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Mizzou Hoops Player Preview: Kobe Brown

The combo forward’s role has evolved each time Missouri’s roster turned over. But the senior’s skillset and production should give him a prominent role as Dennis Gates reboots the Tigers.

Missouri v Iowa State Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

Over 13 installments, this series will dive deep into the 12 known scholarship players that make up the 2022-2023 Missouri basketball roster. Some installments might be more in-depth than others, if only because of the data and film available. In addition, evaluating players with multiple years of experience is more straightforward than younger peers.

The pieces read like a birds-eye scouting report. They skew more toward the offensive end of the court for two reasons. First, a player’s offensive metrics are more reliable than defensive data and less team-dependent. Second, it’s considerably easier to describe a player’s qualities with more well-known offensive statistics. As always, we encourage interaction from our readers. Please drop us a comment or find me on Twitter @DataMizzou.

The Player

Back for his fourth season, Kobe Brown needs little introduction. Having earned Second Team All-SEC honors a year ago, Brown is one of the few familiar faces in a rapid roster turnover. But, interestingly enough, Brown’s assimilating to a very different cast of characters for the third time in as many seasons.

In 2020-21, he was a starter for an upperclassmen-laden NCAA tournament team. Last year, he took on a leadership role with a host of freshmen and transfers that made up the nucleus of the squad. This season, he’ll again lean on his experience in the SEC and at Mizzou to help the current group navigate the choppy waters of high-major basketball. Though he’ll be entering his fourth season, he technically has two years of eligibility, should he choose to use them.

The Numbers

Kobe Brown | Senior | Combo Forward | 6-8, 250 pounds

Year Min % O-Rtg Usage eFG% O-Reb% D-Reb% Ast % TO% FTR % FT% 2PT% 3PT%
Year Min % O-Rtg Usage eFG% O-Reb% D-Reb% Ast % TO% FTR % FT% 2PT% 3PT%
2022 74.5% 105.1 23.4 49.8 7.7 20.5 17.8 19.9 40.7 80.2 55.0 21.2
2021 52.8% 101.4 21.0 51.7 9.7 23.3 8.1 16.6 33.1 54.4 60.2 25.0
2020 43.4% 92.6 19.8 46.2 6.9 17.7 6.6 21.7 24.8 74.4 53.7 25.3

Kobe’s minutes and usage rates have climbed each of his three years at Mizzou. As a freshman, he started as a role player. By his junior season, his metrics were those of a full-fledged primary target. For those who watched much of MU last season, that checks out. It was often the case that Kobe was receiving double-teams (sometimes more!) every time he touched the ball. As such, it’s understandable why some of his marks above dropped off from the 2021 season to the 2022 version. Nonetheless, Brown is primed to put up numbers again in 2022-2023.

Since his first year, Brown’s game evolved considerably. As a freshman, almost 42% of shots were spot-up attempts. By last season, they decreased significantly to 15% — for a good reason. Put plainly, he’s much more effective in other actions and from different spots.

For example, Brown’s proven himself a very good cutter and adept at generating second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass. And last season, he became a difference-maker setting up in the mid-post. He was very effective in finishing all shot types around the rim last season, be it traditional post-ups, drives to the bucket, or floaters. The paint is where Kobe shines.

Though he’s slightly undersized for a traditional “big,” he’s not that. Instead, he’s a triple threat that can play from the post extended, be it on the block or at the elbows. Additionally, he has the touch to make 12-foot jump shots, the speed to beat bigger defenders off the bounce, the vision to find cutters heading to the rim, and the strength to bully smaller defenders. When appropriately used, Kobe can be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.

On the other hand, Brown struggles when he’s mis-cast. For example, he’s never evolved into a reliable floor spacer, shooting off the catch or the bounce. He was moderately efficient as a sophomore, a year where he cut down the volume of those attempts. Brown’s efficiency plummeted when those attempts spiked as a freshman or a junior.

And while former coach Cuonzo Martin tried to sell the idea of Brown as a jumbo lead guard, he was the wrong player to use in pick-and-rolls. As a scorer, he averaged 0.700 points per possession, but it sagged to 0.500 PPP once you included his passes. So it turns out that asking a player who thrives inside 15 feet to make plays on the perimeter is not an optimal solution. Credit to Brown for trying, though.

