Capping off his third year as a starter for the Cowboys, Markel Brown wrapped up his collegiate career with a 20 point performance in Oklahoma State's 85-77 loss to Gonzaga in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. One of the bright spots in what was an up-and-down campaign for Travis Ford's program, Brown earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors for the second consecutive season, showing significant improvement playing alongside Marcus Smart and solidifying himself as a potential NBA draftee, averaging 17.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per-game.
Brown's intrigue at the next level has always started with his phenomenal athleticism. Undersized for a shooting guard standing 6'3, the Alexandria, Louisiana native has a 6'7 wingspan to go along with good speed and quickness, but his calling card is unquestionable his outstanding leaping ability, landing him on Sportscenter multiple times this season and prior.
The former top-150 recruit has improved considerably over his four year career, making major progress since arriving in Stillwater. A highlight reel dunk waiting to happen, Brown was often maligned for his lack of perimeter skills and shooting early in his career, but developed into a reliable jump shooter. Ending his senior season as Oklahoma's State's second leading scorer, Brown still did most of his damage using his athleticism in transition, but had a very efficient season scoring in the half court, where his improved shooting helped him make teams pay for leaving him open beyond the arc and giving him space operating off the bounce in the midrange and when dribbling off ball screens.
A little under 66% of Brown's total field goal attempts in the half court this season were jump shots according to Synergy Sports Technology. He made a very solid 40% of those attempts, despite the relatively high proportion of difficult shots he takes from the midrange running off of screens. Elevating extremely well and looking increasingly comfortable shooting over defenders from the outside, Brown's explosiveness helps him get his shot off, as he doesn't always have the ball-handling skills needed to create separation on the perimeter consistently. He made a solid 40% of his spot up jump shots with his feet set in spot up situations and an even more impressive 45% of his pull-up attempts, after converting 28% and 36% of such looks a year ago. His 38% shooting from three point range and 77% from the line were both career highs.
Despite Brown's improvement as a jump shooter, his inability to create high percentage shots for himself around the basket is a bit disappointing, especially considering that when he does get to the rim, he finishes at an elite level. Only 28% of Brown's shot attempts come around the basket in the half court, and though he can get to the rim when he sees a lane or can turn the corner, he doesn't have an elite first step and isn't adept at breaking his man down off the dribble, as he lacks creativity and advanced ball-handling moves. Shooting 66% around the rim in the half-court, Brown is a threat to finish emphatically above the rim any time he can find daylight in close, and does a solid job drawing contact inside, especially on the fast break.
Though Brown is not a great ball handler or passer, and has spent very little time playing on the ball since assuming a significant role in the Cowboy offense as a sophomore due to the presence of Marcus Smart, he made the most of Smart's three game suspension after the Texas Tech incident. As the chart below shows, during Smart's three game suspension, Brown shouldered much of Smart's ball-handling and playmaking duties, averaging 23.3 points and 3.7 assists per-game against Texas, Oklahoma, and Baylor in mid-February.
Though Brown is not a natural playmaker, anything he can bring to the table creating offense either for himself or others is a considerable plus for his NBA draft stock. At this stage, Brown's finishing ability inside and ability to spread the floor and make shots are his biggest assets from a NBA perspective, and while a three game sample doesn't paint a complete picture of Brown's ability to handle the ball for stretches, it was intriguing to see him make things happen on the pick and roll so frequently and efficiently nonetheless.
Defensively, Brown has the tools to play good overall defense, but he doesn't always seem intent on doing so. He's a solid defender as it stands, but he allows less athletic players to beat him off the dribble from time to time and doesn't always fight through screens or recover when he's beat with as much urgency as you would like. Considering the potential his length and athleticism affords him as a defender, Brown has room to grow on this end of the floor.
Brown may not be a glamorous NBA prospect as his per minute productivity doesn't particularly stand out among his peers in any one area and he lacks size for his position, but his combination of athleticism and improved perimeter scoring ability make him an interesting prospect nonetheless. Though Brown may not be a lock to get drafted at this point, if he can continue to develop his ball handling and defense, he'll get plenty of looks both this summer and down the road should he not hear his name called on June 26th.