Carlton Bragg: The Future at the Four

The freshman forward from Cleveland impressed throughout his limited minutes during the 2015-16 season. Now, with the departure of front court stalwart Perry Ellis, in addition to the likely departure of fellow classmate Cheick Diallo, Kansas’ frontcourt has some holes to fill. Luckily, Carlton Bragg recently announced his intent to return to Lawrence for his sophomore season, helping answer at least one question in regards to Bill Self’s 2016-17 frontcourt rotation.

So, just how good was Carlton Bragg last season? If you look at Bragg’s per-game numbers, he may appear, to the casual basketball observer, as an afterthought in an otherwise loaded Jayhawk rotation. However, if one digs a little bit deeper to Bragg’s numbers per 40 minutes, it becomes clear just how much the freshman produced when given the opportunity.

Bragg, per 40 minutes, averaged 17 points (fifth on the team) and 11.1 rebounds (fourth) while shooting a robust 56% from the field. Where he struggled most, and what likely played a part in his diminished role, was his inability to stay out of foul trouble. Per 40 minutes, Carlton Bragg committed just over seven fouls, the third most amongst Jayhawks.

Recently, Bragg postponed his NBA dreams in order to develop further in a Kansas uniform. Bragg possesses a freakish, NBA-type skill set within his 6’9″, 220 pound structure, showing the ability to shoot the ball from all spots on the floor, as well as the ability to attack the rim and finish at an efficient rate. Bragg’s size and skill set likens well to various former Kansas stars such as Marcus Morris, Darrell Arthur, and Perry Ellis; all of whom landed on the All Big-12 first team during their Kansas careers.

Per-40 minute statlines, freshman seasons:

Carlton Bragg, 2015-16: 17.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 56% FG, 7.2 fouls

Perry Ellis, 2012-13: 17.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 48% FG, 3.7 fouls

With Landen Lucas entrenched as the team’s starting center, it is likely that Bragg will be utilized in more of a stretch-4 type of role, where his ability to step out and knock down open jumpers will be maximized. The spacing provided by this ability of Bragg’s should increase opportunities in the lane for the talented backcourt of Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, and of course, newcomer Josh Jackson. Bragg should also thrive as the high post figure in Bill Self’s high-low sets, where he proved to be an effective passer in that role.

Expectations appear to be sky-high for Carlton Bragg as he enters his sophomore season, and likely for good reason. The incoming sophomore figures to be entrenched in Perry Ellis’ vacant starter’s role from day one. Fans should still expect growing pains with Bragg, as making the leap from limited role player to starter requires a bit of a transition period. However, if Bragg can reduce his foul rate on the defensive end and allows himself to stay on the floor, his offensive skill will flourish. Losing a player the caliber of Perry Ellis is never an easy thing for a program to endure, but having a player the caliber of Carlton Bragg waiting to replace him makes the loss of Ellis sting just a little bit less.

Caleb Feist

Writer for Rock Chalk Blog who loves threes, the crying Jordan meme, and watching Mario Chalmers' game-tying shot on YouTube. Follow me on twitter, @cjfeist.