Last week, we posted an interview with new Santa Cruz Warriors General Manager Ryan Atkinson. Within that piece, the GM discussed a bevy of topics including his long run in the G League, experience working with Nick Nurse & Gersson Rosas, and expectations entering the upcoming 2019-20 G League season. Towards the end of the interview, he was asked questions about Golden State’s two-way prospect duo of Damion Lee and Ky Bowman. The analysis on Lee dealt with how the guard’s experience and roller coaster ride of a pro career will allow him to be a mentor to the younger Santa Cruz prospects.
Immediately after talking about the veteran, the Santa Cruz GM had nothing but praise when it came to talking about the incoming rookie from Boston College. “He’s a scorer, athletic, scrappy, competitive and a good kid,” stated Atkinson on Bowman. “If you look at what he did in college in regards to the number of rebounds he averaged and look at his size, that takes heart and just shows a will to go get those boards. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to win. That’s what we look and why he’ll fit our culture.”
After that interview and hearing how Atkinson described the guard’s game and the energy that he exudes while on the court, the interest in sitting down and watching hours of Bowman tape definitely escalated. From a cursory glance at his stats, that praise seems warranted as he averaged 19 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.4 steals on 40% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc on 6.8 attempts per game. Those numbers pushed the ACC to name the Boston College guard to their All-Second Team for the 2018-19 season.
For a smaller 6’1, 188 pound guard competing in arguably the most competitive conference in college basketball, those numbers and accolades were made possible through playing with a competitive spirit from the moment he steps on the court. While that tremendous effort is seen on both ends of the ball, it’s most evident on the defensive end of the court. Initially, that thought may seem strange due to that huge scoring output and Boston College’s below-average defense, which finished 138th in the nation in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.
While the team’s all-around defense was poor, Bowman was solid on this end through a mix of awareness, high energy and athleticism. Those traits actually pushed him to work as a 6’1 free safety within a Boston College defense that played a lot of zone. Despite a smaller frame that could be considered a detriment for a player in that role, the young guard looked great as he did a great job of quickly closing out on shooters, moving his feet to switch, and even occasionally get into the passing lanes.
The clip that you see below might be the best example of how Bowman was able to succeed in his free-flowing role on the defensive end. When Louisville starts their half-court offense, our subject is guarding 6’5 wing Dwayne Sutton. After a Sutton pass starts to move the ball around the perimeter, the 6’1 guard quickly moves to position himself on the elbow as Louisville moves the ball inside.
Action really picks up once Christen Cunningham catches the ball at the free throw line and starts to drive to the paint, as the Boston College alum pushes the ball out of the driver’s hands. While the Louisville guard was able to recover and give it back to Sutton, Bowman smoothly switches onto his initial assignment.
After some tremendous on-ball defense where he stays around on the hip, the Louisville wing succumbs to the pressure by stumbling to the floor and losing control of the ball. A few moments after starting to run down the floor in transition, the young guard snags a pass, pushes it down the court and finishes with a big one-handed flush.
The last important to note about Bowman’s work on this end of the floor regards his tremendous defensive rebounding. During his junior year, he averaged 6.7 defensive rebounds per game, the best average among shooting guards in the NCAA since G League veteran Marquise Moore averaged 9.1 during his final year with George Mason back in the 2016-17 college season.
While it may not seem like much, a great rebounding point guard can be a major boom for the team’s offense due to them being able to immediately push the ball up the court in transition. This immediate start forces defenses to quickly react and adjust over the course of a few seconds.
Bowman and Boston College’s offense is a great example of that as the 6’1 guard is great at quickly getting the ball up the court in transition. Although he’s more than capable of taking it to the rim and finishing with a huge slam, the young guard is more than willing to push the ball to a teammate whether they’re charging to the rim or stationed out on the perimeter.
Sticking with his work as a facilitator, Bowman might even be better when he’s in the half-court. Those thoughts largely come from the elevated level of creativity that he’s able to utilize as a distributor when all of the teammates are together and there’s more time to think about the correct move that needs to be made. Ingenuity is most evident in both pick-and-roll and drive-and-dish players, as the 6’1 guard is able to really impress in both avenues.
