Anthony Brown is a rookie who was drafted in the 2nd round with the 34th overall pick. He has spent a lot of time in the D-League, trying to get better but also simply getting minutes he has not been able to earn with the Lakers. He has played a total of 318 minutes and only appeared in 18 of the Lakers’ 43 games. He averages 3.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, shoots 31% from the field, and has a PER of 5.0.
The Lakers need more players like Anthony Brown. Wait, what?
If looking only at the numbers above, you would think that Anthony Brown is not good at basketball. The thing is, those numbers aren’t really the numbers I’m concerned with. Counting stats and PER don’t do Anthony Brown justice. At least not at this point in his career.
Here are some additional numbers:
- In the 318 minutes Brown has been on the floor, the Lakers have a Defensive Efficiency of 95.9; when he has not been in the game, the Lakers’ DEff is 109.9.
- Players Brown defends take 58.6% of their shots from 16 feet or farther. On those shots, players shoot 28%. The league average on these shots is 38.6%.
- When players take 3 pointers against Brown, they only make 25.5% of them. The league average on these shots is 36.4%.
Here is Anthony Brown’s defensive shot chart for the season:
The point of all this? Brown defends. He slides his feet well, isn’t overly hands-y, seems to understand angles, and shows good ability to recover and contest shots. Here’s an example from a play against the Pelicans:
Notice how Brown shades Tyreke Evans to the sideline, but doesn’t overplay to the point that he surrenders too easy a driving lane. Also see how he understands personnel while grasping the subtleties of on ball defense. Brown recognizes Evans isn’t a threat from deep beyond the arc, so he surrenders space to him. When Evans gets closer to the arc, Brown jabs, then extends his right arm to dissuade a jumper. Then, when Evans look to explode to get to the rim, Brown dips and slides to cut off the angle (aided by Randle’s help in the corner), and when Evans steps back Brown recovers to contest to his shooting hand.
This is a single play, but is indicative of Brown’s technical level of defense. Guarding top flight wings every game is a challenge. And the best offensive players are successful more than they are not — not just in getting baskets for themselves, but in putting the defense in compromised positions which open up opportunities for their teammates. Brown has a ways to go before he’s going to be a “stopper” (if such a thing is even real), but he is taking on the challenge nightly of guarding the opposition’s top wing scorers.
We’ve drifted, though. While Brown’s individual developmental strides matter, they’re also from one person. As he continues to improve, if he continues to improve, he can be a useful player. But, the Lakers need more players who excel at the things we have highlighted that Brown is doing/building towards.
This is tangential, but I do believe one of the reasons Roy Hibbert has not had the type of impact in LA, defensively, that many hoped he would is that the Lakers do not have the types of perimeter defenders who make his job easier. Defense, as a whole, is a team effort and in order to become better on that end of the floor the Lakers need more players who are actually better on that end of the floor — especially on the wing. Better wing defenders mean fewer driving lanes, which leads to fewer shots at the rim, fewer help situations, and fewer kick-outs to open shooters who kill defenses in this league.
Yes, this sounds like common sense. And, in many ways it is. But understanding it and prioritizing it are not the same things. The Lakers have done well by drafting Brown and Larry Nance Jr. — both players who look to be polished and versatile defensively. This summer, should they keep their draft pick (and even with their 2nd round pick which they still have) and in free agency, they would be wise to continue this trend of targeting players who can defend and who offer great two-way potential to impact the game in ways that go beyond offense.
Because while I am warming to Anthony Brown and appreciate his growth and potential to become a rotation player, the Lakers need more players like him if they are to become what they want to be defensively.