Brandon McCoy Shows Upside—and Flaws—Playing For Team USA

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Brandon McCoy wrapped his stint with Team USA in the FIBA U19 World Cup over the weekend. It was a disappointing tournament for the Americans, as they took home the bronze after falling to Canada in the semifinals.

But the seven matches provided a glance into McCoy’s game and what he will bring to Las Vegas in the fall. Statistically, McCoy was impressive averaging 11 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 16.8 minutes per game.

The United States rolled through most of its competition. Aside from the loss to Canada, the closest margin in the United States’ six wins was 22 points while scoring an average 101.5 points per victory. Those high point totals came from the United States pushing the tempo.

John Calipari, who was coaching this young American squad, was often screaming for his players to run as soon as they gained possession off missed shots or turnovers. And Brandon McCoy fit right in.

He often beat the opposing big men down the floor and established position inside. McCoy was running downhill, rim to rim. While this American team wasn’t the most selfless, McCoy often had to clean up messes around the rim in transition.

McCoy starts the break by stealing the pass along the sideline. He then sprints his way down the wing and finds himself right at the rim for an easy tip in.

If Marvin Menzies intends to push the tempo at UNLV in year two, McCoy can be an effective big by getting into the paint early in the shot clock.

But McCoy had a limit. He often hit a wall after 14 minutes of playing time. The first sign of his fatigue was his lack of floor running.

UNLV likely won’t be running at the extreme tempo Team USA was, but McCoy will need to be able to provide much more than 14 minutes of effective playing time.

The fatigue also led to McCoy being much less effective on defense. He stopped moving his feet and started reaching and leaning. His reaction time slowed down, allowing open shots.

McCoy’s feet are glued to the ground while a guard drives right at him. He never moves his arms to contest a shot or pass, and while he stands flat-footed, he doesn’t realize his man has popped outside. This is a long two pointer from a big man—a shot most defenses will live with. But McCoy’s fatigue allowed an open jumper that should have never happened.

But even when tired, he still prevented the Italian guard from getting a layup. That is McCoy’s biggest strength. He was dominant in the paint.

On pick and rolls, the United States had its big men sag in the lane to take away layups, a scheme perfect for McCoy. Rather than try and switch onto a guard or try and trap at the three-point line, McCoy is best suited hanging near the basket.

The closer McCoy stays to the basket, the better he is. Most teams ran traditional lineups, but Angola went small and caused McCoy some issues when he had to defend out to the three-point line.

McCoy bites on a weak pump fake then isn’t fast enough to get back in front of his man. He makes a last ditch effort to strip the ball away, but he ultimately commits a foul and still allows the dunk.

McCoy likely won’t be defending many quick dribblers, but it will happen throughout the season, and it could be a defensive liability for Menzies and UNLV.

One of the main concerns from McCoy’s play was his post-up play. With his back to the basket, McCoy was ineffective for Team USA. He had 19 post ups and scored just eight points for a dismal 0.42 points per possession.

He did not look fluid in the post, as McCoy turned the ball over five times (mostly from traveling) in his 19 post ups. Even when he did get a shot up it was an awkward, flailing move.

Ultimately, McCoy shot just 1 of 11 on post ups. He did draw fouls on three other possessions to get himself to line and grab some free points. But the idea of dumping the ball into McCoy and generating easy buckets seems to be a long way from coming to fruition.

Post ups are easily the least efficient way to score in basketball, but Marvin Menzies had New Mexico State running an efficient offense despite a heavy reliance on post ups. At the college level, post ups can work if you overpower your opponent. At 6-foot-11 and 245 pounds, McCoy has the body to impose himself on the Mountain West.

And even as he missed shot after shot on post ups, McCoy was still able to power his way to points by chasing offensive rebounds. He grabbed four of his 10 misses on post ups giving himself a second life on offense.

Offensive rebounding was a major strength for McCoy in the tournament. He grabbed 29 offensive boards – the third most of any player in the tournament – and had the best offensive rebounding numbers on a per 40 minutes basis at 9.9.

McCoy is tremendous at positioning himself to get a hand on the ball as it comes off the rim. He is able to get inside of his defender and his wingspan allows him to reach the ball regardless of where the ball comes off the rim.

Expecting McCoy to suck up misses at the rim for easy put backs isn’t an offensive strategy, but it is a skill McCoy should carryover to give UNLV extra points.

McCoy has a long way to go before he is a polished college basketball player. He needs to be able to give UNLV big minutes and improve his offensive play. As a freshman, McCoy will likely have moments where he looks overmatched. But those should be balanced out by his dominant performances. Even when he’s tired or missing shots in close, the big man will still find ways to impact the game. And when he’s at his best, watch out.

Vegas Seven


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