Upside in the second round? Hard pass. History tells us that the prospects who typically exceed expectations selected in the second round are juniors and seniors from major programs. The success of the Golden State Warriors and Draymond Green comes up first, but there are plenty of other examples. Khris Middleton, Chandler Parsons, Isaiah Thomas, and Danny Green all personify this type of NBA success story. For the New Orleans Pelicans to hit it big in the second round, the best bet is in a similar mold. At the top of that list should be Virginia swingman Malcolm Brogdon.
Every scouting report you read on Brogdon focuses on his basketball intelligence and defensive versatility. Sound familiar? Those were the primary gripes about the Pelicans last season, even beyond the disappointment surrounding injuries or under performances by Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca. Just take a glance at what Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports wrote about Brogdon earlier this month.
Brogdon is one of the more mature, intelligent players in this draft, and he works incredibly hard at his craft in terms of figuring out how to make things work despite his athleticism. His feel for the game is just remarkable. He knows exactly how to run tightly off of screens in order to get open off ball, and knows exactly how to get into a guy's grill in order to not let him get where he wants to go on the floor. He was the best defensive wing in college basketball last season, plus has an NBA-ready frame at 6-6 with a near 6-11 wingspan and weighing in at 223 pounds. Brogdon has solid skills as a secondary ball-handler, knows how to change pace with his dribble well, and he has shown that despite his mechanics he can knock down shots. The guy just knows how fall into a team concept, and seems destined to play an integral role as a wing on an NBA team.
Virginia fields one of the best defensive teams in the country, thanks in part to head coach Tony Bennett's "pack-line" scheme. Brogdon has been the leader of that defense. As DraftExpress notes, Malcolm Brogdon is "tuned in off the ball. Communicates. Leader of a top five defense." He defended four positions at Virginia and, when not tasked as a stopper, regularly defended point guards.
Brogdon also has some ability as a secondary creator. As a wing the ability shown here to navigate the pick and roll, especially splitting against NBA caliber athletes from Clemson and Duke, is solid. His turnover rate as a senior is an absurd 8.3% (more akin to a spot up shooter) despite his 28.4% usage rate.
One thing that is always important to me about prospects is shooting. Not just 3-point shooting, I like guys who can knock down jumpers inside the arc and have demonstrated improvement at the foul line. In four years at Virginia Malcolm Brogdon has improved at the foul line every season and converted 89.7% (140/156) as a senior. On his career he's shot 87.6% from the line and 36.5% from deep; including a career best 39.1% last year. As you can see in the above video, not all of those 3-pointers were of the easier catch and shoot variety.
So why is Brogdon projected as a late first or earlier second round pick? Brogdon is an old college senior and will turn 24 this December. Yes, despite being an NBA rookie he is already older than Anthony Davis. As Vecenie notes, he is not an elite athlete and while he has good size for a shooting guard (6'5.5" tall with a 6'10.5" wingspan) he doesn't exactly standout physically. Can a man nicknamed "Humble Moses" really be a difference maker in the NBA? (Story linked there is highly recommended.)
There might not be a more perfect nickname for Malcolm Brogdon than the one his two older brothers gave him years ago.
They call the Virginia guard Humble Moses. It makes sense because Brogdon is modest and his middle name is Moses. He’s also a leader.
The redshirt senior, who was a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference pick last season while averaging 14 points a game and played for Team USA in the Pan American Games this summer, is entering his fifth and final year at Virginia, which is ranked sixth in the Preseason Coaches Poll. In this time, he’s helped coach Tony Bennett restore a program that regularly competes among the ACC’s elite and for national titles.
And while putting in work on the court, Brogdon also has been pursuing his master’s degree in public policy from the renowned Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
I believe so. Far too often NBA GMs fall in love with potential rather than production, a vertical leap instead of work ethic. Above all, basketball IQ is undervalued. Considering the weaknesses of the Pelicans roster aiming for less upside and more intelligence and defense is an acceptable compromise.