The sample is small and it's marked by some inconsistency, some clunkers, but Markel Brown, who had disused by Lionel Hollins, has emerged as a reliable rotation player for the Nets since Tony Brown took the reins.
What's obvious is that Markel has had two straight career highs in his last two games, 21 points in the win over the Nuggets and 23 in the loss to the Timberwolves. What's less obvious is how much the 6'3" shooting guard has improved all of his game.
Take the win over the Nuggets. In 33 minutes off the bench, he shot 8-of-12, including 3-of-4 from deep, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out seven assists along with a team high and (then) career high 21 points. He only went to the line twice, but hit both shots. No longer is his shot holding back his development. The reverse is true. Since February 1, he's shooting 46.3 percent from deep and better than 50 percent overall.
In fact in the six games since Joe Johnson was bought out, Brown has stepped up as well as anyone. He's averaged 12.3 points, shot 45 percent from the arc, 50 percent from overall and averaged 3.2 assists and three rebounds in 25 minutes per. Brown is not going to be a star in the NBA, but what the last stretch has shown is that he can be a solid rotation player, not bad for a 44th pick who makes less than a million dollars.
It's a huge turnaround from earlier in the season, when the Nets under Hollins had all but given up on Brown. In an 11-game stretch before Hollins was dismissed, Brown played a total of 19 minutes, with six DNP-CD's. Worse, there was no explanation why a guy who started 29 games last season for a playoff team couldn't get off the bench for one of the worst teams in the NBA. Even after Hollins left, he wasn't getting a lot of minutes. In one five game stretch at the end of January under Tony Brown, he played only nine minutes. Then, starting the second week of February, he was back in the rotation.
Brown did have his fans even back then, one of whom is very important. Mikhail Prokhorov listed Brown (twice!) as one of the team's "young, talented guys" in talking with Sarah Kustok the day after he dumped Hollins and reassigned Billy King. Brown wasn't even aware of it until Brian Lewis told him.
It was a tough time for Brown. "It’s very frustrating, especially watching from the sideline and in your mind you’re thinking, ‘Dang, if I’m out there I could probably help the team do this and do that,’ ’’ Brown told Lewis a month ago. "So it’s very frustrating. But it’s a different story when you get out there because you have to actually show what you can do."
#Nets Markel Brown on his confidence in his shot: "I feel like every shot I shoot is going to go in – at least 50 percent of the time"— Fred Kerber (@FredKerber) March 7, 2016
It's all about confidence, says Brown. And in fact, others around the league are noticing. Bobby Marks has Brown as his under-the-radar free agent this week.
Brown popped onto the radar during his rookie season with the Nets in 2014-15. The versatile 6-foot-3 guard can play both backcourt positions, and his production and minutes have increased since the All-Star break. He has the ability to knock down open 3-pointers and is best suited playing in the open court...
Brown will be a restricted free agent with early Bird rights, and the Nets are protected by the Gilbert Arenas provision if they want to re-sign him.
Oh, how things have changed.