That’s A Wrap: Thomas Bryant

  • 04/10/2017 9:43 am in

Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our player-by-player recap of the 2016-2017 Indiana Hoosiers. Up next: Thomas Bryant. (Previously: Devonte Green, De’Ron Davis, Grant Gelon, Curtis Jones, Juwan Morgan)

Bryant (34 games): 12.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 blocks, 56.0% eFG, 73.0% FT, 38.3% 3PFG in 28.1 minutes per game.

As the 2016-2017 campaign began, the Thomas Bryant blueprint seemed set.

Like McDonald’s All-American big man Cody Zeller before him, Bryant turned down the opportunity to be a top 20 NBA pick after a strong freshman season in Bloomington for another year of learning and growth under Tom Crean. Bryant seemed poised to expand his game, continue to impress NBA scouts and potentially improve his draft stock in an increased role with Yogi Ferrell departed.

But it didn’t quite work out that way.

While Bryant did average more minutes (22.6 vs. 28.1) and sported a higher usage rate (22.1 vs. 22.6) from his freshman to sophomore year which led to higher averages in points (11.9 vs. 12.6) and rebounds (5.8 vs. 6.6), his efficiency took a big hit. As a freshman, Bryant’s field goal percentage of 68.3 was best in school history. His effective field goal percentage of 69.3 would have ranked him third in the country per KenPom had he played the qualifying 60 percent of Indiana’s minutes. Those numbers fell to 55.6 and 56.0 this season, respectively. Still good percentages, but no longer elite.

So what happened? Bryant certainly suffered from the absence of the dynamic Ferrell in the backcourt able to break down the defense and set him up. He also suffered from the departure of Troy Williams, another Hoosier gone to the NBA that college defenses had to key on, leaving easier chances for Bryant down low. The Huntington Prep product saw constant double teams this season as a result, a harder proposition in which to score efficiently — or even get shots up again. And while Bryant continued to play with a relentless motor, it became clear he lacked top-level athleticism. The sophomore was often unable to get much, if any lift off the floor on shot attempts. Once a dominant, confident force on the block as a freshman, Bryant seemed more tentative and unsure of himself down low as a sophomore. He got to the line less (59.1 free throw rate vs. 51.9).

All this said, Bryant proved he could knock down the 3-point shot with consistency this season (23-60, 38.3 percent). And he still had a number of efficient performances for the Hoosiers. After losing three straight to Nebraska, Louisville and Wisconsin at the turn of the year, Bryant helped right the ship in a win over Illinois at home with a 6-of-6, 20-point performance on Jan. 7. In the Hoosiers’ wild and whacky triple overtime win against Penn State on Feb. 1, Bryant was an absolute monster, going 13-of-18 for 31 points in the win. And in Indiana’s win against Ohio State on the road near the end of the Big Ten season, Bryant scored 16 points while going 7-of-9 from the field.

Bottom Line: Bryant showed improvement as a 3-point shooter in his sophomore campaign, though some would argue he spent more time on the perimeter than necessary. While his offensive efficiency dipped and his weaknesses were more apparent with the departure of Ferrell, Bryant’s shot blocking increased year over year (4.1 block percentage vs. 5.7). With news today that OG Anunoby will forgo the remainder of his college career for the NBA, that decision now turns to Bryant. ESPN’s Chad Ford has Bryant ranked as the No. 57 prospect, while Draft Express projects him as an early second round pick at No. 39. Would another season in Bloomington under new head coach Archie Miller make a difference in terms of Bryant’s draft stock or is he is what he is at this point?

Quotable: “Coach Crean is my guy. I’ll stick by him each day throughout anything. We know that he won’t give up on us. And he knows we won’t give up on him.” – Bryant on Tom Crean following Indiana’s loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.

Filed to:

  • Brent McNiece

    Definitely not ready for Prime Time. B

  • INUnivHoosier2

    Yeah. Good to be able to knock down 3s, but Crean had Bryant pitching a tent on the 3 point line.

  • inLinE6

    If Bryant decides to play another year (which I think he should), it’ll be interesting to see how Miller uses him to get to his full potential. He always had hard time to lift off the floor, but anecdotally CTC was praising his vertical improvement at the beginning of the year.

