About mid-way through last season, there was talk that Oshae Brissett could be a first round pick in the NBA Draft. His draft stock slid to an early-to-mid second round pick and he ultimately returned to Syracuse without testing NBA Draft waters. Brissett ended the 2017-18 campaign with per-game averages of 38.1 minutes, 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds. Returning to school gave Brissett the opportunity to improve his shooting and assert himself as a go-to scorer at the college level.
His sophomore season has not gone as planned.
Brissett is averaging 13.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game so far this season. The regression in his statistics can partially be attributed to less playing time on the floor; he’s playing five less minutes per game than he did last year. The 2018-19 Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team is a deeper group than last year’s edition, but had Brissett taken the step forward that many had anticipated, he would be hard to take off the floor. The Canada-native has also seen decreases in his three-point shooting percentage (33 percent to 29 percent) and free throw percentage (79 percent to 69 percent) and he is turning the ball over at a slightly higher rate.
The sophomore’s play in Syracuse’s last two games personifies both the frustrations of this season and what the widely-held expectations were for him in the preseason. Against Miami, the former reared its head as Brissett totaled just seven points and three rebounds on 2-of-8 shooting. The latter showed through with his 16-point, seven-rebound performance against Virginia Tech — one of the lone bright spots of a crushing loss.
The contrast that shows on the stat sheet also makes itself apparent in the game film. As I discussed on the new Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Podcast: Unpeeling Syracuse Basketball (shameless plug), the Virginia Tech tape should be thrown away — except I’m making an exception here to discuss what’s been going on with Brissett this season:
Attacking the basket
Driving the lane and attacking the basket is where Brissett thrives. His blend of quickness, size and strength allows him to blow by defenders and finish through contact. However, Brissett has seen some struggles around the basket so far this season and those struggles are largely due to hesitancy.
In this clip from the game against Miami, Brissett got by his defender just to leave his layup short.
Brissett double-clutches the layup — a sign that he anticipated contact that he ultimately didn’t receive. This caused him to miss short on the attempt.
Below is another example of Brissett’s hesitancy. Here, he waits until he is on his way down from his jump to release his shot.
There is a possibility that Brissett wanted to dunk this one and didn’t jump high enough so he settled for a layup. But, even if this were the case, Brissett should be attacking more aggressively, gathering with more power and dunking the ball. By double-clutching and waiting until he is on the way down to release the ball, he is giving himself the chance to miss or get blocked. Brissett shouldn’t leave it to chance and should instead assert himself as a force by attacking the rim aggressively.
He is usually one of the better athletes on the floor, and he needs to recognize it. The worse-case scenario for an all-out attack at the rim here would be a foul and missed dunk that sends him to the line — a scenario the team would certainly be content with.
Brissett has turned the ball over three or more times in seven games so far this season. His turnovers per 40 min have regressed slightly since last season — 2.3 turnovers per 40 minutes in 2018-19 as opposed to 2.0 in 2017-18. Instead of taking a step toward more efficient basketball, Brissett’s increased usage rate this season has put him in situations where he is trying to do too much with the ball in his hands.
Here, Brissett drives the lane and has the ball poked away by a Clemson guard:
Bissett’s turnovers are largely coming from drives from the top of the key as he dribbles down either side of the lane. This has been a pattern shown throughout the season — twice in the Clemson game alone. Once he decides he is going to attack, his head is down and his decision is made: he isn’t going to stop until he gets to the basket. A positive sign of playing aggressively, no? Not from the top of the key. With the guards helping so far off of Frank Howard and Elijah Hughes on this play, Brissett could have made an easy pitch out to either for an open shot.
Elijah Hughes’ and Tyus Battle’s defenders are shaded far off of both when Brissett drives here, as well:
To effectively attack from the top of the key, Brissett must be more aware of the bodies around him. He may get away with putting his head and attacking from the wings and baseline, but the top of the key is prime real estate for guards to take swipes at drives to the basket.
He’s also prone to getting caught “doing too much”. Oshae’s strength is making one quick move and getting to the basket. Once he begins his drive toward the basket, Brissett should be taking no more than two dribbles. If, for any reason, he needs to take more than two to get to the rim, the attempt would be considered ill-advised. Call it the “Two-Dribble Rule” to govern his decision-making. Until he proves that he can more effectively distribute when he is met with help defense, Brissett has to limit himself to two dribbles on his attacks or he will remain among the team leaders in turnovers.
After having an offseason to work on improving his jumper, Brissett has seen his numbers decline this year. This has much to do with the inconsistency in his shooting form.
We’ll start with this three-pointer he made against Pittsburgh:
His feet are slightly off-center so his shoulder is straight to the basket. He has a high follow through that he holds. He sways (feet forward, upper body back). His feet land close together. Overall, this is one of the better-looking jump shots Brissett will attempt this season.
Here’s a jump shot from the game against Miami:
Brissett has been rotating his hips during some of his shots in order to compensate having lined up square with the basket. He ideally wants his toes pointed just to the left of the center of the rim to ensure his shoulder and release remain straight toward the basket. When he attempts to compensate, he rotates his hips in mid-air which decreases his ability to maintain consistency in his upper body. When Brissett lands with his feet wide apart, it is a sign that his hips are rotating.
His shooting is an element of his game that he must improve to reach the NBA and would be a welcome addition to a Syracuse offense that is devoid of consistent three-point shooters. With a three-point shot that opponents would be forced to respect, Brissett would help the Orange offense in its spacing and it would also make it easier for him to get to the basket. It could, perhaps, even lead to an increased usage of Brissett as a ball screener in which he would be a threat both rolling to the rim and popping out near the three-point line.
Other notes and clips
Brissett makes a nice step-through move here. Pitches it out to Tyus Battle who passes to Frank Howard for a wide-open three. They call it a hockey assist where Brissett is from.
Tough play for Brissett here. He catches in the middle of the matchup zone look Virginia Tech threw out for a few possessions and no one is guarding him. He drives and, rather than jumping toward the rim and asserting himself, he allows the VT defender to shield him away from the bucket.
Crafty move and finish for Brissett. He uses his gather to split the two defenders and lay it in with his left. Abides by the “Two Dribble Rule.” Nice.
Brissett goes right by his defender for the jam here. He’s so good when he faces up with space on the floor. Paschal Chukwu brings Kerry Blackshear Jr. out above the free throw line and there is no one to challenge Brissett at the bucket.
Some consistency and a little more adherence to the “Two-Dribble Rule” by Brissett could go a long way for this Syracuse offense. We’ll see if he can put together back-to-back successful outings when the Orange suit up against Boston College on Wednesday night.
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