Why Bryce Hamilton might return to UNLV

UNLV’s leading scorer over the last two seasons has entered the NBA draft. Bryce Hamilton has not hired an agent, so he is still eligible to return to college basketball. 

Kevin Kruger says he would take Hamilton back at UNLV. 

“We are supportive of Bryce and his dream of becoming a NBA player. We have encouraged him to go through the process and obtain feedback from the league so that he can make the best decision for himself and his family. We will assist him in every step of the way and if he decides to return to UNLV, he will be welcomed back with open arms.”

The next couple of months will shape Hamilton’s future and UNLV’s roster. Hamilton will have until July 19 to decide if he wants to turn pro or return to college. He can return to UNLV or transfer to a new school. 

Given Kevin Kruger’s willingness to take Hamilton back, I think there is a good chance he is a Rebel next season. 

Hamilton doesn’t have great NBA potential. Earlier this month a scout told the Las Vegas Sun that Hamilton would be “lucky to find a G League gig?”. It all comes down to Hamilton’s strengths and weaknesses. 

His best ability is creating his own shot, usually out of isolation scenarios. The problem though is Hamilton’s shot creation almost always comes from the mid range. Last season 48.6 percent of Hamilton’s shots were mid-range jumpers. That number is simply too high. 

Basketball has adjusted, especially in the NBA, to kill off the inefficient long twos. Unfortunately for Hamilton that is his specialty. 

Across college basketball, players shoot 37 percent on average with mid-range jumpers. Hamilton is a good mid-range shooter, as he hit 43 percent this past season. But 43 percent from the mid range is less efficient than a 29 percent three-point shooter. 

And that is one of Hamilton’s biggest weaknesses. He has not shown the ability to shoot from deep. Over three seasons at UNLV he made 31.9 percent of his threes. His best season in 2019-20 he did hit 33.9 percent, which was 0.6 percent better than the national average. 

The longer three-point arc and better competition means Hamilton’s college three-point accuracy is likely the ceiling on his pro accuracy. 

His offensive game has major flaws. And while better shot selection and an improved three-point shot could make him more useable on offense. The other side of the ball will still haunt Hamilton. 

He is not a good defender. And he did not show progress over the last two seasons. Since becoming a focal point of UNLV’s offense, Hamilton has seen Amauri Hardy, Elijah Mitrou-Long and Caleb Grill take on the toughest defensive assignments. 

Meanwhile Hamilton was shuffled off to less intimidating weapons. But his off-ball defense was the biggest concern. As a sophomore, he got caught watching the ball way too much. And he did it again his entire junior season. 

I don’t think Hamilton has much to offer NBA teams. Now the NBA is not the only place to make money playing basketball. Hamilton may be able to catch on in Europe or somewhere else. 

He could potentially make a few hundred thousand dollars (or even secure a salary over $1 million) playing basketball. That might be Hamilton’s preferred choice to college. 

But if it is not, if Hamilton wants to play basketball in the United States. His best bet is likely going to be at the collegiate level. 

It likely won’t improve his draft status for next offseason; it is very rare for players to return to college and dramatically improve what NBA teams think of them. 

But a return to UNLV could be best answer for Bryce Hamilton.

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