make them pay.
What makes Brown different from a lot of other inside-out power players is his passing vision. He’s tied for second on the team in assists in Mizzou’s democratic offensive system, averaging 2.8 assists per game to only 1.8 turnovers. Brown ranks in Syngergy’s 97th percentile in pick-and-roll possessions including passes. He’s able to find the open man and leverage the scoring gravity he creates as a potent downhill and post threat. His head is always up, and he’s great at spraying the ball out to open shooters on the perimeter. He’s aided by his sleek handle. Keeping the ball low enables Brown to get to his spots without defenders poking the ball loose.
Brown is a productive defender, especially within a team concept. His high level of intelligence on offense transfers beautifully to the other end of the floor. He understands how offenses flow, he knows the tendencies of his opponents, and he plays with a high level of engagement. His positioning off the ball is top-notch, and he’s constantly communicating with his teammates. My favorite thing about Brown is that he has a tremendous understanding of himself and the man he’s guarding. If he knows the ball handler can’t blow by him, he’ll play tight on them. If his foot speed might be an issue, he’ll give a little space before trying to bump them off their spot with his large frame. Even with shaky north-south speed and iffy hips, Brown still ranks in Synegy’s 85th percentile for guarding in isolation, surrendering only 0.476 points per possession in those settings. His awareness enables him to act as a playmaker, tallying 1.4 SPG and 0.4 blocks per game. He knows how to play passing lanes even though he isn’t the quickest, and his size enables him to swallow up opponents at the rim.
Brown gets after it on the glass. He totals 6.0 RPG, with 1.9 of those coming on the offensive glass. His rebounding makes him a constant put-back threat on the offensive end. On the other side of the floor, his skill as an outlet passer and ball handler makes him a threat to initiate transition possessions.
On paper, this makes Kobe Brown sound like a first-round pick, right? He’s a knock-down three-point shooter, a good interior finisher, a savvy passer, a reliable rebounder, and a clever defender. Those skills are the makings of the modern-day connector pieces and forwards that NBA teams crave.
It’s not that simple, though. While he boasts a versatile production output, Brown doesn’t have a true signature skill to hang his hat on. On the defensive end, Brown’s struggles to change direction and cover large amounts of ground in a hurry raise questions about his off-ball translation to the NBA. Offensively, you might point to his gaudy three-point percentage as a specialty area, but there is actually cause for concern there. While Brown’s 45.6% on the year is stellar, he’s still a career 29.7% shooter from distance. In prior seasons, he shot 25.3%, 25.0%, and 20.6% from three.
When projecting Kobe Brown’s NBA outlook, there are two main questions I am left with:
1. What does a sizeable leap in three-point percentage truly mean for a prospect?
2. What does such a diverse statistical output mean as far as Kobe Brown’s NBA chances?
Let’s tackle those questions as best we can!
1. What does a sizeable leap in three-point percentage truly mean for a prospect?
I had to go full Calculator Boy to figure this one out. I manually compiled data and tallied up a bunch of numbers for players who were drafted and also saw a seismic leap in three-point percentage during their final year in college. Below is what I found.
Players who experienced a 10% leap in three-point percentage during their final college season prior to getting drafted. Excludes players who shot within 10% of their final season mark at another point during their Division-1 basketball career. Minimum of 30 attempts, seasons within 10% of best percentage but under 30 attempts disregarded. Year in school in parenthesis:
2014: P.J. Hairston (So), Kyle Anderson (So), Semaj Christon (So)
2015: Delon Wright (So), Justin Anderson (Jr), Bobby Portis (So), Richaun Holmes (Jr), JP Tokoto (Jr)
2017: Luke Kennard (So), Donovan Mitchell (So), Caleb Swanigan (So), Wes Iwundu (Sr), Semi Ojeleye (Redshirt Jr)
2018: Tony Carr (So)
2019: Rui Hachimura (Jr), PJ Washington (So), KZ Okpala (So), Terance Mann (Sr), Jalen McDaniels (So)
2020: Jalen Smith (So), Aaron Nesmith (So), Tyler Bey (Jr), Robert Woodard II (So)
2021: Davion Mitchell (Redshirt Jr), Tre Mann (So), Santi Aldama (So), Herb Jones (Jr), Miles McBride (So), David Johnson (So)
2022: Keegan Murray (So), Jaden Ivey (So), Tari Eason (So), David Roddy (Jr), Wendell Moore (Jr), Tyrese Martin (Sr)
In total, 35 players met the criteria. Of those 35 players, 22 were sophomores. On paper, that tracks. They may have been talented shooters who merely needed to adjust to the speed and pace of the faster game, or they may have taken a sizeable step forward with a year of play and two college-level off-seasons under their belt. That means only 13 of those 35 were upperclassmen. Of the upperclassmen, only five were fourth-year players, like Kobe Brown will be if he enters the draft after this season. That leaves us with two big questions—did those players stick around in the NBA, and did they find shooting success there?
