(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)
With so many teams in need of an emergency point guard, Bryce Cotton is likely to be called up from the D-League at some point this season. The Austin Spurs rank second in wins, trailing the Bakersfield Jam by only one game, and the diminutive shot maker has been their driving force on offense. He’s currently the fifth highest scorer in the D-League, averaging 21.3 points per contest on 46.1 percent shooting.
Cotton’s top skill is his outside shooting and it is currently being maximized in Austin’s motion offense. No one monopolizes possessions, and Cotton gets his fair share of duty off the ball. He’s constantly on the move and tends to make quick decisions when it is swung to him, often resulting in high quality shots (he averages almost 15 field goal attempts per 36 minutes).
Cotton is a very good shooter off the catch and doesn’t need much space to elevate due to his quick release. According to NBA.com, Cotton has hit 14 of his 29 three-point shots from the corner and 41.4 percent of his 140 attempts from above the break. He’s just as efficient when forced to put the ball on the floor, hitting 41 percent of his 120 mid-range shots, only a quarter of which are assisted.
Getting the ball with the defense out of position with the sheer threat of his jump-shot shot is crucial for Cotton’s floor game. He doesn’t have much explosion to get separation off the bounce and struggles to maintain balance through contact due to his small six-foot, 163-pound frame.
Cotton mostly looks to pass out of dribble penetration, assisting on 17.4 percent of Austin’s baskets in his 1,126 minutes on the floor, and does so efficiently. He has a tight handle and a small center of gravity, which makes it hard for opponents to strip the ball from him in traffic. His 12.3 percent turnover rate is very acceptable in the context of his 21.5 percent usage rate.
While he’s shown the ability to make tough shots out of awkward body positions, he has mostly struggled to finish around length. Cotton has converted his 131 shots within five-feet at an unimpressive 54.3 percent clip. It’s always a challenge for smaller players to exaggerate contact well enough to draw shooting fouls in volume and Cotton is no exception. He’s averaging just 3.5 free throws per 36 minutes, while having 10 percent of his close range shots blocked.
Nevertheless, defense is likely to be the biggest issue for Cotton at the NBA level. He has the worst defensive rating on the team among rotation players, according to Basketball Reference. Cotton was coached to go under the screen on the back-to-back series against Idaho over the weekend and played with better speed on defense, navigating the pick and recovering with good quickness.
Cotton just doesn’t have enough strength to be an effective individual defender, though. He has the lateral mobility to stay in front in isolation but can’t contain dribble penetration through contact or contest shots effectively. He contributes on the defensive glass and plays the passing lanes some, but not enough to be a positive presence when he’s on the floor.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.