  • Arch Puddington

    He is a hard worker, a great teammate, and someone IU fans can be sure is doing all he can to win. But his limits are what they are. I don’t care about the ridiculous claim that he improved his vertical leap by 9″, he is not an explosive athlete, and he really struggles in the low post. He has not yet developed the footwork, balance, and timing that go along with interior offense, and the fact that MB last year and DD this year both DO have those things just makes it all the more apparent. Granted, that kind of thing is going out of vogue in the NBA, so perhaps he has a future as a Kevin Love-type PF who rebounds and shoots threes. Even that seems like a stretch, though (get it? “stretch”?). He is not a great ball handler (by those standards) and isn’t a great pick and roll defender.

    I hope nothing but the best for him. He is, or should be, a favorite of every IU fan. But it sure looks to me like he is not yet close to the NBA. Whether his best chance to develop the skills he lacks is in the D-league, overseas, or at IU is the big question. I of course hope he stays, and does for himself at IU what Kennedy Meeks did at UNC. Different type of player, but nonetheless a big who stayed all four years and gradually improved to the point that he now has a shot at the NBA.

  • mars5123

    Guy only put up 1.8 3pt shots a game, and shot 38% from that range. How is that a misuse of the guy when he was constantly being doubled down low and hes shooting a good mark from three?

  • mars5123

    Really not true if you look at the statistics. He only attempted 1.8 3pt shots a game, and last year with Yogi he was great off the pick and roll. He shot 38% from three. I think it made sense to put him out there when he was struggling with the double team down low.

  • INUnivHoosier2

    I didn’t say he only took 3pt shot attempts.

    I said he camped out on the 3pt line.

  • INUnivHoosier2

    And if you want to look at shot attempt stats, his 2pt attempts went up .5/game year over year (8.2%). His 3pt attempts went up 1.4/game year over year (350%).

  • mars5123

    Of course he didn’t only take three point shots. I didn’t think that’s what you were saying. My point is that for someone who took so few 3pt shots he gets a lot of flack for camping out there from broadcasters and fans alike.

  • INUnivHoosier2

    Because he was camping out there, and he wasn’t progressing as much as people thought he would.

    A little more than 6% of his shot attempts per game his freshman year came behind the 3pt line. More than 21% his sophomore year came behind the 3pt line.

    His turnover rate also went up, which, I think, is a result of him trying to take his man off the dribble (as a result of him initiating offense from the 3pt line.)

  • sd chuck

    Tough decision for TB, game did not advance last year, mostly due to the lack of our guards to make a timely entry pass, a year with Archie could improve his draft stock. He is better than a 2nd round draft pick.

  • Mark Bando

    Dear Thomas: Please spend lots of time this summer watching old film of Kevin McHale and Hakeem the Dream. And find a coach to work with you on your post moves and footwork. You have the potential to be really good if you can become more of an inside threat.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    i have a hunch that TB’s gonna be back. and i get the impression he genuinely wants to come back. would love to see how much he can improve under CM.

  • Ivan Renko

    that’s the point… get him to be doubled down low to open up the floor for our 3-point shooters or for a cut to the basket. the problem was TC’s stagnant half-court offense that didn’t effectively utilized TB in this situation. it’s tough with no Yogi, but when the defense would collapse around a slashing guard that’s when TB was most effective. soemthing TC didn’t adjust for this year.

  • INUnivHoosier2

    That is an effective rate of 57%. He nearly shot that from 2 (55.6%) after declining from >70% (!!!) last year. His FT attempts and rate when up year over year. Imagine if he had spent more time working in the post and putting up shots or passing out of the double team.

  • INUnivHoosier2

    That would be great. Great player, lots of energy, loves his teammates, wants to get better, demands a lot from others, and has plenty to work on himself (i.e. a lot of room to get even better).

    I think it’s a win-win for him to come back unless some NBA team falls in love with him and wants to throw a bunch of money and guarantees at him.

  • Lance76

    I did not have a problem with TB shooting 3’s, if DD was in low post. Their high/low game was good. In order to command a high draft status, IMHO he needs more work on post moves. He may want to move on and learn/develope in the NBA system. If it were me, I would tend to come back work toward low post moves and improve my status. This is a more difficult decision than OG.

