Analyzing Brian Bowen

April 20, 2018

by Alan Lu

Recently, South Carolina’s 6-7 swingman, Brian Bowen said that he would declare to enter the NBA draft if the NCAA doesn’t allow him to be eligible.  Therefore, as I anticipated that he might be in this year’s draft assuming that the NCAA might be too slow to make a decision on his status, I set out to watch a Brian Bowen game.  I managed to find a high school match that he played on April 1st, 2017 between La Lumiere and Montverde, as his team ended up winning 70-52, as I saw this with thanks to YouTube via Preston Dandurand Films.  Here are my thoughts on how he fared, as well as how his skills may translate into the NBA. 

Brian Bowen is a fairly good shooter that can knock down plenty of jumpers to effectively space the floor for his team.   He can make quick spot-up threes off the catch, as he can take advantage of when defenders give him the space to get his shot off.  But he can sometimes rush his shots and be streaky with his jump shots, which can lead to misses.

He also can score on hustle plays.  He will often look to score on cuts to the hoop, and he is a solid athlete that can make plays above the rim to get buckets using off-ball movement.  Bowen managed to score on a left–handed layup off of a backdoor cut.  Another time, he caught a lob pass, but he seemed to be off-balanced when he made the catch, and he ended up missing on an alley-oop dunk attempt.  Also, he was able to get an offensive rebound once, as he managed to draw free throws on a put back attempt due to possessing good motor.

On the other hand, he struggled more when he would to score off the dribble.  Bowen was able to use a crossover and a hesitation move to draw free throws after taking it strong to the hoop once.  However, he tended to miss shots in traffic, as he would tend to force the issue too much, or he would not always have his balance when he would look to score on drives to the basket.

Also, Bowen displayed fairly good playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that can make an assortment of passes to set up scores, as he can throw accurate interior passes, and he drove in once to find a teammate on a roll to notch an assist.  But he did commit a couple of turnovers, though.  One was where he attempted to take the ball to the hoop up the court in traffic, but he ended up getting the ball poked away as he dribbled it too high that time.  Another time, he was trapped when he was handling the basketball, and he threw a weak pass that ended up getting intercepted.

Plus, he also rebounded the ball well.  Bowen would leap up to collect numerous defensive boards, and he also ran in to get an offensive rebound on one possession.  Plus, he also tipped a ball to a teammate to help his team to get an offensive board, and he also boxed out on an offensive rebounding attempt to draw a foul.

Bowen also played decent defense.  His team did mostly play in zone, so it might be tough for him to transition to playing man-to-man defense at the NBA level, but he did show a good ability to catch errant passes thrown his way to help his team come away with steals.  He also generally excelled at defending drives, as he would stay with his man, fight through screens, and contest shots to force opponents to miss them.  Also, he would contest some jumpers to force additional misses.

However, sometimes he would get caught ball watching or not make timely rotations, which would lead his team to allow three-point scores to the opposition.  Another time, he struggled to stay with his man on a fast break drive as he backpedaled too far, and he got outmuscled on the play, which caused him to commit the foul and allow the score.  Sometimes, Bowen would not pick up a man due to playing in a zone, and other times he would commit fouls as opponents would look to get scores around the basket.

In general, Brian Bowen is an athletic shooter that has an interesting set of skills, and he has the ability to potentially end up being drafted in the first round of an NBA draft in the future.  But that he missed an entire season due to the NCAA not making him eligible to play means that he is lacking in game reps so his basketball IQ may be a little bit stunted by not playing in live competition for a full year.  Also, since his high school team largely played zone defense, it might be tough for Bowen to adjust to playing man-to-man defense right away.

If he stays in the draft, he might go anywhere from the early second round to undrafted.  Bowen is a talented swingman that may project into a 3 and D type of role in the NBA, but he will need a league where he can hone his skills, whether that be in college, the G-League, or overseas. If Bowen decides to enter and stay in the 2018 draft and if an NBA decides to draft him this year, they should be patient with him, and if they work hard to develop his skills, Bowen could end up being a solid player in the league.

Other Notes:

Also among those that played in this game was Duke’s 6-7 incoming freshman swingman R.J. Barrett, who could be the potential number one overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.   He had played extremely well in the McDonald’s high school All-American game, and so this game against La Lumiere was a look at how he played a year ago.

Barrett excelled at scoring on hustle plays, particularly off of cuts.  He would often take advantage of the other team playing in zones, as he would get the ball on off-ball motion plays, and then he would make a strong move to the hoop to garner scores.  He also managed to throw down a emphatic jam another time.  Also, he managed to score on a quick tip-in off of an offensive board.

He also showed the ability to score on drives to the hoop, especially in transition.  Barrett has very good speed and strength, and he can take it to the hoop to garner scores in the open court.  But sometimes he will look to overtly force the issue, which can lead him to miss shots wildly off the dribble.  He also took plenty of mid-range jumpers, as he can make some off the catch, but he struggled more to make them off the dribble.  Barrett also took a couple of threes in this game, but he missed both long-range jumpers badly against La Lumiere.

He also displayed decent playmaking skills.  Barrett primarily looked for his shot quite often, but he can throw an array of accurate passes, and he can throw long passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  Sometimes, he would display good vision on his passes.  But he did commit one turnover, as he got the ball on a cut to the hoop, but he ended up getting the ball ripped away from him.

Also, he displayed some rebounding skills.  Barrett would occasionally get boards to help his team, and he was quite active at crashing the offensive glass.  But he was called for a couple of fouls when going for boards.   He committed an over the back foul when going for an offensive board after trying to following up his own miss due to over-aggressiveness.  Another time, he committed a bad foul when going for a defensive rebound as that was due to him being unfocused on that play.

Like Bowen, Barrett’s team also played zone defense, and so Barrett did not really stand out defensively.  Barrett tended to be caught ball watching and late on close outs, which would cause him to allow three-point baskets.  He would tend to play an area rather than a man at times, as that would lead his team to commit fouls and allow scores.  On the plus side, late in the game he fought through a screen and stayed with his man on a quick baseline drive to force a miss, as that play suggested that he could develop perhaps significantly on the defensive end if he plays in a man-to-man defensive scheme in college basketball.

In summary, R.J. Barrett looked to score early and often in his team’s loss against La Lumiere on that day, but his performance didn’t quite look to be nearly as impressive as the one he turned in at the 2018 McDonald’s High School All-American game.  Barrett struggled to knock down jumpers, and he tended to force up shots that would lead him to miss some awkwardly off the dribble in traffic. His team played in zone defensively, so Barrett may need time to adjust to playing man-to-man defense in college.

Right now, Barrett has been said to be battling with Zion Williamson to be the top pick of the 2019 NBA Draft.  In the high school All-American game, he showed tremendous scoring skills, athleticism, as well as an improved three-point shot.  If Barrett is more like the player I saw against La Lumiere, he could end up being a good player in the NBA.  But if he is more like the player I saw in the high-school All-American game, he could end up being a great player in the association.

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