Coming off a season that saw him earn a spot on the NCAA All-American Second Team, Malcolm Brogdon figured to play an absolutely critical role for a talented, experienced Virginia squad set to play arguably the toughest schedule in the country in the wake of Justin Anderson's departure to the NBA.
Rising to the occasion, Brogdon, who finished his career as one of the most decorated players in Virginia history, averaged a sensational 18.2 points per game, while playing outstanding individual defense on his way to winning ACC Player of the Year honors and landing on the consensus All-American 1st Team while helping lead Virginia to its first Elite Eight since 1995. One of the most productive players in the 2016 senior class, the Georgia native took another step forward as an NBA prospect in his fifth year at the college level, all while solidifying his legacy in the college game.
Measured at the USA Basketball 2015 Pan American Games Training Camp, Brogdon stands 6'5.5 in shoes with a strong 220-pound frame. He has a 6'10 wingspan that allows him to play a bit bigger defensively, and possesses good size, big hands and a terrific frame for a shooting guard overall. An average athlete by NBA standards, the Greater Atlanta Christian product makes the most of his physical tools by playing with tremendous intensity. His dogged dedication to executing within Tony Bennett's demanding system on both ends made him one of the most valuable players in the country this season.
Taking on a larger role in Bennett's mover-blocker offense as a senior, Brogdon was one of just 43 players in Division I and 13 in high major conferences to use over 17 possessions per game and score over 1.00 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports Technology. Functioning as a first option at the collegiate level for the first time, Brogdon lived off a steady diet of off screen actions and spot ups, doing most of his damage playing off the ball, but was also frequently asked to create shots under duress when Virginia couldn't generate a look out of its motion system. There isn't much flash to Brogdon's game and he doesn't have a true calling card offensively, but he's a smart, poised scorer who scored in a variety of ways at the college level.
With 62% of his shots coming from the perimeter in the half court over the course of the season, perhaps the biggest development in Brogdon's game from this time a year ago is the improvement in his jump shot. Knocking down 43% of his 4.5 catch and shoot jump shots per game, up from 36% a year ago, Brogdon, as he noted when he interviewed him last summer, took to the gym to improve his perimeter stroke. He converted 46% of his attempts shooting off screens, one of the highest rates in the country, particularly at the volume he operated at.
He still shoots a somewhat flat ball and the hitch that plagued his effectiveness early in his career still pops up from time to time, but Brogdon was significantly more dangerous threat to score when left open on the perimeter this season. His ability to translate his shot to the NBA 3-point line will be worth keeping an eye on, as his lack of arc won't help in that regard, but he has the type of work ethic that can't be discounted.
Off the bounce, Brodgon lacks a degree of shiftiness and explosiveness, making it difficult for him to turn the corner at times already at the college level. He's figured out how to use his overpowering strength more effectively, though, and proved more opportunistic this season that he did a year ago. Shooting 58% around the rim in the half court, up from a middling 50% a year ago, Brogdon appeared to pick and choose his spots a bit more effectively attacking the rim and finishing with either hand, as his less than stellar leaping ability had previously hurt his ability to score over length, and could very well become more of an issue again in the NBA.
Just a decent pull-up shooter, with a flat-footed stroke that gets very little elevation and comes out of his hand somewhat awkwardly (out instead of up), Brogdon made around 35% of his off the dribble jumpers both this and last season. He more eagerly took what the defense gave him this season, forcing fewer drives into traffic and attempting more open midrange shots in space to compensate for his low release point. He also showed some improvement in his ability to use his left hand, connecting on little scoops around defenders and floaters moving parallel to the rim that he likely would have missed a year ago.
As a passer, Brogdon proved very heady last season, dishing out 4.1 assists per-40 minutes pace adjusted compared to just 1.8 turnovers. He isn't a dynamic shot creator, but he does an excellent job moving the ball unselfishly on the perimeter and not trying to do too much off the dribble at this stage in his career.
The challenge for Brogdon moving forward will be carving out a niche offensively at the NBA. He plays an efficient, low-mistake brand of basketball, but his lack of explosiveness and concerns about his shooting mechanics give scouts pause. Despite that, his effort, unselfishness, and ability to execute give him intriguing roleplayer potential and could serve him well if he can prove himself as a cog against quality competition. His maturity, basketball IQ and work ethic figure to give him a better chance than most at making things work.
Something similar can be said about Brogdon defensively, where the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year and 2016 NABC Defensive Player of the Year was one of the staunchest guards in the college game as a senior. A coach's dream in terms of effort, toughness, and mentality, Brogdon is one of the best examples of substance over style among guard prospects on this end in recent memory, defending all three perimeter positions at the college level effectively. Coming up with just .9 steals per game, Brogdon takes essentially no risks on this end, but scraps and claws to fight through screens, stay in front of his man closing out or defending one-on-one, and get a hand in the face of shooters at all times.
Seemingly never over-committing when he closes out or taking a bad angle defending off the ball, the main knock on Brogdon is his lack of elite lateral quickness. There's little doubt he'll fit nicely into whatever system he plays in next season from a team perspective, but his ability to keep the elite players at the shooting guard position in front of him consistently is a point of interest.
One of the top seniors in the college game this season, Malcolm Brogdon made significant strides in a number of areas while closing the book on his terrific college career. Improving steadily over the last few years, there's room for optimism about Brogdon at the next level. Having turned 23 in December, he may not have elite upside, but his maturity and strong base of fundamentals on both ends should be enough to give a secure him a guaranteed NBA roster spot for at least a year or two and show that his game can translate to the next level.