  • Zora Clevenger

    If Thomas can work on his ball handling and fast-twitch conditioning he could be a really good ‘4.’ With DeRon’s ability to play a true post, I just don’t see center as Thomas’ future on this team next year. He just seems overmatched keeping a strong low center of gravity against muscle around the basket, but his length and shooting make him hard to guard at a forward position.

  • Sherronhasaheadache

    tough decision for Thomas but he has plenty to work on at the college level. good luck TB

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    If TB comes back I think we have a great shot at winning the Big Ten Conference.

  • mars5123

    Certainly he should not have been attacking off the dribble, and that, along with passing out of the post, was why his TO rate increased.

    All I’m saying is that for someone who has shown he is effective at shooting the three ball and off the pick and roll he took way too much flack for playing around the perimeter. I think he earned the right to be out there as a spot up shooter and to play his part of a pick and roll offense.

    He should have been out on the perimeter, but only as a spot up shooter and as a part of the pick and roll. He had no business attacking off the dribble, and in that regard you are right.

  • mars5123

    Yeah, but he was never going to shoot the same percentage from two with all the doubles he faced. W/out TW or OG cutting along the baseline he struggled passing out of the post, so placing him on the perimeter was a better move IMO. Also saying that his attempts went up 350% is misleading and makes it sound like he was shooting way more threes than he was. It was only 1.8 per game.

  • INUnivHoosier2

    But, as you said, he had a low number of shots per game. Not much usage as a shooter, but a lot of time spent out there.

  • INUnivHoosier2

    You like the stats until you don’t like the stats.

  • mars5123

    I think the time he spent out there is exaggerated and was mostly spent in pick and roll situations, which I think he did well in. Also I may just have gotten sick of Dan Dakitch complaining every single time he ever attempted a three, and may be projecting onto you. I just do not buy into TC not utilizing his big men or using them poorly (Vonleh being the exception).

  • INUnivHoosier2

    Agree on Dakich.

  • mars5123

    I think you’re deliberately misrepresenting a statistic to further your point, which I do not like. It makes it look like he was shooting a large number of threes which wasn’t true. As you implied in your other post, maybe he should have shot more.

  • INUnivHoosier2

    I was illustrating the increase in focus on 3s. Almost 75% of his additional attempts per game were 3pt shots.

    I think saying that he only shot 1.8 3s per game ignores the context. He was only taking 8 shots per game. That’s about 20% of his shots coming from 3. I think that’s significant.

  • John D Murphy

    If TB comes back I think the narrative about him being soft around the basket is gone by end of next season. There is a ton he can do from footwork perspective but there are some really simple things that would decrease his being blocked almost immediately. He doesn’t have to look any further than Kennedy Meeks performance in the final 4 to see what kind of big he could be at the college level. I’d love for him to come back and will root for him if he doesn’t.

  • John D Murphy

    I’m right there with you. I think MSU will be very good next year. PU will good only if Biggie comes back. At most it should be a 3 way race. I think we are top 4 even without him.

  • pcantidote

    Good thoughts, but if Deron can’t stay out of foul trouble it may not matter.

  • rob salway

    I’d agree with you but it seems Wisconsin will always be in the mix even if they start a pack Juicy Fruit nightly.

  • IllinoisHoosier

    Shooting 3s as a big man should be a bonus, not the goal. It can creat some different looks on offense. But a big man should spend his time in the post mostly in my opinion. If not only for a better Chance to get rebounds. There are others but that is huge in my opinion. He should have had more boards. Hard to get them on perimeter. Needs to work on post moves. He’s not strong enough to manhandle other guys but he is quick enough for some duck unders and should work on sky hook.

  • Jay Skibbe

    AMEN, its called winning for your college team, needs to play in the post 90 % of the time, instead of 90% on the perimeter !! Miller Time !!!

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Is Thomas going to play power forward with DD as center?????

  • Jay Skibbe

    amen, is it about winning your college games ? or letting your players propose to the NBA ? Crean found out big time, FIRED !!!

  • SCHoosier

    If Hartman & TB both come back.. and JM is secured..maybe Moore and Smith find the grass greener with opportunities for more minutes elsewhere?

