Last time we checked in on Matt Bouldin in any kind of detail, he was coming off of a rookie season in Spokane that had piqued the interest of many NBA decision makers. His follow sophomore campaign, though, ending up being fairly disappointing. While his numbers havent jumped as significantly as those of many of his peers, Bouldin has made big strides since his first two seasons under Mark Few. His play in the past month keyed Gonzagas run through the WCC tournament and their two NCAA tournament victories, and has caused him to give serious thought to the option of entering his name in this years draft. .
Despite only averaging 13 points per game on the season and struggling with bouts of inconsistency, the season Matt Bouldin put together met the high expectations that many onlookers had for him. The 215-pound guard found his range this season, connecting on 42.3% of his attempts from beyond the arc and landing near the top of the heap amongst shooting guards in three-point percentage in our database. Bouldins marked improvement didnt stem from any tweaks in his mechanics his form hasnt changed since he arrived on campus. Hes just put the work in through repetition and slowly developed into one of the most dangerous shooting threats in college basketball, as we predicted two years ago.
His jump in efficiency this season is thanks in large part to improved patience and confidence in wide open catch-and-shoot situations. According to Synergy Sports Technologys Quantified Player Report, Bouldin is averaging 1.37 PPP on his wide open catch and shoot looks a far cry from the .94 and .93 he averaged as a freshman and sophomore respectively. Maybe Bouldins conversations with former Bulldog John Stockton mentioned in Howie Stalwicks recent article for the News Tribune put things in perspective or included some good advice, but obviously hes made some much needed adjustments, likely in his confidence and shot-selection.
The same patience and poise that have helped Bouldin begin to reach his potential as a shooter have helped him significantly with his decision-making as well. His role as a ball-handler has grown in each of his three collegiate seasons, but this has been easily his most efficient as a passer. A heady player with a great feel for setting up his teammates, Bouldin currently ranks near the top of our database in assist-to-turnover ratio amongst point guards. Considering his size and shooting ability, Bouldins court vision and passing ability makes him a highly attractive option next to smaller scoring combo guards in the mold of Monta Ellis or Louis Williams.
Though Bouldin has grown into quite a passer, his midrange game has improved across the board since he arrived on campus. As a freshman, the Colorado native was too aggressive with his dribble drives, often dribbling straight into the teeth of the defense instead of taking the open pull up jumper he already had created for himself with his quick second and third steps. Some of that had to do with his aggressive mentality, but it also stemmed from a lack of consistency in his midrange jumper. Bouldin has been very solid off the dribble this season, and though he will take some tough pull up threes, hes used his outside shooting ability to set himself up for many easy one-dribble jumpers. Considering that he projects as a below average athlete at the NBA level who will not have as much success around the rim as he did in college, this is an important development.
On the defensive end, Bouldin lacks the lateral quickness to make a major impact on the game, but he gives a good effort and shows the ability to create some turnovers with his anticipation and awareness. Bouldins lack of speed is often apparent when hes closing out shooters, but he gets in a low stance and shows better than average fundamentals to compensate. He certainly doesnt project as a defensive stopper on the next level, but his strength and smarts will help him considerably. His ability on this end of the floor might be what makes or breaks his NBA chances actually, and is something that teams will want to look at very closely in private workouts.
From what weve been told, Bouldin is expected to declare for the draft this spring and see where he stands in the eyes of NBA decision makers. Currently he projects as a second round pick, but its possible that he is able to attract some NBA interest due to the very specific strengths he brings to the table, which could fit very well into what certain teams are looking for.
Should he decide to return to Gonzaga, Bouldin would be in an ideal position to make a big splash next season. With three notable seniors moving on, Mark Few will look to both Bouldin and Austin Daye to take their games to the next level and compensate for the programs lack of experience. With a strong senior campaign underneath his belt, Bouldin may be a player that factors into the latter part of the first round in 2010, should he decide to return to school this spring.