On January 31, 2019, Tyler Bey disappeared. The Buffaloes were playing the Oregon State Beavers at home, but they were missing their second best player. He was there in the building, but it wasn’t the Bey we knew, because whomever this imposter was scored 2 points on 1/7 shooting, couldn’t contain Tres Tinkle, and was eventually replaced by Alex Strating. The Buffs lost, 76-74, and Tad Boyle lit into his star player, telling him he could be the best player on the floor when he wanted to be.
The next game, Bey decimated the Oregon Ducks as the Buffs took a 40-17 lead into halftime. Bey scored 27 on a perfect 9/9 shooting performance, worked his way to the foul line for 9 more points, and was dominant on the defensive end. From that point on, Bey was a monster in nearly every game as he helped the Buffs to 12 wins in their final 16 games. He was named to All-Pac-12 First Team, All-Defense, and even won Most Improved Player. There was considerable NBA buzz around him, but he opted to stick around for at least one more season.
Bey will probably leave after this year. He’s a projected first round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and it makes sense considering how easily his game will translate to the modern NBA. He’s 6’7 with a 7’1 wingspan, wiry strong with room to bulk up, explosive athlete who can switch defensively, has excellent touch from mid-range and can probably extend his range. His main issue would be shooting from deep, ball handling and passing, and being inconsistent at times. Nonetheless, we still get Bey for this season, and he has something to prove.
The Colorado offense begins with McKinley Wright, but it often ends with Bey. He is a proven scorer who will beat you up on the inside. If you can’t handle his athleticism, he knows how to get to the line and converts over 80% of his freebies. If you sag off, he is nearly automatic on mid-range jumpers, including facing up in the post. Bey is going to be assisted on a lot of his shots, either from Wright pick-and-rolls or from Evan Battey passing to him off a cut. The good thing about Colorado’s four best players — Wright, Bey, Battey and D’Shawn Schwartz — is that they all compliment each other on both sides of the ball; Bey just happens to be the most athletic and the best finisher among them.
On the other end, Bey has the potential to win Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year (now that Matisse Thybulle is in the NBA). Most of his NBA value will be on the defensive end, and again, it’s because there aren’t many players with his length, athleticism and defensive IQ. Bey is disruptive and he is mean about it. He’s going to block your shot out of bounds then snarl at you for attempting it. He’s also the best rebounder in the conference. He was a natural rebounder when he came to Boulder, but 2+ years of Tad Boyle yelling at him have turned him into Roberson-lite on the glass. Because he’s so good on the glass and protecting the rim, watch for Boyle to experiment with small-ball lineups with Bey at the 5.
In 2019-20, Tyler Bey’s role is going to be the same as last year, but there’s an expectation that he plays focused and mean every game. The Buffs can survive the occasional off-game — former starters Dallas Walton and Lucas Siewert come off the bench — but Colorado cannot reach their potential if they don’t always have their two-way star.