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Mizzou Hoops Player Review: Parker Braun

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The redshirt freshman was a marginal contributor, but gave Missouri fans some highlight-reel moments. What does his overall body of work say, and how can he get better this offseason?

NCAA Basketball: Auburn at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

As we do every year, we’re wrapping up the Mizzou basketball season with Q&As on every one of Missouri’s major contributors. To catch up on the other posts in this series, see the link below:

Today we’re examining the play of Parker Braun, the preferred walk-on who found himself on the floor more than some of his scholarship teammates. Braun was a fan favorite during the year — did his play back up the sentiment?

Braun wasn’t talked about much in the preseason, but caused an uproar with his play midway through the year. What did he provide that Missouri was lacking?

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Snelling, Site Manager: Braun is a smart offensively minded player. Since scoring was difficult for Missouri this year, having anyone capable of scoring the ball and work within the confines of the offense to do so was unusual. Braun has great feet, and moves well off the ball. With some added strength and improved defense,, he could easily move into a more regular rotational role and have an impact for a team in need of baskets.

Matt Harris, Lead Basketball Writer: Braun’s a matchup wrinkle. Against opponents with smaller frontlines, his length and understanding of defensive positioning make him a sneaky rim defender. Offensively, you can post him up on advantageous switches or — at the very least — have your lead guards use him as a safety valve in the short corner. Given the foul trouble that could beset Jeremiah Tilmon or Reed Nikko, having Braun around as a backstop was handy on certain nights.

Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: For all his versatility on the defensive end, Mitchell Smith isn’t quite as diverse an offensive option as Missouri fans would like him to be. Braun, on the other hand, is a little more refined on the inside, unafraid to roll for putbacks and poster dunks. He gave Cuonzo Martin a more aggressive internal option in the absence of Jeremiah Tilmon, one not quite as big as Reed Nikko or Smith, but more offensively capable than either.

Ryan Herrera, Lead Basketball Beat Writer: Braun’s got great length which gives him a size advantage and he showed surprising potential as a rim protector. He’s also good at rolling to the basket and has fairly solid hops, which will always help with those putbacks and dunks. He was a guy that Cuonzo Martin could count on, not as a starter or even a main rotational piece but as a player who could go out there and provide relief when foul trouble hit the main bigs (which as we know happens more often than we’d like).

Despite the excitement over his escapades, Braun was still a marginal contributor. Why couldn’t he get floor time on a team desperate for post help?

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Vanderbilt Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Snelling: I mentioned defense and strength above, and really that’s what kept Braun from being a consistent contributor. I think Braun has the athleticism to defend multiple positions but around the basket he often got swallowed up by the bigger and stronger post players of the league. Being a solid offensive player isn’t enough when you’re giving up offensive rebounds and baskets around the rim.

Matt Harris: Sam and I have mentioned this before: Braun should move the four spot against SEC and high-major opponents. People love to see him swat shots, but seven of them came against teams — Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and LSU — that were lacking true post-up threats. Meanwhile, Braun allowed opposing bigs to covert 6 of 10 shots around the rim once the set up on the block. Outside of a stellar performance against Ole Miss, his best performances on the glass came against Chicago State, Morehead State and Wofford.

I’m not trying to pick on Braun, who is a fan favorite. Instead, I’m suggesting that moving him to the four spot would allow him to use length, solid agility and keen IQ to take on a role similar to Mitchell Smith. He could slide between the four and five spots based on matchups.

Josh Matejka: Man, those tomahawk dunks were fun right? They weren’t nearly as fun when you saw what was happening on the defensive end, though. Braun struggled heavily against bigger post players. That’s not necessarily his fault as much as it is nature’s — Braun simply isn’t big enough to compete against the Nick Richards and Kerry Blackshears of the SEC. While Braun did have some highlight-worthy moments on the defensive end against smaller teams, he struggled against the towering behemoths of the Southeastern Conference.

Ryan Herrera: He wasn’t a particularly great defender outside of some nice-looking blocks, and he wasn’t going to cut it against the SEC’s premier bigs. Like Matt said above, he should probably be a guy that runs the four spot more often than not and takes on the role Mitchell Smith has played well in. Of course he can move to the five when he gives the other team a matchup problem, but he shouldn’t be anchoring the paint against some of the guys this conference has to offer.

There was a lot of clamoring from the fanbase (and some high-profile former athletes) for Braun to get more playing time. What does he need to do to see more of the floor next year?

NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Snelling: I’m high on his long term ceiling. Braun has a lot of skill. He needs to get tougher and more physical, and I’d like to see him develop more of an ability to stretch the floor. But I think as long as the progression continues you’ll see his role develop more and more. These days it’s often difficult to see guys show the patience needed to build towards the role they want. But if Braun hasn’t bolted by now you have to think he’s bought into the plan. He can be an important piece for this team next year and the year after. But I think it’s going to be a gradual thing.

Matt Harris: If he can hold his ground against brawny bigs, sure, give him more time on the low block. However, I’d be intrigued to see him spend more time at combo forward. Offensively, Braun could become a unique tool in high pick-and-rolls: diving to the rim, popping for jumpers, or passing out of short rolls. Doing so would give Martin flexibility — a ball-handler in Kobe Brown, a defensive pest in Mitchell Smith and a middle way in Braun. Ideally, Brown handles the bulk of the minutes, while the scouting report dictates whether Mitch or Parker serves as the primary reserve.

Josh Matejka: Obviously Braun needs to make adjustments on the defensive end, but I wonder if his struggles have more to do with his assigned position (read: Matt’s answer above) than his ability. I’d like to see Braun continue refining his offensive game, particularly as it relates to him becoming a three-level scoring combo forward. Right now, Missouri is starved for players who can put the ball in the hole — the more they can get the merrier, and Braun’s skillset puts him in a good place to be one of those guys.

Ryan Herrera: He’s got to show improvement on defense on all areas of the court, because like I said before, he’s a guy that could step into Mitchell Smith’s role. Smith isn’t the one counted on to play against the bigger post players, but he is the one Martin wants switching on all five positions. Smith can hold his own down low and is also comfortable defending on the perimeter, and I think Braun has to show he can be that guy, too. Do that and he’ll become a rotational piece, because with how the things bigs are expected to do are continuing to evolve, that’s probably the easiest way for Braun to work his way into Martin’s regular rotation.