Bryce McGowens ended his rookie season with flashes of tantalizing promise. And he is a prime case of making the most out of a bad situation for the Charlotte Hornets. McGowens started seven games, which is likely seven more games than he would have had the season turned out to be more successful. The 6’7 South Carolinian is only two years removed from playing high school basketball, and he’s already shown that he has the talent to be a productive NBA scorer.
McGowens was selected 40th overall in the 2022 NBA draft…by the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Hornets traded up to get the former Nebraska Cornhusker. He’s athletic with a solid handle and the ability to finish in the paint. His biggest weakness, his outside shooting, is still a work in progress. But even on that front, he showed promise.
What did Bryce McGowens reveal this season?
With injuries mounting, several of the veterans were shut down for the season in the last weeks. Six of McGowens’ seven season starts came over that span. In those final six games, he averaged 14.7 points, four rebounds, and two and a half assists per contest. What’s more, he shot a tidy 48.3% from the field and an impressive 36% from behind the arc on more than four attempts per game. He also got to the line five times a game, crucial for a scorer. He was aggressive, and getting to the line is important for players to score consistently, even when their shot isn’t falling.
The last two weeks of the season were crucial for a young player. McGowens played only four games in the G league this season and averaged over 20 points per game. He spent the majority of his time riding the bench in the NBA. Getting on-court experience was valuable, not just to expand his game, but to get live experience in an NBA game with his teammates. And the competition he faced was likely the best of his young career, five of the six teams he started against at the end of the season were either play-in or playoff teams (including a career-high 22 points against the Eastern Conference’s fourth-ranked Cleveland Cavaliers).
This offseason will be big for McGowens. He’s seen first-hand what it takes to have success in the league. And will have an off-season knowing where he will be when the season tips later this year. He’s under contract through at least the 2024-2025 season, with a team option in 2025-2026. The Hornets may have found real value in the shooting guard, who could help bolster their anemic bench offense. Even without getting much on-court time with LaMelo Ball, it’s obvious how well the two would fit in a backcourt lineup. A more consistent three-point shot could unlock a lot for McGowens’ career personally, and the team’s success, generally.