Coming into college, New Jersey-native Isaiah Briscoe was considered the No. 1 point guard in America over the likes of five-star guards Jalen Brunson, Derryck Thornton, and PJ Dozier. He was known as a floor general, a relentless defender, and a “bully” when it came to getting to the rim and scoring.
Briscoe was set to become the next great Calipari guard at Kentucky.
Once it became known Tyler Ulis would be returning to school for his sophomore season, fans knew the 2015-16 backcourt had the potential to be something special. When Canadian scoring phenom Jamal Murray came in fold in June, it was guaranteed the Wildcats would maintain one of the most talented group of guards in the nation.
Upon making his way to campus, however, Briscoe would quickly turn from five-star bully scorer to third option behind the dominant one-two punch of Ulis and Murray. Playing out of position for the majority of the year, he became extremely inconsistent, but still gave it his all.
After testing the NBA Draft waters and working out for several teams, Briscoe returned to school in hopes of showing off an improved jumper and success from the free throw line.
Fast forward to the 2016-17 season, it was much of the same. Two five-star studs in De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk manning the two guard positions with Briscoe left as the third option. He had his moments, he saved the team on several occasions, but he still wasn’t able to find his rhythm and become the dominant player he had hoped to be.
He’s officially gone from Kentucky, but his basketball career is far from over.
Here are three reasons why Isaiah Briscoe will make it in the NBA:
He’ll finally become the lead point guard
Let’s face it, Briscoe got the short end of the stick in his time at UK. How would he have known Tyler Ulis would return to school and become one of the best guards to ever put on a Kentucky uniform when he committed? How would he have known the best shooter in college basketball would come on the scene out of nowhere the way Jamal Murray did? Coach Cal never promises starting positions or playing time, but Briscoe fully expected to be the premier point guard.
The following year, he knew DeAaron Fox and Malik Monk were set to become Wildcats when he returned to school, but what choice did he have? He had abysmal shooting numbers his freshman year, and scouts said he had no business being in the NBA that soon. He had to make it work as a secondary option for a second straight year, and UK fans have to appreciate him for that. He gave a ridiculously young Kentucky team the veteran presence they needed, even if he wasn’t putting up mind-boggling numbers he originally hoped for.
In the pros, however, Briscoe will have the opportunity to come in and become “the guy.”
At Kentucky, his playing time as the primary ball-handler was scarce, playing off the ball on the wing the majority of the time.
Spoiler alert: Isaiah Briscoe is not a small forward, and he will never sniff the wing in the NBA. He did it at Kentucky to do what was best for the team, even if his own numbers and consistency suffered.
In the NBA, he’ll come off the bench or in the D-League as a point guard only. He’ll be able to do what he does best, rather than “making it work” as he did at Kentucky.
With the ball in his hands as the lead man, Briscoe’s game will change entirely, and his NBA career will thrive because of it.
Confidence will lead to better efficiency
The first two reasons go hand in hand, but both are equally important.
We all know Briscoe’s shooting woes from both the free throw line and behind the arc. There were times that any shot that left Briscoe’s hands beyond two feet was destined for failure. Before he got to Kentucky, however, the former Wildcat was actually considered a fairly impressive shooter. Hell, he even won the 3-point contest at the BallIsLife.com All-Star Game the summer before arriving on campus.
Without being the lead guy, Briscoe lost some major confidence in his shot resulting in major inconsistency.
In high school, Briscoe’s confidence was through the roof because he had the opportunity to be the head honcho. When he was able to get into a groove with the ball in his hands, there wasn’t a player in America that could stop him. Defenders were terrified of going heads-up with him because they knew their ankles were at risk to be shattered or put on the wrong side of a highlight tape at any given time.
Even coming off the bench in the NBA, just bringing the ball up the court on a regular basis as the primary ball handler and finding his groove will lead to a spike in consistency and confidence.
Zay will have the opportunity to be Zay again.
His game is suited perfectly for the NBA
Look around the NBA and find some of the most valuable role players on successful teams. Tony Allen on the Grizzlies, Marcus Smart on the Celtics, Jonathan Simmons for the Spurs, etc. They’re not the most gifted athletes, none of them are massive scoring threats, and they’re not going to kill you from behind the arc.
What do they all have in common? Defensive intensity.
If you can thrive as a defender with even mediocre offensive ability, you can make it in the league. Plain and simple.
Briscoe is a pit bull on defense and backs down from no one. Fans focus on his rough regular season matchup against UNC’s Justin Jackson, but Briscoe was one of the most consistent and tenacious defenders on the team. In many instances, he locked down the opposing team’s top option and fought on every possession with the help of his ridiculous 6’9 wingspan.
On offense, Briscoe rarely misses from around the rim, using his strength to get to the basket and finish in traffic. He made some frustrating turnovers throughout the year, but his knack for scoring the ball in the paint was second to none in college.
Take a look at former Wildcat Andrew Harrison. The Houston native was a solid college player, but fell to the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft due to shooting inconsistencies. Two years later, Harrison is getting major minutes and making impressive plays in the NBA Playoffs for the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s still not a deadeye shooter from deep or the most athletic guy in the world, but he makes up for it on defense and finishing at the rim.
Briscoe can easily follow a similar path.
According to DraftExpress, Briscoe is considered the No. 80 prospect in the NBA Draft and is expected to go undrafted, but don’t count him out.
Whether he is selected in the draft or not, Zay is going to turn heads in the league.