It's an incredibly small sample size, but it shows a nice development. No, not that Markel Brown can fly through the air with the greatest of ease, but that he can play! Brown is still a rookie who makes rookie mistakes. His shooting mechanics aren't stellar and he gets lost on defense sometimes, but he has been playing hard, and helping the Nets in a particular area: rebounding.
Brown has started two consecutive games—again, I know this is incredibly small sample size, but in analyzing his development, a number of things are evident. Let's note upfront that in those two games Lionel Hollins has opted to go small with Brown, playing Joe Johnson at power forward. With the rollout of a lineup like this, the Nets need more contributions on the glass from their guards. Guys like Alan Anderson and Brown need to get into the paint and fight for rebounds so the Nets don't get totally killed.
It worked in Denver. Brooklyn thoroughly out-rebounded the Nuggets on Monday with a lot of small-ball lineups, and the team lost the battle of boards 43-37 Wednesday against the Pelicans. Not too bad for a poor rebounding team. Here is where Brown has proven his worth. With springs in his legs, Brown has been able to compete for a lot of 50/50 balls off of shots against guys who have a lot of size on the 6'3" rookie.
Look, Omer Asik is not a leaper by any means, but Brown just swooped in and stole that from the Turkish big man. Brown is not going to match his 11 rebound total from Monday night every game, but if he can continue to crash the boards, he forces the opposition to shift attention from the likes of Thaddeus Young, Mason Plumlee and the other Nets big men. He's not going to average that many rebounds per game, but it is more the attention he can bring ... and shift from his teammates. He simply can grab the ball at a higher point than most players. A 43.5" max vertical will do that for you.
I want to bring up two things from this clip to prove that I'm not just trying to talk up Brown (He is my favorite Net right now and he hasn't even played 200 minutes yet). Here, Brown gets completely lost defending this pick set by Asik. Brown is just anticipating that Eric Gordon is going to flash up to the three-point line. But for a split second, had Tyreke Evans looked for Gordon, it could have been an easy layup. It could be the coverage that Hollins set for these particular screens because Lopez does fall back. Whatever. Brown did get lost for a few seconds, but his ability to find his man off picks should come with more minutes.
Either way, off the shot, Brown runs down the loose ball. No one on New Orleans really goes for it, but Brown is aggressive, gets the ball, and pushes the tempo the other way. The Nets have been playing faster and more athletic since the All-Star break, even though they have a similar pace, and it is plays like this that show that. Guys like Brown and Young love to get out and run and Brooklyn can get defenses on their heels when they push the ball. As Nets PR notes, Brooklyn has posted 16+ fastbreak points for the third straight game after doing so three times in their previous 16 games. (By comparison, the 2001-2002 Jason Kidd-led EC champs averaged 19.1.)
It's not just rebounding.
Deron Williams definitely seems more comfortable pushing the ball up the floor and having more athletic weapons on the floor. I'm sure once Jarrett Jack gets back into the swing of things he will enjoy that too.
Brown is showing fine fundamentals. He slid well on the above clip with the speedy Ty Lawson, and then when he forces Lawson to pass, Brown turns around and boxes out. He ends up losing the ball, but it was a rebound for the rookie and these are very nice plays to see from a player trying to crack the rotation.
Again, the sample is incredibly small, and these could be just flashes from Brown, but he has changed the Nets style of play in his small time on the floor. Since the unofficial second half of the season started, the Nets have been fun to watch. What a concept, right? Fun. So much fun. I don't think Brown is the future of this team, but if he could play 15-20 minutes a night and not hurt the Nets (he hasn't), he can help the team can change their culture.
- Play of the Day - Markel Brown (Video) - NBA.com
- Brown discusses homecoming, loss to Pelicans (Video) - YES Network
- Markel Brown Throws Down 360 Slam Dunk (Video) - The Brooklyn Game
- Markel Brown's Second-Best Dunk On The Night Is Still Pretty Awesome (Video) - The Brooklyn Game
- Brown, Young give Nets new look - Gregory Hrinya - Examiner
- Markel Brown gets thrilling dunk for family, friends - Rod Boone - Newsday