Anthony Brown was selected with the 34th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. While not a 1st rounder, his draft slot is one where real talent can be mined. Players who go that early in the 2nd round are usually either high upside players, Europeans who can be “draft and stash” prospects, or seasoned college prospects who are deemed “more ready to play”.
Brown fell into that latter category, or at least that was the assumption. A 5th year senior out of Stanford, Brown as an All-Conference performer and deemed one of the better 3-and-D prospects in the draft. In Brown’s rookie season he oscillated between DNP-CD’s and major rotation player when Kobe sat out games due to injury or for rest.
On the season Brown’s individual stats were not very good, but the team was better than its season’s metrics when he was on the floor. The Lakers’ offense was .2 points per 100 possessions better and their defense was 7.3 points per 100 possessions better when Brown was in the game. These numbers still represented an overall negative net-efficiency rating, but the Lakers were a bottom-two team in both categories so that is expected.
While these numbers reflect Brown’s inclusion in somewhat workable lineups, they are also only one piece of the puzzle. Should Brown want to become more than a fringe rotation player, his individual production must rise to a point where he’s having a positive impact on the floor — especially offensively.
I specifically cite offense because his defense is already at the NBA level. After Monday’s win over the Warriors, Brown expressed his belief that the’s the team’s best defensive player which, while potentially not true (I’d lean towards Nance), is at least arguable. When it comes to guarding, Brown has excellent physical tools, strong instincts, and plays hard. He takes pride in defending the other team’s top option and typically does a good job at it.
On the other end, though, Brown is a work in progress. Though a very good shooter in college, his accuracy has not yet translated to the pros. Last season he shot 28.6% from behind the arc, making only 20 of his 70 attempts. From two point range, he shot 33.9%, connecting on 19 of his 56 shots. Through 3 summer league games Brown has not fared much better hitting 2 of his 9 three-pointers, though he has gone 5-9 from inside the arc.
At some point, the trend from distance will need to reverse itself. His college shooting stats suggest he will get there eventually. While I do not have the research on this, I would imagine shooters who were as good as him in college generally retain that ability in the pros. Brown hit 44.6% of his 3’s on nearly 300 attempts over his final two years at Stanford. He really can shoot.
After the Warriors game, when Brown discussed what he needs to work on to grow as a player, he cited working on his off the dribble game. A tie-in to that is his ball-handling, passing, and general shot creation. In Monday’s win, Brown had a nice drive and finish when his man pressured him beyond the arc. It was the type of play NBA wings need to be able to make and reminded me of some of the things he would do at Stanford when he was a bigger focal point of the offense.
Brown clearly has his eyes set on being a multi-faceted wing, which is fine. The more things a player can do well on the floor, the more time he can expect to be on the floor. If Brown can add a more versatile and steady offensive game to pair with his defensive ability, he can be key rotation player in due time. But, part of that versatility will need to be hitting the 3-ball. There is no getting around that.
I still have high hopes for Brown. A late season injury, scattered and inconsistent playing time, and operating in an offense which was low on ball movement and did not create a lot of spot-up chances all contributed to Brown’s uneven rookie year. And while he goes into this season competing for minutes with a suddenly crowded wing rotation, his defense alone should put him in the conversation for spot minutes.
Still, though, he must make strides on the offensive end. He seems to understand that and is trying to become more well rounded. Here’s hoping his shot comes around in the process of improving his all-around game.