Isaiah Briscoe entered college perceived as a shot creator for himself and others – able to get into the lane with crafty ball-handling and take advantage of a collapsing defense.
That hasn’t translated at Kentucky, though – mostly because of the context he has been put in. The presences of better players Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray have pushed Briscoe into a less prominent role in shot creation.
Briscoe, however, has excelled as a stopper, a key contributor on Kentucky’s defense, which ranks 13th in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy.
Standing at six-foot-three with a six-foot-eight wingspan and weighing 202 pounds, Briscoe possesses the perfect combination of size, length and agility to defend point guards most of the time and then pick up some wings with a less physical style of play.
Briscoe gets on his stance and is consistently engaged defending on the ball. He did very well against Duke – consistently fighting to down screens on the pick-and-roll, then showing quickness to go over the pick and recover in time to make himself a threat to contest shots as a trailer when he couldn’t keep the opponent from getting to the middle of the floor.
Despite his strong base, Briscoe isn’t able to contain dribble penetration through contact but has the lateral quickness to keep pace in isolation and plays with active hands looking for strips – collecting 19 steals in 11 appearances so far. He’s also shown urgency closing out to shooters and has the length to contest spot-ups effectively.
Briscoe is even an essential contributor on the glass, collecting 15.5% of opponents’ misses in his 339 minutes, according to basketball-reference – the third best mark on the team.
As a result of him playing tough on-ball defense, contesting weak-side shots with urgency and helping finish possessions with steals and rebounds, Kentucky is allowing just 93.5 points per 100 possessions with Briscoe on the floor – the third best mark on the team among rotation players.
He hasn’t had as positive an impact on the other end, though.
The way Kentucky plays offense, Ulis is the one responsible for igniting their dribble drive action but Briscoe does get the chance to create something from time-to-time. That has, in fact, been how he’s excelled the best – creating off a live dribble.
Briscoe is not a good shot creator against a set defense at this point of his development, lacking explosiveness to blow by his man in isolation and turn the corner out of the pick-and-roll. He is also a poor pull-up shooter, quite tense in his release, missing 19 of his 26 two-point jump-shots – according to hoop-math.
It should be mentioned, though, that Kentucky hasn’t made it easy for him either. Briscoe has flashed a hesitation move and the ability to go side-to-side to get by his man in space but Kentucky can’t provide it. It has only two plus-shooters in its eight-man rotation, therefore unable to keep opponents from consistently packing the lane against them. Due to his own inability to shoot, Briscoe has often forced the issue trying to attack a crowd, averaging three turnovers per 40 minutes as a consequence.
But when the Wildcats can move the defense from side to the side, Briscoe has proven able to get into the lane running downhill, maintaining his balance through contact on straight line drives and going to either side. He can’t attack length at the rim with explosiveness but has flashed a floater to finish in the in-between area, can finish through contact and has shown to have nice touch finishing around the basket with either hand (converting 63% of his 62 shots at the rim).
Briscoe is not a point guard who consistently anticipates passing lanes a second-ahead of everybody else on the floor but has proven able to identify the openings of a collapsing defense – assisting on 18% of Kentucky’s scores when he’s been on the floor, which is a decent mark when you consider his role.
But even when he’s been able to create something when the offense has helped him out a bit, Briscoe has been a net negative on that end because of his inability to shoot – even out of standing still position. He has missed 15 of his 19 three-point shots, elevating off the catch just as mechanically as he does off the dribble, and also 61.4% of his 44 free throws.
Opponents can sag off him very aggressively when he’s on the weak-side and sometimes when the ball has been swung to him, Briscoe has been a “record-scratcher” – a term coined by Nate Duncan for players who completely kill the advantage created by their teams when they hesitate to take open shots or swing the ball around quick enough.
With him unable to a buy a shot from anywhere outside of three feet of the basket, even standing at the foul line without any defense against him, Kentucky is averaging just 98.2 points per 100 possessions with Briscoe in the lineup – the worst mark on the team among rotation players.
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