Players who played, or are on pace to play 4 or more NBA seasons: Justin Anderson, Richaun Holmes, Wes Iwundu, Semi Ojeleye, Rui Hachimura, Terance Mann, Davion Mitchell, Herb Jones
Too early to tell: David Roddy, Wendell Moore, Tyrese Martin
Did not stick: JP Tokoto, Tyler Bey
Cumulative 3P% in the NBA: 32.5%
Fourth Year Players 3P% in the NBA: 33.8%
That doesn’t look great! The league average 3PT% is 36%, meaning that ultimately, these players rated out as comfortably below average. It’s even murkier when you consider that players like Tokoto and Bey barely played in the NBA. If they had worked out as shooters, the rest of their skill set would have gotten them more chances. But because their shooting was too far away, they didn’t get the opportunity. Their lack of attempts (none for Tokoto, 1-4 for Bey) doesn’t sway the data much but they are an additional negative indicator for upperclassmen players experiencing a massive leap in shooting performance during their final college season.
The optimist would say that ultimately, most of those players found ways to play multiple NBA seasons. However, the ones with the most success profile differently than Brown. Richaun Holmes found a role that doesn’t require him to shoot threes. Herb Jones and Davion Mitchell both profiled as specialist-level defenders coming into the NBA, and they didn’t need their shots to the degree that Kobe Brown will. Rui Hachimura is a much more fluid athlete and has better size/length. The rest of those players were mainly back-end roster players who didn’t contribute at a high level. Terance Mann is the one guy who became the realest of deals as a shooter of that group, and that’s the type of shooting outcome Kobe Brown needs to hope for at the next level.
2. What does such a diverse statistical output mean as far as Kobe Brown’s NBA chances?
Kobe Brown’s statistical profile is rather special. The Memphis Grizzlies’s heralded draft strategy included searching for players who met a certain statistical threshold:
Effective Field Goal Percentage > 57
Defensive Rebound and Assist Percentages > 14
Steal and Block Percentages > 2
Right now, Kobe Brown has an EFG% of 63.7%, a DRB% of 17.2, an AST% of 19.5%, and a STL% of 2.8%. Sadly, he just misses the mark on BLK%, where he is at 1.9%. Even with that, he’s still in good company. If we drop the block rate for that threshold to 1.9, look at some of the players on this list! Keep in mind, this was filtered to only include high major players since 2014.
This bodes well for Brown! Sure, not everyone on that list made it to the NBA, but a hefty majority at least got a cup of coffee. Of the 18 players listed who aren’t currently in school, only Ethan Happ, TaShawn Thomas, David Collette, and Joshua Smith didn’t end up playing in an NBA game. It goes to show that even if you might not stick around the association forever, NBA teams will be more than willing to give a shot to someone who is competent across the board. I then took the experiment one step further: The Kobe Query.
Effective Field Goal Percentage > 60
Defensive Rebound and Assist Percentages > 17
Steal and Block Percentages > 1.5
3-point attempts > 50
High Major players only
Just Dean Wade! That’s it! And Dean Wade is precisely the type of player that Kobe Brown should aim to be—a guy who knows where to be on both ends of the floor, makes sound decisions, and knocks down open shots. Still, there are key differences. Wade has two inches of height on Brown. That matters a lot on the defensive end, where both have to rely on their physical tools and awareness rather than their high-end athleticism. Wade does move better, too. He’s lighter on his feet and has a better stance, resorting to turning and chasing less often with better containment capabilities. While both will end their college careers taking a similar number of three-point attempts, Wade’s career percentage of 38.6% is greatly preferable to Brown’s 29.7%. Still, if Brown is in such rare company, that can’t hurt his chances. And given the nature of the initial list above, it should be a testament to Brown that he’s hitting higher statistical thresholds than many long-term NBA players.
