Building on a strong sophomore season, Johnny O'Bryant returned to LSU for his junior year in easily the best shape of his career. Leading the Tigers to their first 20-win season since 2009, but still no NCAA Tournament bid, he once again ranked among the most productive big men in the SEC, showing improvement in a few key areas along the way.
A former McDonald's All-American and consensus top-40 recruit in the class of 2011, Johnny O'Bryant took a major step forward a year ago after a solid, but fairly quiet freshman year, earning All-SEC First team honors as he assumed a leadership role for LSU on both ends of the floor leading the team averaging 13.6 and 8.7 rebounds per-game. While he did not make such a massive jump as a junior, he did make a few significant additions to his NBA resume, seemingly turning the corner on the upside that made him such a highly recruit.
One of the most significant changes in O'Bryant as a prospect from his sophomore to his junior year was apparent on first glance. He looked even leaner than he did as a sophomore, when he had already lost a considerable amount of weight after tipping the scales at 280 pounds when he arrived at LSU as a freshman. Looking a bit more explosive than he did a year ago as a result, the 6'9, 260-pound forward nonetheless remains more of a bruiser than a high-flyer. A solid, but unspectacular athlete overall, the main benefit of his continued dedication to good eating habits and hard work in the offseason was most obvious in the consistency of his energy level.
Although he competed very hard for stretches, consistency, on the whole, was a struggle at times for O'Bryant last season. Functioning as LSU's first option and primary interior scorer, he flashed the ability to carry the Tigers on the nights he was dialed in, turning in an especially memorable performance with 29 points against Kentucky's NBA-caliber front line in late January. The challenge for O'Bryant last season was making his presence felt consistently, as his focus and intensity seemed to waver, resulting in a handful of less than stellar performances as well, which unfortunately cost his team on Selection Sunday.
When he's active, aggressive, and scoring over defenders from the midrange, he looks the part of a potential first round pick. With 50% of his possessions coming in the post according to Synergy Sports Technology, O'Bryant has proven capable of scoring with either hand with his back to the basket each of the last two seasons, using his strength to establish good position and showing good hands and touch in close.
O'Bryant continued to score from the block effectively this season, but on his best nights, the improvement in his midrange jump shot and face-up game made him a significantly more explosive scorer than he was a year ago ,when he did the vast majority of his damage in the immediate vicinity of the rim. Knocking down a very solid 47% of his jump shots, O'Bryant still has room to expand his range, which is limited to about 15 feet at the moment, and his form wavers at times, but he went from being a non-factor away from the basket a season ago to a fairly reliable threat to score on the three shots he attempted per game away from the basket.
Seeing more double-teams as the season went on, O'Bryant showed the ability to find cutters and spot up shooters every so often, but turned the ball over at a very high rate, sometimes forcing the issue when he saw a second defender headed his way, and simply not always knowing how to respond to the additional defensive attention. The most turnover prone prospect in our top-100 per-40 minutes pace adjusted, O'Bryant has plenty of room to improve his decision-making and passing ability.
Looking ahead, it would be nice to see O'Bryant continue improving as a jump shooter, work on the consistency of his left hand, and build on his 63% shooting from the line. Just an average finisher due to his lack of great explosiveness, the Cleveland, Mississippi native ranked among the worst power forwards in our top-100 in two-point percentage. The more athletic defenders he'll face around the basket at the next level make his ability to score over the top from the post and the midrange efficiently critical to his ability to be successful on the offensive end at the next level.
A solid offensive rebounder when he's focused, O'Bryant's had the worst season of his career on the defensive boards. Ranking among the least prolific defensive rebounding power forwards per-40 minutes pace adjusted in our database, O'Bryant's total rebounding numbers have declined in each of his three college season. His dip to 9.6 rebounds per-40 minutes pace adjusted this season can be attributed in part to the presence of Jordan Mickey and the fact that he played such a high usage role offensively, but he was not always as aggressive pursuing the ball off the rim as he was early in his career, especially on the defensive end.
O'Bryant is a strong, but less than disciplined defensive player overall. Doing a nice job bodying his man in the post and moving his feet when he's forced to step out onto the perimeter or show on the pick and roll, he doesn't always play with a great sense of urgency. Struggling to go straight up on shooters inside, he ranks as the fifth most foul prone player in our top-100. He doesn't have the best fundamentals at this point, and remains a work in progress on this end of the floor. His lack of great quickness and explosiveness limit his upside, but he has the tools to be more effective as both and individual and team defender than he was last season.
