Note: This piece is the continuation of an ongoing series where Ridiculous Upside examines some undrafted 2017 prospects that fans need to keep an eye on. This series started on July 1st where we looked at former Weber State guard Jeremy Senglin. To continue the series, we’ll take a look at former Wisconsin Badgers guard Bronson Koenig.
In the waning days before the 2017 NBA Draft, former Wisconsin Badger guard Bronson Koenig wrote a piece for the Players’ Tribune that was basically an open letter to GMs. Over the course of the piece, Koenig touched on various reasons as to why he belonged on an NBA team. Although that journey got off to a bumpy start, as he wasn’t ended up selected in that year’s draft, it would still be right to be optimistic about him due to two separate traits: incredible work ethic and confidence in his on-court abilities.
When it came to that first part, Koenig told an intriguing story about how a a summer meeting with actor Michael B. Jordan changed his perspective on self-discipline. After a late-night workout that the duo had, Jordan imparted some wisdom about how someone has to be O.K. with being alone, staying home and working on their craft if they wanted to be truly successful.
As a young man that spent his whole life in the mid-west, Koenig was shocked by hearing that such a successful actor like Jordan would just rather stay home than traveling the world, and being out into the wee hours of the morning. That advice from Jordan concluded with this statement, that Koenig noted that just changed his mindset:
Learn the art of being antisocial
Transiting to his confidence, Koenig actually started out that piece by issuing a statement that would make most NBA fans give a little “side-eye”.
Dear NBA GMs,
I’m the best shooter in this year’s draft class.
Following that initial statement, Koenig further clarified that he really believed that he was the best midrange and three-point shooter available during the draft.
From a statistical perspective, that confidence doesn’t make much kind of sense. That’s due to how the 2017 NBA Draft featured terrific shooters like Luke Kennard, Frank Mason and Lonzo Ball, who shot better than 40% from the perimeter while also maintaining a True Shooting Percentage (TS%) that was better than 60% TS%. Meanwhile, Koenig shot 39% from beyond the arc and maintained a 57% TS% during his senior season. While those numbers are definitely respectable, it’s still not at the same level as other prospects that were in that year’s draft class.
Although that mindset doesn't really make sense from an analytical perspective, it does when you watch him actually work on the court. As has been the case since the early 2000’s, the Badgers offense has been more slow paced as its reliant on a ton of ball movement and half-court play, More times than not, Koenig did a good job of staying within that system and being a great team player. However, there were definitely moments where Koenig looked like a caterpillar that was just itching to break away from his cocoon.
At those moments where Koenig just decides to let loose, he immediately becomes one of the most entertaining players on the court. The best example of this is seen where Koenig is in his zone as a perimeter shooter. During those moments where he’s just feeling it, Koenig looks like an unstoppable perimeter force as he can hit these jumpers no matter if he has a hand in his face or is squaring well behind the three-point line.
While that confidence possibly led to Badgers head coach Greg Gard losing a few hairs during Koenig’s stint with the team, it still made for some pretty entertaining basketball. Koenig’s great range is seen below as he knocks down a perimeter jumper despite having a hand in his face and being around 3-4 feet behind the three-point line.
Again, that tremendous confidence from Koenig will definitely give his coaches some headaches no matter who he plays for. However, Koenig still hits a good amount of those long-range jumpers as he shot 39% from beyond the arc on 7.3 perimeter attempts per game during his senior season.
Koenig’s great shooting stroke and incredible confidence ultimately forced him to be the Badgers’ top scoring threat when the game is on the line. Luckily for the Badgers, Koenig was an extremely clutch player as he shot 49% on perimeter jumpers that happened in the final five minutes and overtime of each contest. Some examples of that include: hitting a go-ahead 3 against Minnesota with 44 seconds left in overtime of a regular season game and nailing a perimeter shot with two minutes left to go in a Round of 32 matchup against Villanova. However, his biggest moment occurred during his junior season where he hit this huge shot at the buzzer to put Wisconsin over the top of Xavier.
Although he’s comfortable with settling for a jumper from well beyond the three-point line, Koenig is more than willing to break down the opposition and create his shot. That’s most evident from his work inside the perimeter where Koenig is comfortable using hesitation and step back moves to create the space needed to launch a mid-range jumper. According to Hoop-Math, Koenig shot 44% on jumpers from inside the perimeter. While that’s not too great, it’s a significant improvement over the 35% that he shot as a junior during the 2015-16 campaign.
Koenig’s solid dribble moves were pretty helpful when he was working as an on-ball slasher. While he wasn’t the strongest or most athletic guard in the Big 10, Koenig was able to regularly able to drive past the perimeter defender through solid handles or a pretty quick first step. After that initial victory, the 194-pound Koenig was occasionally able to use his strong frame to charge his way to the paint and be able to finish around the rim, even if he drove into contact.
However, those instances were rare as only 13% of his total shots actually at the rim. Koenig was also very inefficient during those moments as he shot 49% from around the rim, according to Hoop-Math.
Another area on offense that Koenig will need to work on is as a facilitator. Despite standing at 6’4 and regularly taking the ball up the court for Wisconsin, Koenig didn’t really put good facilitating numbers during his stint at the school. As a senior, Koenig only averaged 2.0 assists in 31 minutes per game That’s actually a downgrade from how he put up 2.6 assists in 28 minutes per game when he was a sophomore at Wisconsin.
Those stats definitely seem troubling, but Koenig does show some flashes of being a decent facilitator. Most of those examples happen to occur when he’s working in the pick-and-roll where he utilizes his solid court vision to throw pocket passes to a cutting big or wing while working in the pick-and-roll. That court vision also allows Koenig to find open teammates when he’s just trolling the perimeter, like what he did in this play.
Despite some of the flashes that he’s shown as a facilitator and on-ball driver, Koenig definitely needs to do a lot of work before he can even come close of reaching the NBA. After not getting selected in this year’s draft, the Milwaukee Bucks quickly picked up the Wisconsin native to a two-way deal. That contract means that Koenig would spend most of his time in the G League with the Wisconsin Herd, while having an opportunity to spend up to 45 days in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks.
As a young man that grew up in La Crosse and played college hoops at Madison, Koenig would be basically playing at him as a member of the Herd as he’ll be balling in Oshkosh. That familiarity should be beneficial to Koenig as he’ll be surrounded by the same group of family and friends that pushed him to be a terrific guard with the Badgers.
Unlike his time as a student-athlete with the Badgers, Koenig will have an opportunity as a G Leaguer to focus solely on basketball. That singular change could be extremely beneficial for Koenig as he can spend 100% of his time just trying to improve as a player, whether that’s being more explosive as a driver or becoming more comfortable as a facilitator. Coinciding with that, playing in the G League will finally allow Koenig to play in a more open and fast-paced league, which is something that fits his mindset and overall game more than when he was playing with the Badgers.
Although nobody knows what his future may hold, Koenig might be able to shine in the G Leagueif he continues to utilize this token of advice that was given to him by Michael B. Jordan:
Learn the art of being antisocial