  • Mark Bando

    It’s an interesting point, but Archie has said several times he likes playing inside/out on offense. So having two guys that you can throw the ball to down low would be great. He showed signs of being good around the basket as a freshman and then regressed last year. It’s all about coaching and off season work.

  • iugradmark

    I’ve felt for a while that TB would go pro. It is hard to know whether he would do better in the new system or not. I think he believes he is a natural face-up 4 more similar to Wat than a back to the basket player and just doesn’t have the inside skills or determination to play down low. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the quickness to play outside, especially on the defensive end.

    I believe he has as much physical talent as Nigel Hayes but Hayes has learned to play down low. Hayes isn’t an explosive jumper but he knows how to get and hold position, get his shot off against bigger players by using his body, the rim, and shooting over his shoulder, etc. These are things that TB simply doesn’t do well and I am not sure he wants to play that style. He said that he was a Crean guy and I feel he was a believer in the position-less style allowing him to hang out at the 3 point line.

    Archie certainly knows what is happening behind the scenes and is comfortable passing out offers so I think he knows who is going and who is staying. I think TB is a leave.

  • inadvertentelbows_stillhurt

    TB should go pro.. he would have to have a crazy great year to really improve his draft stock dramatically… every year you wait the next young underclassmen is over hyped by NBA types pushing your chances down.

  • marcusgresham

    I think it may be the opposite of what you said. I don’t see him really being an effective post player in the NBA because he isn’t that athletic. If he’s going to hang around the league for a while he’s going to be a stretch 4 in the Robert Horry mold.

  • marcusgresham

    I think the tag is “soft” but the more accurate terminology is “impatient.” Davis is really good at waiting for things to happen, gathering himself, and going up with power. Bryant seems to far more frequently try to put up a shot when he’s off-balance and unable to use his full strength.

  • It’s my fervent belief that our days of being dominated by Wisconsin are behind us.

  • ArghSonOfOhCrap

    Nice assessment of TB I think your spot on. On the other hand DD will flourish in CAM’s system. Because he isn’t fast but has great feet, soft hands, and excellent timing.

    I love how TB plays he is tough and aggressive and I think he should go pro I don’t want him to miss out on the opportunity.

  • John D Murphy

    We know the new guy can coach. Let’s see if he can replace the talent as it exits. I’m holding out hope that the answer is “no”. Let a guy have a dream.

  • SamWow123

    I wouldn’t sleep on Purdue even if Biggie leaves. That is if Haas and Edwards come back

  • TomJameson

    It’s probably in the middle of what you (Lance and Marcus) say. Marcus is right about the NBA Bryant probably being a stretch 4, but the CBB Bryant needs to play more in the post.

    I think Bryant needs to come back for another year to work on both skills. Playing as a stretch 4 while DD is playing the 5, is definitely where TB did his best work (IMO). But when TB is in there without DD, then Bryant needs to play in the post more effectively.

    I think with that in mind, along with a good defensive mindset that should come along with Archie’s coaching, TB would most definitely raise his draft stock.

    My fear is that because of his loyalty to Crean, Thomas will just go the NBA route and take his chances there. He could probably develop there faster anyway, so why not make money doing it? I’d love him to come back, but I lean toward him leaving. (60/40 him leaving)

  • TomJameson

    I agree, but I’m not so sure about the stated vertical improvement. 🙂
    I’ve always wondered what they do to improve the players in that one singe regard, vertical height. I know that there are proven ways, specific training, to improve the vertical other than just exercise.

    I’ve also wondered if IU ever sends their bigs to some kind of big-man school in the off season. Wouldn’t that be a smart thing to do?

  • TomJameson

    Good insight. I’d like to see Thomas come back for another year, and I have no doubt that he can improve his draft stock under Archie’s tutelage. I say that because I think he was misused this season. My opinion, just an opinion, is that the focus was on trying to improve the areas that might get him into the NBA, but that it backfired on him big time. If he had the same year as his freshman year, with just minimal improvements, he’d probably be in the first round.

    His age is still working for him to stay another year. But his loyalty to Crean may stop him from staying.

  • TomJameson

    They made that combination work pretty good this past season, don’t see why not.