Not turning 21 until a few weeks before the draft, O'Bryant is among the youngest prospects in the junior class, actually born after many of the sophomores in our top-100. Despite his regression as a rebounder and struggles with turnovers, finishing, and fouls, O'Bryant's improved dedication to his conditioning and development as a scorer away from the rim, combined with his strength and touch in the post, make him a player worth keeping an eye. He's a strong candidate to be selected in the middle-to-early part of the second round, at potentially even in the late first if he can find some momentum in the pre-draft process, but could be a nice find for the right team if he can smooth over some of his rough edges and learn how to play hard consistently. [Read Full Article]
Top NBA Prospects in the SEC, Part Five (#5-9)
October 19, 2013
A Mcdonald's All-American and two-time USA Basketball member in high school, Johnny O'Bryant developed a significant reputation early on in his career, but struggled to maintain that among concerns revolving around his conditioning and work ethic. His freshman season was highly inconsistent, as he shot just 40% from the field, but he was much better as a sophomore, increasing his scoring production while becoming much more efficient offensively, earning first team all-SEC honors in the process.
O'Bryant still has plenty to prove, though, after seeing his season end in the second round of the conference tournament following an 8th place finish in a very down SEC.
Measured at 6-9 in shoes with a 7-1 ½ wingspan and a very strong 260 pound frame, O'Bryant has solid physical attributes for a NBA big man. He's a good, not great athlete, though, which makes his conditioning all the more important in assessing his pro prospects, something he's begun to address in the past year and reportedly has continued to do so this past summer.
Typically being the strongest player on the floor, the majority of O'Bryant's offense at the college level predictably comes with his back to the basket, where he saw mostly mixed results last season. Despite possessing decent footwork and the ability to turn over either shoulder, O'Bryant is not efficient with his post game, turning the ball over at a high rate and converting just 44% of his field goal attempts in these situations.
While O'Bryant is strong enough to simply overpower many of the weaker opponents he encounters in college, his skill-level and decision making ability still leaves a lot to be desired. He doesn't have a great grasp of what his limitations are at the moment, settling for a lot of tough looks every game, and has a difficult time finding good angles to get his shot off, as he's largely a below the rim player. Barring significant improvement, it's difficult to see his post-game translating effectively to the NBA level at his size, which makes his conditioning and ability to contribute in other facets all the more important.
O'Bryant also sees a good amount of touches each game in other areas, running the floor in transition, crashing the offensive glass and finishing off cuts or on the pick and roll—all places where he seemingly has a much better chance of contributing at the next level. One of his best attributes are his extremely soft hands, which allow him to simply catch everything thrown his way, and also make him such an imposing rebounder.
Unfortunately O'Bryant is not a standout finisher around the basket in non-post-up situations either, converting a pedestrian 53% of his attempts here last season. His lack of explosiveness makes it difficult for him to finish over length in traffic, something he can likely continue to improve on with better conditioning.
Facing the basket, O'Bryant shows solid ball-handling skills and footwork for a player his size and is able to create his own shot reasonably effectively. His jumper is not a consistent enough weapon yet to threaten defenses with, though, as he hit just 11 of his 49 attempts last season, or 22%. This doesn't appear to be a fluke considering he converted just 60% of his free throws on the season, but it may be something he can continue to improve on as his career moves on, as he seems to have solid touch.
O'Bryant doesn't have great balance on his jumper, often fading away on many of his attempts and releasing the ball from different vantage points, sometimes on the way down. At times he seems to get frustrated and settles for difficult long 2-point attempts, which opposing defenses willingly concede to him considering his struggles in this area.
As a freshman, O'Bryant ranked as one of the worst passing big men in college basketball, dishing out just 11 assists in 600 minutes, compared to 66 turnovers. He improved considerably on that mark as a sophomore, more than tripling his assist rate last season, but still posted a very high turnover rate. On a talent-deprived LSU squad, he sees a fair amount of double teams, and is still learning how to deal with that effectively, something he'll likely continue to have to do this season.
Defensively, O'Bryant is somewhat stuck between the 4 and the 5 positions from a NBA standpoint, as he's undersized for a center at 6-9, but may be a little thick and not quite quick or agile enough for a power forward. The effort level O'Bryant puts forth here doesn't inspire great confidence in his ability to overcome his physical shortcomings, as he regularly gives up deep position inside the paint, and does a fairly poor job of stepping out and contesting shots. When O'Bryant is in shape and fully dialed in, he has the ability to be a very effective defender at the college level, so it will be interesting to see how he progresses in this area as a junior.