Before the season, I had a conversation with friend of the site Nathaniel Miller. He’s a knowledgeable evaluator who keeps a deep rolodex of prospects. If there’s a deep-cut guy player out there, he knows them. Nathaniel remarked on how he tiers out his rankings, and how it served as a “real reminder of how good a player needs to be a good prospect.”
Whenever I talk to my friends who are more casual basketball fans, they almost always think the best player on their favorite college team is a better pro prospect than they are. They seem to think that everyone can carve out a role and stick around for a few years. The reality is much harsher. It’s not just, “what is this player good at?” It’s, “how good is this player relative to everyone else?” While a lot of the players they like have good, meaningful skills in a vacuum, those skills need to translate up against the greatest competition in the world. They also have to be consistent with them, offering some level of value over the course of an 82-game season. As they age, they need to fend off new, hungry opposition. If an organization wants to rebuild, these players could find themselves in a precarious position, on the edge of being discarded for a younger player with more tantalizing upside. As the pro wrestler Eddie Kingston once said: “The world is cold. Bundle up.”
It’s going to be an uphill battle for Kobe Brown. But the good news for him is that he does have a real opportunity to be an NBA player. He’s 6’8”, he’s an exceptionally bright and trustworthy player, and he does enough things well on a basketball court that he is never truly out of his depth. Brown is also no stranger to exceeding expectations. Last year, Mizzou was 12-21, and as of this writing, they’re 19-7. His shot, mechanically, is smoother and he’s shown increased confidence in it. For that reason, I’m not fully comfortable saying, “this isn’t real.” The shooting leap data says he won’t become a league-average shooter, but the versatility data says that he’s likely to get a chance in the NBA. Because of that diverse skill set, paired with his size, he could be a truly meaningful, winning NBA player if he sticks. For that reason, I think Kobe Brown has an argument as a back-end Top 60 prospect, though he just missed out on the latest rankings I submitted for our site. At the very least, he should warrant looks as an Exhibit-10 player and potential two-way signee. Prospects in that range generally don’t pan out, but if you’re going to bet on one, the smart guy with size who can do a lot of different things is probably one of the better bets you can make.
The Expanding Big Board
Welcome to The Expanding Big Board! Every week, one new player is added to the board. Once a player is added, they cannot be removed. The current ranking is listed first, with last week’s ranking in parenthesis.
1. Victor Wembanyama (1)
2. Scoot Henderson (2)
3. Brandon Miller (3)
4. Jarace Walker (4)
5. Cam Whitmore (5)
6. Ausar Thompson (6)
7. Amen Thompson (7)
8. Jett Howard (8)
9. Keyonte George (9)
10. Nick Smith Jr. (10)
11. Gradey Dick (11)
12. Cason Wallace (12)
13. Taylor Hendrick (unranked)
Taylor Hendricks, welcome to the Expanding Big Board.
Every year, it feels like a million different players get off to a hot start. Eventually, things settle down. Shooting regression happens. Some tail off after a few weeks, while others fade when they get to the conference portion of their schedule. With Taylor Hendricks, it felt different.
The 6’9” freshman from Central Florida came out of the gates hot, converting 48.8% of his threes on 4.1 3PA per game during his first ten outings. Hendricks stood out among the fast starters for three primary reasons. The first was that he was 6’9”, and the second was that he’s genuinely a good athlete. Hendricks has the feet to slide with smaller players and explosive bounce off two feet. His vertical pop enables him to protect the rim on defense (1.7 BPG) and finish plays of offense (30 dunks on the year, per Synergy). The third part, though, was that Hendricks’s shot simply passes the eye test. He has a gorgeous shooting stroke with a high release point that is difficult to impede. Now 26 games into the season, he’s still converting 40.7% of his threes.
