Detroit: Meet Bruce Brown Jr

Meet the 42nd pick of the 2018 NBA draft, Bruce Brown Jr.

With the Summer League in Las Vegas completed, let's take some time to meet the second of the Detroit Pistons rookies, Bruce Brown Jr.

Who is Bruce Brown Jr?

Bruce Brown Jr is a 6 foot, 5-inch 190-pound wing out of Miami University. Brown is 21 years old and will turn 22 in August. He was selected with the Pistons own second-round pick, 42nd overall.

Brown hails from the North-East of the United States, growing up mainly in a suburb of Boston, and was a very highly touted prospect, but surprised many by committing to play at Miami despite receiving offers from many more high-powered programs.

Brown spent two years at Miami but had his Sophomore season cut short by a foot injury that limited him to just 19 games and caused him to miss the postseason. Brown put up very similar stats in both of his seasons at Miami, averaging 11.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game over both of his seasons. He spent significant time playing as a true wing and also as a ball handler.

The Good

Brown is big, strong, and fairly skilled. In college, he spent a pretty significant amount of time as the lead ball handler and in Summer League he was given outright point guard duties with some regularity. This skill combined with his size and strength is almost certainly his most attractive quality for the Pistons. His bowling-ball drives to the hoop, bludgeoning defenders as he goes, draw help from the defense and he got to the line a lot in college. At the combine, Brown put up the best bench press of all guards (draft-mate Khyri Thomas was 3rd) so in all likelihood, the muscle he showed in Las Vegas is not just an illusion. In college and Las Vegas, he showed a tighter handle than you would expect from such a large man and really good vision as a passer.

The downside, of course, is that this skill-set is one that usually takes the longest to translate to the NBA from college, but the good news is that he has skills in other areas that could potentially keep him afloat until his ball-handling comes along, should he find himself in the rotation.

First off, Brown should be a solid defender from the very start, and could potentially be very good. There are a lot of guys who come into the NBA as some form of big, strong, and athletic. At the draft almost all of these guys are projected as plus defenders, and yet so many of them never really make good on that potential. Brown is unlikely to join this group. He is already strong enough for NBA competition and has a mean streak and desire to defend that will serve him well. So much of defense in the NBA is desire, and Brown clearly has that mindset. He sits down on defense, has active hands, and is a cinder-block against post-ups and drives. On top of that, he was a very high-level rebounder in college, despite regularly playing as a guard, he rebounded close to the level you would expect from a power forward.

Off the ball on offense Brown has already shown to be a smart and active cutter, and his rebounding includes the offensive glass. If defenses regularly ignore him too much he will find ways to punish them by slipping into the open areas for passes or rebounds. Even his biggest weakness in college, his outside shot, is not as much of a lost cause as it may seem. Brown shot 34.7% from deep in his freshman year, his miserable 26.7% mark last season may be small sample size. Once again, he barely even played half the season, and his coaches and teammates maintained the entire time that they were confident he would find his shot. On top of that, he has decent form, and he shot very confidently in Las Vegas. Essentially, his shot is a question mark, but there is a better chance that he figures it out than a lot of second-round picks purported to not be able to shoot.

Lastly, I’ve touched on this already but it should still be emphasized. Brown’s attitude both on and off the court bode very well for his potential to make it in the NBA. Many college players struggle to adjust to the NBA because the vast majority of guys drafted (even in the second round) were the best, or close to it, players on their team in college. They are used to being the guy, allowing others to do a lot of the little things and dirty work. Of course, once these guys arrive in the NBA that is no longer the case and they have to adjust to being the guys who have to do the dirty work little things. Brown, by all accounts, is that type of guy already. He boxes out on both ends, he has great defensive fundamentals and was described by Ed Stefanski as a pit-bull. If you want to survive in the NBA as a second-round pick, those are things you need.

The Bad

First and foremost, despite him having a good chance to figure it out, Brown’s outside shot is a pretty significant worry going forwards. If he can’t figure out how to hit three-pointers, he will be something akin to rookie Stanley Johnson but not as good. As stated before, his skills as a ball-handler will almost certainly take time to be NBA ready. While a rookie second-round pick not being able to contribute right away is hardly an unforgivable sin, but given how crowded the Pistons are at guard and the wing, if he cannot find his shot he is unlikely to contribute this season.

Another undeniable downside is that, while Brown only played 2 years of college, he will be turning 22 years old before this next season even starts. Being old is hardly a sin, but Brown is only a few months younger than Stanley Johnson. Once again, this isn’t a knock on Brown, but simply something to remember when you consider his potential as an NBA player.

Lastly is that, while his ball handling and passing is his most intriguing skill as an NBA player, there are no guarantees that he manages to figure it out. Once again, he shot poorly in a shortened season, but his true shooting percentage was just 48.8% last year at Miami and it wasn’t just his three-point shot. In Las Vegas, he struggled to finish at the hoop and got blocked many times. His aggression in getting to the hoop remains impressive, but there is some clear adjusting that will be needed if he wants to be a real threat with the ball in his hands.

Defensively, while I think he is a very safe bet to succeed, there is a chance that he ends up being the wrong kind of a tweener, where he struggles to contain faster guards and bigger wings. Once again, I would be surprised if this happened but it is worth noting.

Best Case Scenario

Last season’s poor numbers were just a result of bad luck and Brown is more NBA ready than anyone thought. He wins the backup point guard spot and even fills in as a starter for the 10(ish) games that Reggie Jackson misses and plays at a very high level. He approaches league average from deep, is a terror on defense, and a maniacal, driving, foul-drawing machine going to the hoop on offense. He impresses so much that eventually Reggie Jackson leaves in free agency and Brown takes over as the starting point guard, leading the Pistons to glory as the annual sacrifice to the Golden State Warriors.

Worst Case Scenario

Brown just isn’t good enough at anything on offense to be impactful, his handle is too loose to be useful against NBA competition, he can’t shoot, and he can’t finish at the hoop. His effort gives him value on defense but he isn’t much more. He spends most of the season looking unimpressive in the G-League before the Pistons decide they clearly made a mistake and cut him at the end of the season.

Verdict

Brown looks very good, “steal” may be a bit overstated at this point but there’s a chance he ends up being one. His skill-set from college is very intriguing and his performance in Summer-League only added to excitement about the sort of player he could be. His shooting may keep him from being an overly effective wing player going forward, but his defense and ball-handling should allow him to be useful as a secondary or tertiary ball-handler even if he never becomes capable as a true point guard. There is a good chance that his final form ends up being something akin to what Stanley Johnson was last year. While that outcome has been a disappointment for Johnson, who was the 8th pick in the draft, for the 42nd pick that is a very good outcome. Any time you get a rotation player out of the second round it is a win, and even if Brown is the bad version of Stanley Johnson, that is still a rotation player who is useful to have on your team.

One thing that should be said, is that I would be very surprised if Brown made any sort of impact with the Pistons this season and that is ok. His most intriguing potential is as a point guard type, so this season should probably be viewed as a year to groom him before potentially fighting for the backup point guard spot next season after Ish Smith and Jose Calderon (likely) depart. Throw in that Reggie Bullock is an unrestricted free agent and Stanley Johnson a restricted one, there is a very good chance that Brown will have the opportunity to contribute next season. Hopefully, the Pistons don’t bury him on the bench in Detroit and allow him to spend time in Grand Rapids.

What do you think? Could Brown bust into the rotation this year? Is he better fit as a big wing or a huge point guard long-term?

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