Starting in pick-and-roll sets, the Boston College alum plays smart by drawing the defense’s attention after the screener starts to cut to the rim. After the defense starts to help out on him, the young guard is able to keep his composure and make a precise pass to the cutting roll man. Those traits are evident in the video below as Bowman moves to the left to draw the double-team before throwing a nice two-handed pass that hits the cutting big in stride, which allows him to keep moving forward and finish at the rim.
The current Warriors prospect is also able to throw those accurate passes through drive-and-dish situations. Honestly, this is probably the most entertaining part of his facilitating repertoire as he can really sling some pretty passes while on the move, whether that’s to guys standing out on the perimeter or bigs chilling in the paint. Yet again we go to the film room as Bowman shows off that passing prowess on this play as he drives to the paint, hangs in the air a bit before slinging a pretty one-handed feed that lands right in the hands of Jordan Chatman.
With all of those skills, he was able to average four assists per game with a 1.4 Ast/TO ratio. That lower assist average likely dealt with his mediocre supporting cast as there were a lot of occasions where his teammates simply wasn’t able to finish their open look after receiving the feed from Bowman.
Moving onto his work as a scorer, the 6’1 guard was able to finish fourth in the ACC in points per game largely through on-ball driving and perimeter shooting with post-up play working in a small supporting role. Starting off with that first trait, he was able to make it to the rim whether moving with the ball in his left or right hand.
Although he’s not necessarily able to blow right past perimeter defenders, Bowman is quick enough to get a step edge on the perimeter. While there were able to stay near his hip, that slight advantage was enough to allow him to make mildly contested right-handed finishes at the rim. According to the Stepien’s shot charts, he hit 58% on shots from within the restricted area during his junior season.
Transitioning over to his work from beyond the arc, where Bowman was consistent during his three-year run with Boston College. This was especially the case during his junior season where he hit 37% from the three-point line on 6.8 attempts per game.
He maintained that efficiency due to being a steady threat from both off-the-dribble and catch-and-shoot. In regards to that first tactic, he does a nice job of creating separation through using dribble moves to lull the opponent to sleep or make them off balance with a step-back jumper. Either of those types of jumpers were able to get hit from well beyond the NCAA three-point line, which shows off his solid range.
While his ability to shine as an on-ball driver and perimeter shooter are real, he struggled with consistency during the later stages of his college career. That was most evident during his junior year where he finished with a 53% True Shooting Percentage, which placed him 62nd in the entire ACC. Honestly, the blame behind that mediocrity can put on the shoulders of both Bowman and Boston College.
In regards to the guard, shot selection was an issue as he was an over-aggressive driver and sometimes jacked up jumpers despite having a hand in his face. Although a lot of those shots were ill-advised, they make some sense in context as the team’s below-average supporting cast put a lot of the weight of the offense on Bowman’s shoulders.
While that fact held him back during his time in college, that won’t be the case for the Warriors two-way guard as he should be working alongside a solid supporting cast when he starts playing with Santa Cruz. For starters, veteran guard Damion Lee shined as an extremely reliable scoring threat last year as he combined volume and efficiency to average 20.2 points on 48% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc.
Alongside Lee, Golden State rookies Jordan Poole and Alen Smailagic will likely spend a lot of time in the G League. Poole is a young guard that showed a lot of range with the University of Michigan while Smailagic is a smart 19-year forward that has G League experience and has shown a knack for scoring in a bevy of different ways. That trio should allow Bowman to take less ill-advised shots while having solid weapons to facilitate it to.
That thought combined with great defense could honestly allow him to be a better all-around player with Santa Cruz than he was with Boston College. While that may seem crazy considering how he finished on the All-ACC Second Team during his junior season, the better supporting cast and decreased pressure should increase his efficiency while decreasing volume.
While we’ll have to wait and see how accurate that prediction will be, Santa Cruz GM Ryan Atkinson made it clear that fans should expect to see a scrappy, athletic player that will show that competitive spirit whenever he’s on the court. Those facts in addition to his ability as a scorer will push Ky Bowman into a player to watch when the G League season starts in November.