UNLV’s leading scorer is coming back. After entering the transfer portal, Bryce Hamilton is electing to return to Las Vegas.
Hamilton led UNLV in scoring the last two seasons, putting up 17.9 points per game a year ago. He was the focal point of T.J. Otzelberger’s offense.
But what will his role be under Kevin Kruger?
In 2019-20, Hamilton exploded from a rarely used guard to the Rebels top offensive threat. But that growth was made possible by the other guards on the team. UNLV almost always had two other guards with ball handling skills on the floor with Hamilton.
All Hamilton had to do was shoot. And he produced, as he shot a career best 33.9 percent from three and 58.5 percent at the rim. His offensive rating was 103.7.
But Hamilton came crashing down to earth last season, as the roster around him had very little ball handling ability. Hamilton had to do it all.
As a result, he shot just 31.3 percent from three, 56.1 percent at the rim and his offensive rating dropped to 96.7.
According to Ken Pom, Hamilton ranked 72nd out of 76 players that took 30 percent of thieir team’s shots in offensive rating. Hamilton’s season was an inefficient disaster.
As Hamilton struggled to carry a bad roster, UNLV ranked 143rd in offensive efficiency, the first time in five seasons an Otzelberger coached team failed to crack the top 75.
Getting the best out of Hamilton is tricky. He can’t get to the rim consistently on his own. He needs help – from teammates or the offensive scheme – to create layups.
And he also struggles to shoot from three. He is well below average from deep in his career at 31.9 percent.
Where Hamilton excels is in the mid range. He can always create a mid-range jumper. Last year he shot 43.4 percent on mid-range jumpers, according to Hoop-Math. The national average is 37 percent.
The problem is that shooting 43.4 percent from the mid range produces as many points per shot as a 28.9 percent three-point shooter. Hamilton’s strong suit is extremely inefficient.
Even in his best season, his 103.7 offensive rating ranked 22nd out of the 56 players to take at least 30% of their team’s shot.
That appears to be his ceiling, a high-volume scorer that might be able to get to the mid-tier of efficiency.
That isn’t good enough for the leading scorer of an NCAA Tournament team. UNLV will be better off if Hamilton is the third or fourth offensive option.
Michael Nuga, the Kent State transfer, posted a 125 offensive rating last year, while taking 25.5 percent of Kent State’s shots.
Justin Webster, the Hawaii transfer, had a 117.5 offensive rating on 19.6 percent of Hawaii’s shots.
If those two can be the primary weapons, Hamilton’s inefficiencies will be less noticeable. And if he slides down the opposing scouting report, he should be able to get more layups as opposed to mid-range jumpers.
But Hamilton does not profile well as a third option. He can’t shoot well enough to be a floor space. And he is a below average defender.
Hamilton only thrives when he has the ball. But UNLV won’t thrive if they need him to be the leading scorer.