Duane Casey, the Pistons coach, didn’t think much of Bruce Brown as a point guard despite his defensive skills. A little more than a year ago, Casey told beat reporters how he felt. He sounded dour.
#Pistons Dwane Casey on Bruce Brown: "Bruce, going forward, is probably not gonna be a point guard. That's for free agency, draft and all that, but again the experience he's getting there is going to help him to tread water and have to be a secondary ball-handler."— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) February 19, 2020
“All that” turned out to be a trade, the three-team Draft Night deal that sent out the Nets first rounder, two seconds, Dzanan Musa and the rights to Jaylen Hands in return for Brown. Landry Shamet and Reggie Perry. It’s a deal that has made pundits wonder what the hell were the Pistons were thinking.
Casey certainly was right that Brown isn’t a point guard, at least in the Pistons and maybe not in the Nets system either. What is he? Steve Nash was posed that question almost a year to the day after Casey’s comments. Unlike Casey, he sounded happy.
Steve Nash on Bruce Brown: "Bruce is remarkable. He mostly played point guard last year, and now he's what? Playing our center?"— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) February 24, 2021
That was immediately after Brown’s career high 29-point effort vs. the Kings, the second game of a five-game stretch that has seen him average 18.2 points and 5.6 boards while shooting 71.7 percent (not a typo) overall and 50 percent from deep. Brown is 24 years old and will be a restricted free agent this summer.
Mike Mazzeo, writing for Forbes Sports, suggests that Brown’s wide receiver-like build and ability to get open is a big reason why he’s done what he’s done. (Zach Lowe, by the way, chose another sports analogy for Brown’s skill, suggesting he’s a center-fielder!)
Of course, as Mazzeo notes, Brown’s calling-card is on the defensive end — where he’s capable of guarding all five positions due to that football build and 6’9” wingspan. That, not his small-ball center skills, is why the Nets traded for him. Indeed, the Nets have been outscoring opponents by 1.8 points per 100 possessions with Brown on the court.
Now, though, his role has changed. He starts and plays with swagger and joy, as Mazzeo notes. He’s been encouraged to shoot from three and after a very slow start has started making them ... and at clutch points in games. It should be noted that last season in the Motor City. he hit 42 percent from the corners.
But his signature shot is the floater and he admits that during the summer, he worked on it.
“This offseason, I worked on my floaters a lot,” he disclosed. “Then, the guys on the floor make it easier for me. There’s usually wide-open layups for me. In Detroit, I couldn’t shoot any floaters, but now I can show I can do that. That’s always been the issue.”
He is shooting a staggering 75 percent inside the restricted area, as Mazzeo notes.
Detroit, though, is in the rear-view mirror now. How much of his success is due to his luck in being inserted into a line-up that includes three of the NBA’s best offensive player? No doubt some, but also he’s taken advantage of the opportunity ... BIG time.
- Bruce Brown Has Emerged As Unsung Hero For Brooklyn Nets - Mike Mazzeo - Forbes Sports Money