One of O'Bryant's biggest calling cards as a NBA prospect is his rebounding ability. He pulled down an impressive 5.7 offensive rebounds per-40 minutes as a freshman (12.3 total), and followed that up as a sophomore with 4 per-40 on the offensive end and 11.3 total. His long arms and excellent hands help him out significantly despite his average leaping ability, as he has terrific instincts for going out of his area for loose balls, something he does on a regular basis.
Not turning 21 until next summer, O'Bryant is one of the youngest prospects in the junior class, something that could ease some of the concerns over his uneven play his first two seasons in college with an improved showing this year. Undergoing a rocky transition between coaching staffs, LSU was not able to surround O'Bryant with very much talent the last few years, which certainly contributed to his struggles on both ends of the floor. This upcoming season should tell us quite a bit about his long-term NBA potential, as there aren't that many 6-9 big men in college basketball with his hands, touch and rebounding ability. If LSU can find a way to win some games with a more focused and efficient O'Bryant leading the charge, his draft stock could improve dramatically. [Read Full Article]
Top NBA Draft Prospects in the SEC, Part Four (#11-15)
October 31, 2012
Former McDonald's All-American Johnny O'Bryant had a solid, albeit inefficient, freshman campaign for the LSU Tigers. Averaging 8.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per-game, the 19 year-old power forward overcame breaking his hand mid-season, showing promise on the defensive end and as a rebounder while struggling at times with his efficiency and decision-making offensively. With Justin Hamilton moving on to the pros, O'Bryant will need to make the most of his experience last season as he's likely to be the focal point of the undersized Tigers' interior attack.
Standing 6'9 with a 7'2 wingspan, there is quite a bit to like about O'Bryant from a physical perspective. He may be a bit undersized for his position at the next level and does most of his work below the rim, but the Mississippi native has terrific strength and had some nice moments using that to his advantage as he aggressively crashed the boards and played a tenacious brand of individual defense.
Last season, those were the two areas where O'Bryant made the most consistent contributions. One of the top-5 offensive rebounders in the entire country per-40 minutes last season, O'Bryant simply overwhelmed his match-up with strength and energy to win the race to the ball on more than a few occasions last season. That effort and physicality carried over to the defensive end quite regularly, as O'Bryant, despite lacking great fundamentals, more than held his own in the post and in one-on-one situations away from the rim against more experienced and athletic players alike.
The early returns for O'Bryant offensively were not as promising. He proved to be a capable finisher at the rim, converting 60% of his put back attempts and 53.1% of his short range shots overall according to Synergy Sports Technology, but made just 28% of his jump shots and 32% of his shots in post-up situations. O'Bryant didn't appear to have a firm grasp of his limitations, often trying to do too much at times, especially from the midrange, a major reason he finished the season shooting under 40% from the field, which ranks as one the worst rates in college basketball for power forwards.
In one-on-one situations, O'Bryant showed some potential putting the ball on the floor and attacking the rim after facing up in the post, but doesn't have a polished back to the basket arsenal, looking a bit out of control with his footwork, and proved fairly feast or famine when slashing to the basket. O'Bryant did have some nice moments cutting off the ball, finishing reverse layups at the rim, and using jump-stops to get into the paint, but will need to cut down on his 19.5% turnover rate, develop more power moves to better utilize his strength in the post, and take fewer difficult jump shots to improve his offensive efficiency in a bigger role this season.
One of the more productive freshmen in the SEC last season, Johnny O'Bryant has pretty clear cut strengths and weaknesses as a prospect. He'll have ample opportunity to showcase his development or lack thereof this season as he returns to the floor as LSU's clear-cut leader in the front court, and his play in 2013 will certainly dictate whether he gains traction as a NBA prospect down the road. [Read Full Article]
FIBA U-17 World Championships: Top American Prospects
August 16, 2010
O'Bryant wasn't asked to play a huge role for this USA team as its starting center and designated energy guy, but he happily played his role and showed some nice tools in the process. Standing somewhere around 6-9, with a terrific frame, long arms and solid athleticism, O'Bryant clearly has the physical tools to justify his status as an elite prospect. He is not afraid to throw his body around in the paint (doing a good job in particular on the glass) even though his energy level did lead to some foul trouble at times. O'Bryant showed some small flashes of offense with his post game, making some nice spin moves and such. He also attempted to show off a bit of a face-up game, to somewhat unsuccessful results.