There’s been a steady progression to other elements of his game, too. Hendricks has done a better job of finding teammates, and he keeps his dribble low to attack when he’s chased off the three-point line. He’s unlikely to ever be the primary focal point of an NBA offense, but his recognition is rock solid and he moves the ball quickly when needed. After averaging 0.7 assists through his first ten games, he’s averaged 1.9 again in the ensuing 16. The game has slowed down for him and he’s playing with his head up more consistently. Evolving from “catch-and-shoot guy” to “catch-and-shoot guy who can attack and find the open man” is huge for his future projections.
As with all prospects, there is still room for improvement. His defensive switchability, while enticing, is still a tad theoretical. He can be too upright while guarding quicker players, and he’s too quick to put his hands on the opponent rather than getting into his stance. The biggest concern that jumps out to me is his lack of physical strength. Hendricks is skinny. The ball gets knocked out of his hands a lot, and he can get bumped off his spot while driving. He has a good frame, though, and I believe he will gain the appropriate weight in time. Still, it will be an initial barrier he has to deal with.
Taylor Hendricks could be the type of player every NBA team wants: a 6’9” guy who shoots the lights out and guards multiple positions. If it all clicks, he could be an outstanding third option who covers the spectrum and provides weakside rim protection on defense while finishing plays at a high level on the other end.
14. Jalen Hood-Schifino (13)
15. Brice Sensabaugh (14)
16. Anthony Black (15)
17. GG Jackson (16)
-The Mid-Major Game of the Week was Belmont vs. Drake! Drake won 70-56, controlling the game throughout.
It was a real, “He is who I thought he was,” performance from Tucker DeVries, who has been surging over the past month. It was a quieter scoring game for him, as he posted 13 points on 12 shots and went 1-5 from three, but he still played well. Defenses are never able to ignore him, and he leveraged that attention well as a passer, racking up three assists to only one turnover. Drake used him as a screener more, too, which I like quite a bit—he’s got a thick frame and his shooting gravity adds another level of complexity to the defenses’ decision-making process. Roman Penn had a great outing, too. The fifth-year guard finished with 22 points, six rebounds, and four assists. He showed real creativity and craft with his passing, looking off his feeds to get his teammates clean looks. At 6’0” without much of a defensive impact, an NBA future is unlikely for him, but he’s been a great college player for Drake. The same can be said for Garrett Sturtz, who is one of the feistiest role players in the country. At 6’3”, he still managed to grab seven rebounds and block two shots. 6’0” freshman Conor Enright did this, which was extremely cool:
Belmont star Ben Sheppard has an up-and-down outing, but I still came away encouraged. The 6’6” senior scored 19 points on 17 shots. While his three-ball wasn’t going (1-for-4 on the night), he did showcase a newer wrinkle to his game. With many knockdown movement shooters, teams can give them fits by putting a smaller, quicker player on them. Drake tried to do this by throwing Roman Penn at Sheppard, and Sheppard took him to the basket for an easy bucket two different times. His long strides and improved strength are too much for smaller college guards. I don’t know that he’ll have that same success against smaller NBA guards out of the gate, but it was an encouraging development, and I loved his mental process in taking advantage of the situation. He was 8-for-13 on twos, and while his body mechanics can still come unglued on drives, he knows how to attack and use his length inside. His work rate is unmatched, too. He never stops moving or running on the court and has one of the best motors in the country. When he gets to scale down to a lower role, there’s a chance he plays within greater control of himself and limits his mistakes. He had four turnovers, but one of them was a pass that bounced off an open man’s head when he wasn’t paying attention. Can’t fault him for that one! Still, his handle can get wide, and he can be bumped off his spot due to his high center of gravity. Ultimately, Sheppard is a high-end shooter who stays in front of the ball well on defense, plays exceptionally hard, and has good length. That gives him a chance at carving out an NBA roster spot. Freshman Cade Tyson had a quiet outing and battled foul trouble, but he’s still a productive 6’7” freshman who can really shoot. Ja'Kobi Gillespie looks like a fun college player. The 6’0” guard had some exciting moments as a passer. He’s a poor outside shooter, but if he can turn that around, his defensive intensity, speed, and savvy could possibly get him in the mix down the road.
-Next week’s Mid-Major Game of the Week will be Dayton vs. UMass! Make sure you’re following me on Twitter @BaumBoards to vote for the Mid-Major Game of the Week in the future!
