Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This installment breaks down Sydney Kings forward Brian Bowen.
It’s been a long and winding road for Brian Bowen.
As a refresher, the talented forward was a consensus top-20 high school prospect in the Class of 2017 and Bowen was a McDonald’s All-American. From there, he landed at Louisville but, because of an alleged payment (of $100,000) to attend the school, Bowen was suspended and then pursued a release from the program. From there, he landed at South Carolina for a brief time, but never set foot on a college basketball court due to eligibility concerns. Ultimately, Bowen spent a year of transition playing for the Sydney Kings of the Australian National Basketball League (NBL) and he is available in the 2019 NBA Draft.
With that preamble out of the way, Bowen remains an exceptionally difficult evaluation, in part due to his circumstances. The 6’7 forward appeared in 30 games as a reserve for Sydney, playing 15.4 minutes per game and averaging 6.3 points and 3.2 rebounds against pro-quality competition. With that said, Bowen wasn’t a game-changer in Australia and, despite the appearance of an “upside” prospect, he will turn 21 years old in October.
At 6’7 with a 6’10 wingspan, Bowen brings an NBA-ready body to the table, though he needs to add strength in an overall sense. He has prototypical size for an NBA small forward and, if he can stick there, the theory of Bowen’s appeal makes complete sense.
He has the potential to finish at the rim when called upon but, in the same breath, Bowen isn’t exactly an explosive athlete by NBA standards. In fact, there was some question as to whether he would have been a traditional “one and done” prospect even if things went perfectly at Louisville, and there are questions about Bowen’s profile.
It is easy to see Bowen’s offensive potential, with a quality feel for the game and encouraging shooting acumen in some respects. Still, the ball hasn’t always gone in for Bowen, with a 34 percent clip from three-point range in Sydney and checkered efficiency at the highest levels of the American high school game. If Bowen can overcome his relatively pedestrian athleticism in finishing in the paint effectively (to go along with development as a ball-handler), that would help to mitigate the questions about his shooting but, to put it bluntly, Bowen almost has to make an acceptable number of three-pointers or his evaluation takes a rough turn.
Defensively, Bowen uses his length well but, at this stage, he needs to add strength and physicality to his game on that end of the floor. There are moments of encouraging awareness and response time but, on tape, Bowen’s consistency leaves something to be desired, even with the caveat that he was in almost an offense-only reserve role in the NBL. Because of his size and pedigree, it wouldn’t be difficult to talk a team into Bowen’s defensive projection but, on the flip side, he probably isn’t a game-changing defender.
As noted previously, the theory of Bowen’s game makes complete sense. He is a confident player with the ball in his hands, with the makings of an intriguing pull-up game and a shooting stroke that should allow for three-point efficiency. Then, you have the tools of a 6’7 forward and the reality that every NBA team is in search of wing-sized players with theoretical two-way potential. On the other hand, Bowen’s tape wasn’t excellent during his time in Australia and, when combined with the bizarre path he’s taken to this point, he may need to excel in individual workouts to ensure a soft landing spot within the confines of a 60-player draft.
All told, Brian Bowen’s evaluation is a difficult one, but he is a talented player with a clear path to NBA relevance if the pieces come together in near-optimal form. For the Atlanta Hawks, he may not be in play as a top-45 selection but Bowen is worth a close evaluation, if only because of what he could become in the future.