Since his arrival at Washington State in fall 2006, Tony Bennett has staked his claim as one of the best defensive minds in college hoops. That acclaim is due to Bennett's utilization of the pack-line defense, which forces the opposition to remain on the perimeter as there are two defenders (main defender and help defender) there if the opposition tries to cut. Bennett was able to make that defense work by recruiting a plethora of lanky wings that can buy into the system. That list of names features current NBA players Justin Anderson, Mike Scott, Joe Harris and Warriors superstar Klay Thompson.
A player that will hope to follow in those footsteps is current NBA Draft prospect Malcolm Brogdon. When you compare Brogdon to those players, he might have had the best college career. Brogdon was one of the best ACC players from the start of his sophomore season until Virginia wrapped up the 2015-16 season with a heart-breaking loss to Syracuse in the Elite Eight. During that time, Brogdon had a plethora of accolades that included: consensus first-team All-American (2016), ACC Player of the Year (2016), 2x ACC Defensive Player of the year (2015, 2016) and 3x first-team All-ACC (2014-2016).
Despite being one of the most decorated ACC players in recent memory, Brogdon is still over-looked as we head to the NBA Draft. Currently, none of the major NBA mock drafts (ESPN, SI, CBSSports, NBADraft.net and DraftExpress) has Brogdon listed in the 1st round. In DraftExpress' latest mock, Brogdon's projected to go 41st to the Orlando Magic. So why is Brogdon projected as a mid-2nd round pick despite having a fantastic college career?
A lot of that is due to two major issues: age and lack of athleticism. Due to spending five years in Virginia (redshirted after his freshman season due to a foot injury), Brogdon's going to turn 24 in December which puts him as one of the oldest draft prospects. Alongside that, he's had struggles creating offense for himself as he's neither explosive or has the best handles in the game. Brogdon regularly needed to work around a screen to be able to work his way towards the rim. According to Hoop-Math, Brogdon shot 60% from around the rim, which is slightly above-average for a wing.
Despite that lack of style and promise, there's a lot of substance in Brogdon's overall game. Apparent by his run as ACC"s Defensive Player of the Year, Brogdon is a coach's dream with the effort, toughness, and defensive IQ that he always brings. He works extremely hard working around screens to stay in front of the opposition to either protect against a cutter or perimeter shooter. Brogdon was still able to stay ahead of cutting wings due to that defensive acumen and his solid 6'10 wingspan. An example of that penetration defense is evident in the play below, as Brogdon's able to stick with the cutting Ohio State guard despite biting on the pump fake.
While he's an elite defensive player, Brogdon was never much of a ball hawk with Virginia. Averaging only .7 steals per game, he rarely took any risks on the defensive end. While that hinders transition chances, that focus means that Brogdon would never be off his assignments, which means that the opposing player wouldn't get any open looks.
Alongside that defensive acumen, Brogdon made his mark as a pretty reliable perimeter weapon. During his senior season, Brogdon shot 39% from beyond the arc on 5.2 attempts per game, which put him as the fifth most efficient prospect in this year's draft class with at least 5 perimeter attempts. Brogdon does a lot of his damage off catch-and-shoots, as he shot 43%. He also shot 46% by working off screens, which is a great sign in regards to his potential as an NBA role player. As you can see in the play below, Brogdon looks very comfortable working through off-ball screens, where he finishes with a blazing quick release on his jumper.
Off-the-dribble is where Brogdon has some struggles. Like previously mentioned, he's neither the quickest nor best ball-handler which really hinders his potential to work as an isolation player. That also hurts his ability to create his own shot as he doesn't have the handle to break down the opposition and create separation. However, Brogdon can get some work done by utilizing screens as he can make some straight cuts to the rim. Alongside that, he's continued to showcase a solid step-back mid-range jumper which could be an effective move in the NBA.
Another area where Brogdon could be very useful as he transitions to the NBA is as a facilitator. That's an area where he really shows his basketball IQ, as he had a solid 2.21 Ast/TO ratio during his senior season. Brogdon able to use his 6'6 frame to see over the defense combined with that basketball IQ could allow him to do some work as a point forward in the NBA.
Although there are some clear worries with Brogdon (his lack of athleticism and limited upside), he does have the ingredients to become an NBA role player for years to come. Brogdon's basketball IQ, defensive determination, solid perimeter stroke and elite length are skills that teams around the NBA just crave in the modern-day role play. So while he doesn't that elite upside, it's no question that Brogdon has the skills to become a staple in the NBA for years to come.