-Rayan Rupert is a dude. The 6’7” wing with a 7’3” wingspan has been a defensive force in Australia’s NBL. He covers ground exceptionally well off the ball, and on it, his length and footspeed make him a nightmare to get around. While his three-point percentage on the year is a scary 25% on the year, the advanced numbers give some room for optimism. Rupert’s a bad off-the-dribble scorer right now, point-blank. Per Synergy, he has a 29.5% EFG on such shots. Too often, he goes up with little balance, his base drifting out from under him. The good news is that he’s 36.7% on catch-and-shoot threes. On those shots, his body mechanics are far more cohesive. Given how good he is defensively, he should still manage to be a valuable player if he can just be a reliable catch-and-shoot target. That’s before we even get into his handle, decision-making, etc. If anyone wants to sell their Rupert stock, I’ll take it.
-Barcelona’s James Nnaji has been a trendy international name lately, too. Playing for one of the best squads in Spain’s domestic league and the EuroLeague, James Nnaji isn’t exactly in a position to be handed minutes. Instead, he’s earning them. The 6’11” big is a stellar defender with awesome strength for an 18-year-old. He also appears totally comfortable when switched onto smaller players. Offensively, he’s blossomed, showing more maturity and patience inside. He might not project to be more than a play-finisher on that end, but given what he brings on the defensive end of the floor, he still may be worthy of a first-round pick.
-UConn’s Alex Karaban hasn’t received a lot of attention given the multitude of talented prospects on the Huskies roster. Still, I’m intrigued by the 6’8” redshirt freshman. Beyond being tall and long, Karaban is a fantastic outside shooter, currently sitting at 39.5% from three-point range on the year despite a lower release point. He has game when chased off the line, too, boasting a near 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. Karaban’s feisty, too, consistently banging it out to grab offensive rebounds. He has some limitations defensively, as he’s not the quickest lateral mover and has struggled against powerful forwards like Bryce Hopkins. Still, the highly skilled forward is one to monitor for a future draft class. Totals of 9.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 1.8 APG with shooting splits of 46.7/39.5/82.1 are tremendous for a debut season on a winning team in a power conference.
-Look, I know Jack Nunge has been in college for an eternity…but are we sure he’s not a guy? I’m not saying someone should draft him, but teams should think about working him out. Every game, the commentators harp on his age and do the, “Can you believe this guy is so old that he has a WIFE?!” bit. I always assumed Nunge was like, 35 years old. In reality, he just turned 24 yesterday! It’s still archaic for a prospect, but I wouldn’t mind a team kicking the tires on him with a Summer League roster spot. He’s a trustworthy passer, a big presence on the offensive glass (2.8 per game), and a reliable floor spacer (39.5% from three over the last two seasons). His offensive profile and production in a good conference should warrant him at least a modicum of consideration.
-Maine has some interesting guards. 6’3” junior Kellen Tynes is a stat sheet stuffer, averaging 13.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 3.1 SPG. He’s a defensive menace. Tynes reads passing lanes well and has fast hands. If a ballhandler isn’t prepared in transition or gets too casual waiting for the offense to set up, he’ll sneak in and steal the ball away. He’s not a numbers merchant, either, as he generates a number of deflections. It feels like he’s constantly touching the ball on that end of the floor. Offensively, he’s held back by his 30.3% shooting on 1.3 threes per game. He absolutely needs to turn that around in order to become a serious NBA prospect. Still, he’s a polished mid-range and pull-up scorer, hitting 43.2% of his dribble jumper twos on the year, per Synergy. If he could be a deep threat, it would further open up his attacking game. When he gets downhill, he’s a sharp and deceptive live dribble passer with some wiggle to him. 6’1” freshman Jaden Clayton could be a long-term name to monitor. A much better athlete than you’d anticipate for a low-major guard, Clayton has potent speed and covers ground better than one would expect. In Maine’s game against Ohio State, he didn’t look out of place against that level of opposition, finishing with six points, three assists to one turnover, two rebounds, and a block. He’s a trustworthy passer who was the lead guard on the EYBL’s UPlay Canada squad alongside Shaedon Sharpe. If he can get his three-ball going (30.8% on 2.1 per game), he could work his way into the conversation down the road.