After playing the role of a sparkplug off the bench as a sophomore, combo guard J'Covan Brown has taken on the role of go-to scorer this season for a rebuilding Texas team. With former teammates Tristan Thompson
, Jordan Hamilton
, and Cory Joseph
all going in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft, Brown has seen his minutes and creating responsibilities increase substantially, and he's improved his production across the board, despite some inconsistency.
While Brown is again spending much of his time off the ball, alongside freshman point guard Myck Kabongo
, he'd likely need to function as more of a point guard at the NBA level, as his size at 6'1 likely makes him too small to be a full-time shooting guard. He's never really been given this opportunity at Texas due to their commitments to the McDonald's All-American guard prospects they've landed the past three years (Kabongo, Joseph and Avery Bradley
), making it a bit of an unknown how he'd fare as a team's full-time ball-handler.
Brown plays with great confidence and a scorer's mentality, and is depended upon heavily to manufacture offense for a young Longhorn team without many other proven offensive options. He's able to score in a number of ways, but his perimeter jump shot opens things up for him, as he's a threat to shoot from NBA 3-point range, and is effective running off screens, spotting up with his feet set, or shooting off the dribble.
About 68% of Brown's shot attempts this season have been jumpers, and he's connected on a solid 38% from 3-point range this season on over six attempts per game. His shot selection has been very poor at times, however, as evidenced by his last two games for example, where he shot 8 for 28 in a loss at Kansas State and made just 7 of 26 shots in a loss at Kansas.
Brown is heavily depended on for scoring and needs to be very aggressive in the situation he's in, but his mediocre 32% on pull-up jumpers so far this season illustrates that he's taking quite a few difficult shots. He's also getting to the free throw line slightly less often this season, as Texas' lack of perimeter shooting and poor spacing has made it much easier for opponents to sag into the paint and force Brown to beat them from outside, which he's often too willing to do.
Despite his overreliance on his pull-up jumper, Brown is actually very good at getting into the paint off the dribble, always in attack mode and showing great shiftiness off the bounce, changing speeds and directions to keep his defender on his heels. With his excellent ball-handling skills creating shots with either hand and advanced scoring instincts, this is a part of his game that could actually look better in the NBA thanks to the improved spacing he will find due to the farther 3-point line.
This season Brown has struggled with his efficiency, though, shooting just 45% on 2-pointers this season. His lack of vertical explosiveness limits his abilities as a finisher, and he has a tendency to throw up some wild shots driving to the basket. He shows flashes of a nice mid-range jumper and floater, but he's doesn't connect on either with enough consistency, possibly in part due to the huge amount of defensive attention he draws each game.
As a playmaker, Brown shows good court vision and throws some impressive passes on occasion in the open court and off of dribble penetration. He's also turning the ball over on only 13% of his possessions as a junior, which is less than either of his first two seasons. With that said, a big question scouts will likely have for Brown will be whether or not he's able to function as more of a facilitator and run an offense, as he hasn't had that opportunity at Texas.
Defensively, Brown covers multiple positions in college but stacks up much better to defend NBA point guards than shooting guards due to his size. His lateral quickness appears to be adequate, and his length, strength, toughness, and competitiveness all help him as on-ball defender. Displaying focus and consistent effort on this end will be keys for him going forward.
Brown's intangibles and attitude will be put under the microscope by NBA teams during the draft process, as he's had a history of issues, including fouling out on a technical foul in an early season game against North Carolina State that led to his team's collapse and a loss for the Longhorns. His body language often appears to be less than ideal, and he's butted heads on occasion with his head coach Rick Barnesthings teams will want to study and learn more about.
Overall, while Brown hasn't been a model of consistency, he's done a pretty nice job so far this season adjusting to a new role and carrying a large load offensively. He doesn't fit the mold of a prototypical pass-first point guard, but if he lands in the right situation and can prove that he's coachable and has an improved attitude, it's not out of the question that he could work his way into a similar role at the NBA level that he played last season, as a combo guard who can provide a scoring punch off the bench. The fact that he has good physical tools, can create his own shot and has range out to the 3-point line gives him nice upside to grow into.