That’s not to say the ball doesn’t belong in Brown’s hands. He’s got an effective skill set and body of work that suggests he’s potent when roaming the elbows and free-throw line and making plays from those areas. He can be a competent handler in a system built around a pattern of ball screens, but it would be an exception and not the rule. He’s also somewhat limited in the screener role in ball screens, mainly because the pop action with the pick is often predicated on the ability to knock down long jumpers. Furthermore, he lacks the sheer size and athleticism to be a lob threat rolling to the rim. In moderation, short rolls to the elbows out of ball screens would be a wise use of his talents.

Defensively, Martin asked Kobe to check a wide array of players over his time at Mizzou. That flexibility comes in handy, regardless of Dennis Gates’ scheme.

SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament - Arkansas v Missouri Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The Role

Projections are really just educated guesses. If they were perfect, they’d just be called reality. This is all a way of saying I’m confident Brown finds himself among the starters against Southern Indiana on opening night — and that he’ll be there for most of the season.

Brown will probably be among the top three or four players in minutes played when the season’s done. How he uses that time will be something to watch. Does he split it with Noah Carter and Aidan Shaw? Will all three players share the floor? That uncertainty is a guarantee with a coaching change and roster overhaul. It will be one of the things I’m watching early on.

I also suspect Brown’s usage doesn’t taper off, hovering between 22% and 24%. In simple terms, he’ll be among two or three go-to players in Gates’ rotation. How much will the new additions help him improve his efficiency? It remains to be seen. Last season, Brown faced a wall of defenders and often forced the issues. But given his supporting cast, it wasn’t the worst offensive strategy.

If Mizzou perimeter players can keep defenders honest — a modicum of outside shooting would help — the lane opens up, and Kobe has room to operate. Without knowing what will transpire, it’s still fair to assume that expect Kobe will average around 12-14 points per game. The key: how efficiently will he manufacture them?

Arkansas v Baylor Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

There’s an excellent comp for what I hope Kobe becomes this season: former Arkansas forward Justin Smith. In 2021, Smith, who was 6-foot-7 with a sturdy build, played 70 percent of minutes and had a 20.5% usage rate. And almost 92% of his touches came inside the paint, where he shot 57%. Aside from elite rim finishing, Smith was also very effective on the offensive glass.

An underrated facet of Smith’s game was his passing ability in close quarters and finding teammates cutting to the rim. He was an undersized big but one that operated as the primary interior presence later in the season during the Razorbacks’ run to the Elite Eight. These are all things that Kobe could bring to a Tiger team hoping for a similar program turnaround.

The Film

Kobe has become a very reliable and efficient finisher out of post-up opportunities.

The elbow is where Kobe is incredibly dangerous. First, he takes a dribble which draws Brazile’s man to lift to help. Second, he looks off Gordon in the corner which causes the remaining help side defender to scramble to the corner. Instead, Kobe dishes to a wide open Brazile under the rim for a beautiful conversion.

Here’s another instance of how Kobe can be utilized. He beat his man off the dribble and used excellent court vision and passing ability to create an excellent scoring opportunity.

Kobe can be utilized out of the roller spot on ball screens. Here he “ghosts” the ball screen and moves to the block. Once again leaning on the focus he receives from the defense, and his passing ability, he creates offense.

Kobe can also finish. Here he discards a lottery pick and finishes over another first round pick with a nifty floater.

Min %: This is simply the percentage of minutes played by a given player.
Usage %: A measure of personal possessions used while player is on the court. This includes making a shot, missing a shot coupled with a defensive rebound and a turnover.
eFG%: Same as traditional FG% with the added bonus of 3-point shots given 50% more weight to account for additional point.
OR%: The percentage of possible offensive rebounds a player gets.
DR%: The percentage of possible defensive rebounds a player gets.
AST%: Assists divided by field goals made by player’s teammates while on the court.
TO%: The percentage of personal possessions a player uses on turnovers.
FTR%: A rate which measures a player's ability to get to the free throw line.
FT%: Free Throw shooting percentage.
2PT%: 2-point field goal percentage.
3PT% 3-point field goal percentage.