Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Malcolm Brogdon vs. Grayson Allen

The big story from an NBA draft perspective from the Duke vs. Virginia game was Brandon Ingram's offensive explosion against one of the top defenses in the country, but one interesting subplot was the match-up between Grayson Allen (No. 45 in DX Top 100) and Malcolm Brogdon (No. 95) at the SG position. Neither Allen nor Brogdon is considered a big-time prospect but they have both been putting big-time numbers this season:

Allen (sophomore): 20.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists on 1.8 turnovers on 48.9% shooting, 42.5% from 3 (on 5.1 3PA's)

Brogdon (junior): 17.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists on 1.5 turnovers on 46.5% shooting, 40% from 3 (on 5.2 3PA's)

Those numbers are nice but when it comes to evaluating NBA prospects, the biggest thing to me is how they perform against each other. I can get more out of 1 game between two top players who play the same position than 10 games when they go up against guys who are going pro in something other than sports. How would Allen and Brogdon fare against each other on both sides of the ball? That would tell us a lot about how ready each guy is to play at the next level.

Allen is a killer in transition

Allen has what is commonly called "sneaky" or "deceptive" athleticism in that people don't expect a white guy to be able to fly around the court and play above the rim. The JJ Redick comparisons are obvious but Allen is a much better athlete. Watch how well he moves in the open court when he can pick up a head of steam:

Allen does a great job of controlling his body and taking advantage when the defender is giving up ground. He lives at the free-throw line (84.6% on 6.5 FTA's) which is a fabulous number for a guy who has been billed as a shooting specialist.

Allen's D needs a lot of work

Allen's athleticism doesn't always translate in the half-court, though, especially on the defensive side of the ball. That's not a huge surprise given that he's a young guy who has focused mostly on scoring early in his career, but I wonder how much of it is his small wingspan (6'5 205 with a 6'6 wingspan) and that's where the Redick comparisons come into play. He has to play so tight when he's playing pressure D that it's relatively easy for even average NCAA players like Virginia senior Marial Shayok to get around him:

Duke eventually had to move Allen off Brogdon and hide him as much as possible because of plays like this. It's too easy for Allen to get beat off the dribble at this point in his career and it's going to be hard for him to declare for the draft until he can improve that part of his game because he's not going to be a primary option in the NBA.

Allen depends on the refs when getting pressed on D

Allen is a really smart player and he knows how to take advantage of cracks in the defense to get into the lane. He's a really good off the ball player and he doesn't force the issue too much when he doesn't have the advantage. This play is a good example of how Allen can initiate contact and create something out of nothing on offense:

Of course, the other side of that is whether the refs are bailing him out on the drive. Duke players tend to get Duke calls and Allen can end up taking a lot of difficult shots when the refs swallow their whistle late in games:

Conversely, they could just let him travel to win games. It's easy to get an open look when you can take 3 steps in the lane:

Brogdon struggles to create 1-on-1 offense

The biggest knock on Brogdon is whether he can pass what I like to call "the Aaron Harrison test" - does he have enough of a baseline of ahtleticism to where he can compete at the NBA level? He's never going to be a plus athlete - he just has to be good enough to where he can use his NBA body (6'5 205 with a 6'10 wingspan), his bball IQ and his well-rounded skill-set. You can see the issue when he tries to create 1-on-1 against NBA-caliber defenders like Matt Jones:

He doesn't really have the athleticism to where he can finish in the lane in traffic:

Brogdon uses smarts to get his offense

The biggest thing about him is that he knows who he is. He's a very crafty player - he's able to walk the fine line between always looking to attack and not forcing the issue. When he has nothing, he'll keep the ball moving. When the defender gambles and creates an opening, though, he's quick to exploit it:

He has the prototype SG game in that he knows how to set up defenders, run off screens and get off shots from 3 quickly. A guy with his athleticism can't afford to not be a knock down 3-point shooter at the next level and that's one area of his game that will definitely translate:

Brogdon is a fantastic defender

If Brogdon is going to get into the league, it's because of his play on the defensive side of the ball. Even though he's not a great athlete, he's big and long (6'5 215 with a 6'10 wingspan) and he's a very tough player who knows how to play positional defense and force his man into a tough shot. Tony Bennett does a great job of coaching up D at UVa and Brogdon is a prime example of a guy who has maximized all of his athletic ability to become a high-level two way player at the NCAA level. Watch how he moves his feet on this Allen drive and doesn't fall for any of his pump fakes. He's not giving you anything easy:

The reason that UVa was able to make this game close was Brogdon's defense on Ingram late in the games. He's giving up a ton of size, a ton of length and a ton of quickness in this match-up yet he's still able to force Ingram into taking a really tough shot in an iso situation:

Plays like this are why NBA scouts are going to come around on Brogdon. Even if he's not drafted, he will get a chance to play his way into the NBA in summer league and as a training camp invite:

Allen and Brogdon have fairly similar skill-sets

Neither guy is going to be a primary option at the next level but they are both knockdown 3-point shooters who know how to attack a close-out and can create offense for their teammates. They are both excellent passers with assist-to-turnover ratios of at least 2:1 - they are shooting specialists who can do more than just shoot and can attack a defense in multiple ways. Brogdon would be a great guy or Allen to model himself on over the next few seasons at college. He has gotten the most out of athletic ability and he has turned himself into an excellent defender, which is what Allen is going to need to become if he's going to stick at the next level.

Could Brogdon be the next Wesley Matthews?

There's definitely some Matthews in Brogdon's game - he's a very solid two-way wing player at the NCAA level without elite athleticism or shot-creating ability who has been somewhat overshadowed playing on a great team. Brogdon is a great shooter with size, length and toughness who can do multiple things on offense and he has been really coached up on the defensive end of the floor. There are a ton of guys with 3-and-D potential in every draft and it will be easy to overlook Brogdon for flashier players with more athleticism. The odds are against Brogdon but Matthews is proof that 3-and-D wings can carve out a career for themselves at the next level without being drafted.

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