When the Lakers traded Lou Williams for Corey Brewer and a 1st round pick, my thoughts were mostly centered on the quality of the draft pick and the ramifications of no longer having Lou on the roster. Those things, to me at least, were the key parts of the trade since the pick is the main asset and the redistribution of Lou’s usage to younger players offer the most long term meaning to a rebuilding roster.
My analysis on Brewer, then, naturally was lower on the list of things which actually mattered. Here is what I wrote:
I am not too keen on Corey Brewer being part of this deal. I would have preferred the Lakers push for KJ McDaniels, a younger, more rangy athlete who still has some upside. Brewer is a fine veteran who has been on some good teams and can be another voice in the locker room. He can also contribute as a try-hard defender and an open court player who will fill the lane well. But, overall, as someone who is signed through next season at a higher cap number than Williams and someone who has suspect offensive decision making, I would have just preferred the team chase a younger player as the “throw-in” to make the deal work.
I stand by that, but I also think the Brewer aspect of the deal deserves more than a single paragraph. I don’t know what role Brewer will play on the court — and there will be some analysts who say it should be “none” — but I am interested in seeing whether Luke decides to give him some spot/situational minutes to see what he has in Brewer.
First, let’s get this out of the way: Brewer is having his worst year as a professional. The 10 year veteran is playing the fewest minutes, scoring the fewest points, and shooting his worst percentage from the floor for his career this season. Never a good three point shooter, his 23.4% from distance is his lowest mark since his rookie season, but the rate at which he’s been chucking 3’s is the highest of his career. I think a large part of that is Houston’s offense and the shots they value, but I think it also speaks to his inability to get to the rim for shots like he did earlier in his career.
Based on these things alone, you can understand why the Rockets were more than willing to give him up. They want to play a certain way and Brewer’s skill set and ability to produce efficiently in that style made it so he probably shouldn’t be on the floor for them.
That said, there are really two sides to this and I think this tweet from Calvin Watkins sums them up nicely:
Brewer brought the intangibles MDA liked but his shot disappeared too much. In big series vs GSW and Spurs u need buckets.
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) February 22, 2017
We covered his shooting, but one of the reasons Brewer has lasted in this league as long as he has is because of those intangibles Watkins says D’Antoni really did like. Brewer plays hard defensively, will chase every loose ball, and, in general, will play like his hair is on fire. He is a “constant motion” type of player and while that comes with its downsides — gambling in the passing lanes, leaking out too often, etc — that energy can be useful when it’s harnessed in a productive way.
I do love the way Brewer runs the floor, the way he can pressure passing lanes, and the way he won’t back down in any situation. He can get you layups in the open court (he’s shooting 54% from 2 point range for a reason) and his 1.5 steals per/36 minutes is right below Jordan Clarkson. He is a hustle player who knows some veteran tricks and he’s already gone on record saying he’d love to pass some of those along to the team’s young guys — specifically citing Brandon Ingram.
Additionally, some of the things he still does well are things the Lakers actually don’t have a lot of right now. Most of their wings run to the 3-point line in transition and don’t fill the lanes as hard as Brewer does. Their best cutters are probably D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram — who also happen to be the guys who have the ball a lot as initiators when they’re in the game — but Brewer can do good work off the ball as a slasher (something he wasn’t asked to do a lot in Houston in order to keep the lane open).
I don’t say all this to hype up Corey Brewer. If the Lakers left him out of the rotation entirely and went to a 9-man group now that Lou is gone that would be the perfectly reasonable approach. Brewer doesn’t need to play and, based on the metrics, a strong argument can be made that he shouldn’t. Much like the addition of Tyler Ennis, I think Brewer might actually do his best work in practice, offering some aggressive defense against the young guys on the floor (and, unlike the young Ennis, some mentoring off it).
For the “throw-in” part of the deal, I am perfectly okay with that.