After a great two-year run at the University of Indiana where he averaged 12.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 blocks per game on 52% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc, Thomas Bryant declared for the 2017 NBA Draft. Although those numbers combined with a fantastic 7’6 wingspan made Bryant into an intriguing prospect, his lackluster feel for the game combined with his struggles on the boards allowed him to ultimately be overlooked on Draft day. With the 42nd pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Bryant.
As is the case for most 2nd round picks, Bryant didn’t have an immediate opportunity to move into the Lakers rotation, as they possessed Brook Lopez, Andrew Bogut and Ivica Zubac when the season started.
His status on the lower end of their totem pole essentially forced him to play most of his rookie year in the NBA G League with the South Bay Lakers. While some rookies might see that as a demotion, Bryant clearly saw it as a golden opportunity as he just shined once he first put on a South Bay uniform.
On a South Bay team featuring great two-way players in Alex Caruso and Gary Payton alongside a solid veteran like Scott Machado, Bryant actually stood as the most efficient player on the entire team by a wide margin. In 31 minutes per game, he averaged 19.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks per game on 60% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc.
Those averages allowed him to maintain an incredible 68% true shooting percentage. Among players that played more than 10 G League games, Bryant stood as the 5th most efficient player in the G League as he trailed the following five players: Damian Jones, Jeremy Evans, Jimmie Taylor and Zeke Marshall. The singular quality that the group has in common is that they’re all front-court players, which is common when you look at the best true shooting percentages’ because bigs usually take most of their shots around the rim, which is the most efficient spot on the court.
Although Bryant does the majority of his work from around the paint, he separates himself from the pack in that he averaged 4.97 perimeter attempts per game, which is nearly 39% of the 12.86 shots that he took every game. So the fact that he was able to be such an efficient player while taking a good percentage of his shots beyond the arc is a pretty good sign for his ability on the offensive end.
Probably the main reason behind his efficiency is how great Bryant was as an alley-oop threat in pick-and-rolls. By being a 6’10, 248 pound big that’s also pretty quick on his feet, he stood as an ideal target no matter if it was Alex Caruso or Scott Machado throwing up passes. In addition to that, his quick feet and big frame let him to collect a good amount of passes from around the paint which led to some easy scoring opportunities.
Although I gave a lot of consideration to the duo of Derrick White and Isaiah Whitehead, guards that really shined during this season, they didn’t stack up to the Lakers rookie. That’s why I’m naming Los Angeles Lakers front-court player Thomas Bryant as Ridiculous Upside’s 2017-18 NBA G League Assignee of the Year.