Officially, the Nets trade with the 76ers brought them Ben Simmons, Andre Drummond, Seth Curry, two first round picks and generated a couple of trade exceptions. While Simmons has yet to play, Drummond and Curry have played well.
Unofficially, though, the Nets got another piece in the deal for James Harden and Paul Millsap: a revived Bruce Brown. After DeAndre’ Bembry had to be cut to balance out the roster, Brown has become much the same player he was last season... and more. You can’t call it a rejuvenation. After all, Brown is only 25.
Since the February 10 blockbuster, Brown has rejoined the starting lineup and averaged 13.9 points, 6.0 boards, 3.4 assists and 1.6 steals. He is shooting 52.1 percent overall and 39.4 from deep. Moreover, he has played more than solid defense, often taking on the opponent’s top wing.
And he’s getting better. As our own NetsDaily analytics guy, Professor B, points out...
For those who read my recent piece on real plus-minus ratings, BB provides a good example of how they evolve over the course of the season. Over the past two weeks, his offensive rating has improved from -2.7 to -2.2, and his defensive rating has improved from +0.3 to +0.6. The new ratings are essentially weighted averages of the old ratings and intervening performance, so his recent work on both sides of the ball has been much more effective.
Just how his game has rounded out was shown on February 14, shortly after the trade went down. Brown had 19 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals and 3 blocks. Two more blocks and he’d have become 14th player ever to accomplish the elusive 5x5, five or more points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Derrick Coleman was the last Net to accomplish a 5x5, nearly 30 seasons back.
And as Brian Lewis writes this weekend, it’s all a BIG improvement from the first 46 games when the 6’4” sparkplug averaged 6.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists. He shot 47.5 percent from the field and only 29.7 percent on 3-pointers. In that time, he scored double figures 11 times. He even fell out of the rotation in favor or Bembry and/or Jevon Carter who was cut shortly after the trade in favor of Goran Dragic.
Brown’s re-emerge wasn’t just about opportunity. It was about him trying to improve his game within the new reality of the Nets offense, one hurt by Joe Harris’s season-ending ankle injury, then Kevin Durant’s MCL sprain and Kyrie Irving’s lack of availability.
He went to assistant coach Royal Ivey who has a deserved reputation for helping players develop or in the case of Brown, reclaim their powers on offense.
“Early in the season, it was all mental for me,” Brown said recently. “I was trying to fit in the role that I had last year, and it wasn’t working. So I got kind of frustrated, and that’s when I kind of got out of the rotation.
“Then I went to ‘Smoke’ [Ivey’s nickname], and I was like, ‘Bruh, I want to get better.’ So we got to work on something different. I started working on a little bit of guard stuff, just getting back to my game, the way I played my whole life, and it started to work.”
Brown, who as anyone who’s watch his commercials for Pfizer, sees his game as “not pretty,” as he proved last season with his jack-of-trades game. Now, with Ivey’s help, he went back a bit to how he played in Detroit before he was traded to Brooklyn in 2021.
His teammates and head coach have noticed the change and appreciated it, as Lewis writes.
“Last year, we used him as a screener and roller to the rim, and he’s effective in that role,” Kevin Durant said. “But now, it helped him and his development as a player playing in different spots on the floor. So this year, he’s playing like an all-around player: guard, shooting 3s, getting it off the rim, defending as he always does.”.
Without Irving and Simmons — and of course Harris — the Nets are vulnerable to having KD double and triple covered. Someone has to step up and make shots if the Nets offense is to work. It’s starting to work, thanks to Brown, Curry and Dragic in particular.
“They’re just doubling Kev and teams are still try to disrespect me, like I can’t hoop” he said following Friday’s win over Portland, a game where he scored 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting. “So, I’m just taking advantage of it. It definitely puts a chip on my shoulder.”
It’s more than just shooting and defense that’s improved with the new Bruce Brown. There’s his decison-making as well,” said his head coach.
“He’s getting the ball in the half-roll, or when they’re doubling Kevin or Ky, he’s getting the ball and able to drive it and make the next play,” Steve Nash said. “We’ve pushed him to make great decisions in there: to look to score, get to the rim or shoot his floater when he’s open, but when a defender rotates, to make a decision then create opportunities for his teammates. And he’s really improving in that as well. Really proud of Bruce and what he brings every night.”
There’s something else as well that goes back to having a steady job, no looking over his shoulder. Brown seems happier on the court, more confident. Success of course will do that for you.
- ‘We got to work on something different’: What fueled Bruce Brown’s perfectly timed Nets revival - Brian Lewis - New York Post