Bryce McGowens completed a big step in the pre-draft process last week in Chicago, participating in the NBA Combine, the accompanying interviews and Roc Nation’s Pro Day.
We scanned the Internet and reached out the Basketball News’ Mike Babcock, who was present in Chicago for all the festivities, to get a feel for for the one-and-done Huskers’ stock less than a month before the draft.
McGowens participated in the measurements and athletic testing in Chicago, giving us more exact look at his physical profile. He measured in at 6-foot-6.5 in shoes (6-foot-5.25 without) and 181.2 pounds with a 6-foot-8.75 wingspan and an 8-foot-7.5 standing reach. Personally, I thought his wingspan would be longer, but perhaps his slim frame aided to that illusion of him being even longer than he is.
Athletically, McGowens tested out middle of the pack, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. While McGowens made some spectacular plays during his freshman season in Lincoln, it was usually more a combination of his size, length and athleticism than pure explosiveness.
Babcock’s take: “I wasn’t surprised by McGowens’ measurements at all. He is thin and needs to get stronger but I had identified that as an area for needed development before the NBA Draft Combine.”
McGowens followed a growing trend and opted out of the five-on-five scrimmages. There is certainly some risk of poor performance tanking a player’s stock, but we also see each year where players either solidify their stock or move up with a good showing in one or both scrimmages. McGowens seems to be in the range where he could have helped himself had he performed well, but he and his agent decided against it.
Babcock’s take: “Generally, I believe that if a player is not content with his current projected draft range, then he should not hold back and gain as much exposure as possible. However, in Bryce’s case, I believe that he will probably fall somewhere in the late first round or early second round, so he’s right on the fence in regards to being in a range where it makes for a challenging decision whether to participate in the live play or not.”
The swing skill for McGowens very well might be his jump shot. How much do scouts and general managers believe in it? He shot just 27.4% from 3 during his 31 games as a Husker, and he shot 24.4% on all jump shots off the dribble. However, he shot the ball at a high clip in high school and he converted his unguarded catch-and-shoot 3s at a 50% rate this season (20-of-40), perhaps hinting at his true shooting touch.
McGowens is a crafty scorer overall with the ability to get to the rim at a high rate, and continuing to add strength should make him more efficient around the basket. If the jumper comes around on the next level, he’ll have a chance to score a lot of points during his professional career.
Babcock’s take: “I think McGowens is a more talented shooter than some might think. My concerns stem more from shot selection and discipline than his overall shooting mechanics. Also, it’s worth noting that he has deep range on his jumper.”
The interviews are an important part of the Combine experience as well. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweeted that McGowens interviewed with 15 teams in Chicago, and The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov reported the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors were among those teams.
As for his draft range at this point, I perused a number of mock drafts he his stock seems to be firmly in the 20-35 range, making him a late first-rounder or early second-rounder. Here’s a collection of McGowens’ placement on recent mocks.
Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer, May 17
No. 21, Denver: “Tim Connelly has never been shy about taking risks in the draft. (Hello, Michael Porter Jr.) At this point, McGowens feels like the highest upside choice considering Denver’s needs. With his size, he has shown more than enough scoring flashes to inspire thoughts about what he’d look like next to Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. He’d slide right between them as a scoring wing, providing balance on the roster. Or at worst, maybe he’s a spark like Will Barton has been for years, or like Porter has turned into when he’s healthy. The Nuggets could take another swing.”
Note: O’Connor wrote this before Tim Connelly agreed to leave Denver to join the Minnesota Timberwolves as president of basketball operations.
Sam Vecenie, The Athletic, May 17
No. 22, Memphis: “McGowens’ value as a prospect is all about what he could be, not what he is yet. He was great to close the season at Nebraska, but he still didn’t shoot well despite solid mechanics. He’s skinny, but he tries to play a physical brand of basketball. He can create off the bounce at 6-foot-7. It might take some time for him early in his career as he works through his passing reads and gets stronger, but he’s an interesting upside flier for teams to take, given his size as a potential on-ball player. The Grizzlies are in a great place as a franchise, they have a history of developing young players, and they have a few picks to be able to add to their core with upside swings.”
Zak Hanshew, Yahoo, May 24
No. 26, Dallas: “Dallas needs to get Luka Doncic a second top-tier player, but that need won’t be met in the draft. Still, Dallas shouldn’t hesitate to grab a guy who’s willing to put the ball on the deck and use his silky smooth moves and long, lanky frame to get a bucket. McGowens is underrated and undervalued, making him a steal for the Mavs at the back-end of the first round. He can use his length to develop into a quality NBA defender, but he should be called on for his scoring right away on a team in need of players who can go and get their own bucket. McGowens is an intriguing fantasy sleeper, particularly in points leagues.”
Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated, May 17
No. 27, Miami: “McGowens put up decent numbers on a bad Nebraska team, showcasing his ability to score the ball but also how far he has to go in other areas. He badly needs a change of scenery, and a stable situation like Miami could be great for his development. He is tall and long and has good instincts, but struggles to shoot the three and doesn’t have much of an off-ball skill set yet. He has a lot to learn, particularly on the defensive and, and if the jumper doesn’t develop, he’ll face tough sledding. But as an oversized shot-creator with length and the ability to create, McGowens has some palpable appeal as a long-term project. He should be in play in this part of the first round.”
Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation, May 17
No. 28, Golden State: “McGowens is a big guard with impressive driving ability and real shooting potential at the next level for a team willing to develop him. At 6’7, 180 pounds with a 6’9 wingspan, McGowens has a quick first step and long strides that help him get to the basket. While the shooting numbers from deep were a bit rough — 27.4 percent from three on 140 attempts — the freshman guard showed a clean stroke and enough shooting versatility to think he can improve. McGowens needs to get better defensively and as a finisher (he shot 56.2 percent at the rim, per T-Rank) while adding strength to his frame, but his tools are valuable if they can be refined.”
Basketball News, No. 31, May 18
No. 31, Indiana: “Possessing positional size and length, Bryce McGowens showed flashes as one of the best shot makers in college basketball. He’s flashed space creation as a shooter with pull-up craft, ball-handling and the ability to elevate over defenders. Although he can be a bit streaky, the fluidity with his shooting mechanics are special. He is also a solid defender due to his length, athleticism and instinctual play. With his combination of great athleticism, shot-making and finishing craft at the rim, McGowens is a viable first-round option in this Draft.
Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report, May 18
No. 32, Orlando: “At 6’7″, McGowens has positional size and creation skills to put pressure on defenses. Improved shooting should unlock enough scoring potential to earn him a rotation spot.”
The 2023 NBA Draft is set for June 23.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.