I have pointed this out over and over, but Carlton Bragg last year had numbers remarkably similar to Perry Ellis. His usage rate was just 2 percent lower, and his effective field goal percentage was 3 percent higher. He also had a similar defensive rebounding rate while doubling his offensive rebounding rate.
This is not to say I think Bragg will be exactly Ellis this year. For starters, his turnover rate was quite a bit higher. It is also much more difficult to go from a 22-25 percent usage guy playing in 10 or so minutes per game off the bench, and another to do it as one of the key guys on the team.
Bragg’s two big weaknesses last year were defense and defensive rebounding. I am not terribly worried about either (yet). Let’s take them in order:
Yes Bragg was bad defensively last season. One of the worst defensive big men I’ve seen under Self bad. But a lot of that was due to his lack of strength.
For example, Devin Williams backs him down and draws a foul:
Obviously it is a bit of an outlier because of Williams; strength, but Bragg constantly was pushed around in the low post. However, Bragg put on 30 pounds over the offseason, and from early looks it looks like most of that is muscle. I don’t think he will be Landen Lucas in the low post, but I don’t think he will be terrible defensively.
The rebounding is less of an issue for me. For starters, he was a better defensive rebounder than Perry Ellis last year, and obviously Perry Ellis was a great player (he was also a better defensive rebounder than Jamari Traylor, so I don’t think we should be worried about Self saying or hinting Bragg will sit if he can’t rebound). Lastly, other than a select few teams (West Virginia obviously), teams don’t crash the offensive glass as much anymore. Whether or not that is a good strategy for the offense, the fact remains if teams don’t crash the glass, Bragg’s value isn’t hurt as much by not being a good defensive rebounder.
It’s obvious, though, that most of his value is going to come from his offense. Bragg took 45 percent of his shots at the rim and shot just under 70 percent while taking 48 percent of his shots on midrange jumpers (and shooting a very good 43 percent). (Both numbers via Hoop-math.com). Bragg also was 4-7 from three. He also showed the ability to put the ball on the floor and take guys off the dribble, and he can run the floor extremely well, making him dangerous in transition.
Because I know it will come up: I am of course discouraged by his performance in the first two exhibition games. But it is just two games, and two games that don’t count. Bragg also is probably a bigger matchup nightmare for teams with true post players rather than the shorter post players that Washburn and Emporia State have (though those guys will obviously be more talented as well).
Again, I don’t expect to be Perry Ellis on either side of the floor. But I think he can shoot 52ish percent from two, high 30s from three, and be a good offensive rebounder. As long as he doesn’t turn it over a ton and isn’t a total zero defensively, Bragg should have an incredible year, especially considering the role 4 men have in Bill Self’s offense.