Regarded as a consensus top-15 prospect out of high school, Isaiah Briscoe has long been on the radar of NBA scouts as the result of a productive and winning prep career in which he excelled at St. Benedict's Prep and Roselle Catholic in New Jersey, on the Nike EYBL circuit and as a member of the USA team that won the U18 FIBA Americas tournament in 2014. He capped off an impressive prep career with selections to the 2015 McDonald's and Jordan Brand All-American games before to departing for his freshman season in Lexington.
With accolades come expectations, and though he flashed bursts of potential in his first season, especially as a slasher, creator, defender and rebounder, the combo-guard verified that he wasn't yet capable of sinking perimeter shots on a consistent enough basis to take his game to the next level.
Operating primarily at the small forward position, despite spending most of his life with the ball in his hands, Briscoe struggled to find his spots alongside draft picks Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray, likely causing him to look somewhat worse than he might have on a team with less talent and a role better suited to his strengths.
Briscoe wasn't even invited to the 2016 NBA Combine in Chicago, showing just how much his draft stock had fallen by the time to spring came around, leaving him little choice but to return to school rather than risk going undrafted. He'll now attempt to show
NBA scouts he can diversify his skill-set and take on a leadership role for a young Wildcats team, while again trying to showcase his talent with the ball in his hands among a crowded backcourt.
Powerfully built at 6-3 and 218 pounds, Briscoe has an exceptional 6-9.5 wingspan to go with long and strong hands, wide shoulders and a big frame, all of which makes for an intriguing physical profile from a combo-guard. He has a strong first step, is particularly tough to stop when he gets a head of steam and changes gears and directions efficiently off the bounce. Briscoe relies heavily on his strength at the college level, and plays mostly below the rim from an explosiveness standpoint.
There is no doubt that shooting remains the biggest weakness in Briscoe's game, as the first-year guard made just 5 of his 37 3-point attempts, and 46% of his free throws, contributing to his very poor 46% true shooting percentage, and the fact that opposing teams didn't even pretend to try and defend him on the perimeter by the end of the season, making things very difficult on his teammates.
His main deficiencies as a shooter are his wide base, rigid upper body, tendency to lean back when rising into his shot and inconsistent release point. He does have a knack for finding space to pull-up in pick-and-roll and isolation scenarios, and proved to be capable of making such shots once in a blue moon, but he has a long ways to go in all facets of his jump-shot, something that is imperative to fix considering he's not a freakish athlete or a brilliant passer. He looked more comfortable as a shooter in the past with the ball in his hands, oftentimes showing the skills and poise to make multiple dribble moves before pulling up, but was unable to show too much in this area last season operating strictly off the ball.
At the high school level, Briscoe proved to be far more confident, creative, strong and decisive as a ball-handler and playmaker. A righty, he's at his best when driving to his left in transition, isolation or in the pick-and-roll, where he deploys an explosive and rhythmic hang-dribble, in-and-out combo move before using straight-line drives, changes of speed and direction, long strides and quality footwork to get into the paint. The rising sophomore isn't an explosive above-the-rim threat, but has some craftiness to compensate, maneuvering to finish with either hand around the rim, though he's more daring with his left. As strong of a slasher as he is, Briscoe needs to be more patient creating, absorbing and finish through contact at the rim, along with adding more tricks to his floater game, if he's going to have success at the next level.
A solid passer with good vision in drive and dish situations, Briscoe averaged 4 assists per-40 minutes as a freshman. His value as an initiator lies in his versatility, as he proved to be an innovative threat passing out of the middle and low post for the Wildcats, along with attacking the pick-and-roll. He can pass with both hands and is equipped with the understanding and capability to hit open perimeter shooters or cutters in stride after driving the baseline.
As is the case with most freshmen guards, there were times where he should have made the simple decision but instead tried to make a big play. He's still working on becoming a more efficient decision maker and further experience should fuel growth. A key variable is how well Briscoe meshes with freshman guards De'Aaron Fox
and Malik Monk
, our number one and three ranked prospects in the SEC. Briscoe will have to use the experience he garnered last season to force his way into more extended backcourt minutes and playmaking responsibilities as a sophomore.
With a 6'9 ½ wingspan combined with excellent foot speed, strength and a high motor, Briscoe can defend three positions at the college level and thrives as an on-ball and pick-and-roll defender, as he doesn't mind fighting over the top of a screen when necessary and is willing to take a charge. He is active and competitive along with being disruptive in passing lanes and in loose ball situations thanks to his quickness, strong hands and basketball IQ.
Off the ball, the lengthy guard needs to be more aware of his surroundings, as he can lose track of the ball or his man, but it's possible for him to recover most times at the college level thanks to his strong close-out technique and length.
A quality rebounder considering his size, Briscoe posted 6.7 rebounds per-40 last season, as he boxes out well and hustles on the glass on both ends. Looking forward to the next level, Briscoe has the potential to become an effective option to cover either backcourt position, and his time under John Calipari has clearly made him a significantly better defender, something that was considered a major weakness of his in high school.
Briscoe, who will be 21 by the time the 2017 Draft rolls around, should have no shortage of motivation heading into a pivotal sophomore season. Taking a healthy step forward as a shooter, playmaker and leader for a Kentucky team with Final Four caliber talent would further establish his potential as a combo-guard while enhancing his pro prospects for the next level.