Around this time last year, five-star prospect Brandon McCoy looked like he could singlehandedly carry UNLV to the upper echelon of the Mountain West Conference. McCoy’s tantalizing upside prompted CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander to call McCoy a “potential one-and-done five-star prospect who could become the best player in the Mountain West next season.”
Fast forward to the present. McCoy’s draft stock has trended downwards. The Mountain West’s Freshman of the Year dropped from the 24th pick to No. 55 on SI.com’s mock drafts, No. 30 to undrafted on Bleacher Report, and from No. 27 to the second round (or potentially undrafted) from Jonathan Givnoy’s ESPN projections.
But despite his recent slide down mock draft boards, McCoy is still one of the most intriguing sleeper picks in the NBA Draft because of his high upside and his impressive 16.9 ppg and 10.3 rpg freshman season.
So, what caused draftniks to feel bearish on this five-star prospect?
The short answer can be attributed to McCoy’s iffy combine performance and measurements. As Mountain West Wire writer and friend of the site Eli Boettger pointed out on Twitter, McCoy’s wingspan was relatively average given his height. For a center in the hyper-athletic modern NBA, this isn’t ideal.
Here are all of the combine's centers and power forwards listed by a ratio of wingspan divided by height. Mo Bamba's 94-inch wingspan is still mind-bending. pic.twitter.com/oShZr8b9KY— Eli Boettger (@boettger_eli) May 18, 2018
But poor combine showings and measurements don’t tell the whole story. The long answer to McCoy’s slide down draft standings might be found in his freshman campaign, in which he toiled in relative obscurity on the MWC’s seventh-best team.
Advanced statistics don’t show it, but McCoy’s lone season had its ups and downs. McCoy finished fifth in KenPom’s MWC POTY standings and the freshman’s 18 double-doubles led the conference. Yet it’s tempting to re-imagine McCoy’s season had he avoided a 9.8 ppg and 8.5 rpg January slump (by his standards, mind you) against the likes of Air Force, Colorado State and Fresno State.
And sometimes he wasn’t even the best post player on his own team; that distinction often described junior forward Shakur Juiston. This habit reared its ugly head first against UNLV’s overtime loss to Northern Iowa, which featured plenty of defensive highlights from Bennett Koch and frustration from McCoy:
For those that are curious: Koch ended the night with 30 points on 10-19 shooting, plus five boards, three steals and a block. McCoy’s night was a forgettable nine point, seven rebound outing in the overtime loss. However, he bounced back with arguably his best showing at the collegiate level: a 33 and 10 outing against Arizona’s phenom freshman Deandre Ayton.
The rollercoaster continued. As soon as teams doubled or zoned McCoy, his intensity wavered. When he couldn’t work his way into the paint, he tanked his field goal percentage by settling for midrange jumpers. According to Hoop-Math, over 40 percent of McCoy’s shots were two-point jumpers — a mark that was second amongst the Runnin’ Rebels — yet his 36.6% accuracy on these shots was fifth-highest amongst his teammates.
Since the modern NBA demands centers to show some range, McCoy’s propensity to take jumpers wasn’t a bad thing. But McCoy wasn’t able to improve his outside shot as much as he could have in Marvin Menzies’s offense, which ranked a measly 252nd in three-point percentage, per KenPom. McCoy went 3-9 from three in his lone collegiate season; his jumper is a good template as-is, but coaches will have to refine his shot at the next level.
But when McCoy was on, he was phenomenal.
Check out McCoy’s first six games, in which he averaged 20.2 points and 13.0 rebounds in a shade over 25 minutes per game:
Although some draftniks have voiced concerns about McCoy’s handle on the game, he moves well for a seven-footer. McCoy’s fluidity on the court appeared sporadically throughout the season; when it showed, it was impressive.
All of this begs the question: What can McCoy bring to an NBA roster?
For starters, McCoy wasn’t a flashy big man like Ayton or Duke’s Marvin Bagley III. Most of McCoy’s points came on scrappy put-backs or heavily contested tip-ins at the rim. The bulk of McCoy’s points weren’t pretty, but check the boxscore in the middle of the game, and his numbers would say otherwise.
And even though McCoy’s wingspan might not make him the most athletic rim-protector, his defensive ceiling will elevate once he refines his footwork and positioning. Keep in mind that despite his raw handle on defense, his 60 blocks were second in the MWC and No. 13 amongst freshmen.
All things considered, McCoy is talented. If a team wants to commit to his long-term development, then McCoy could either be an intriguing late-first rounder or a second round steal. With youth on his side (McCoy turns 20 next week) and his raw talent, McCoy might not stick in the NBA right away, but he’ll find his niche in time.