After a promising freshman season, Brandon Costner
really disappointed as a sophomore, with his numbers going down across the board, and significantly so in many categories. A reduction in minutes and touches can account for some of his issues, as he deferred to freshman J.J. Hickson
, who came in and was the instant focal point of their offense, but theres no excuse for his FG% dropping over 10 points when his usage actually decreased as well.
According to reports, Costner is ready to put last season behind him and move forward, as hes convinced hes still the player he was as a freshman, and is intent on proving such. He said hes hit the gym hard this offseason, trying to improving his athleticism, while losing a reported 11 pounds already. This should help his game out significantly, and hell have every chance to show it, as his minutes and touches should return to what they were two seasons ago.
In analyzing last season, its tough to really explain what went wrong for Costner. Many have pointed to Hickson and how he changed the dynamic of NC States team, but its tough to blame Hickson for Costners woes when Hickson was less turnover prone and far more efficient and productive than Costner, while doing it on higher usage to boot. Costners inability to adjust to a supporting role when he was put out of his comfort zone is a considerable red flag in projecting him to the next level, because hes not going to be an offensive focal point if he makes it in the NBA.
Looking at Costners game, there still is a lot to like, starting with his strong frame and versatility on the offensive end. While his consistency was terrible last season, he showed flashes of the things he excelled with a season earlier, taking defenders off the dribble from the perimeter for one. He seems to have improved his handle with his right hand a bit (hes a lefty), and is dangerous attacking in either direction from the perimeter, though he still isnt a great finisher with his right. Hes not very quick with the ball, but he has excellent fluidity and coordination for his size, and is able to take advantage of mismatches with a lot of bigs at this level. Its questionable how this segment of his game will translate to the next level at either the 3 or the 4.
In the post, Costners game fell off this season, with his efficiency going down noticeably. He has a nice assortment of moves along with good footwork, mixing in turnaround jumpers and pivot moves to get the job done. He has nice touch around the rim, but his lack of explosiveness leaves him prone to having his shot blocked. His reported work in the gym this offseason should help here.
The area where Costners game fell off the most last season was with his jump shot, as his 3PT% fell from 38% to 31%, with his mid-range shot falling off as well. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Costner scored 1.17 points per possession on catch and shoot situations in 2006-07, but fell sharply to 0.75 in 07-08. Seeing Costner miss wide open threes by a few feet is something that happened on quite a few occasions this season, leading you to believe that many of his problems had more to do with the mental side of things rather than any talent deficiencies.
Defensively, hes still a major question mark projecting to the next level, as he doesnt have great height or explosiveness to guard power forwards, while his lateral quickness will be a big problem for him guarding small forwards. Again, it will be interesting to see how his improvements to his body in the offseason affect this area of his game. This is likely always going to be a huge factor holding him back.
Looking at the NBA, Costner is a real question mark for a lot of reasons, ranging from questions about his size to his athleticism to his conditioning to his position to his drastic decline in proficiency this past season. Theres no denying that hes still a quite skilled player, though, and he definitely has potential, though hes going to need to come back strong this season. A year older than most players his class, hes not the type who can just rely on his upside to get him attention from scouts. Hes going to need to be convincing on the court, producing and winning games, to get himself back into draft discussions.