The Trail Blazers offseason is upon us, and the 2018 NBA Draft will provide Portland with an opportunity to supplement its roster with a talented youngster. With only the No. 24 pick at their disposal on draft night, the Blazers will look to beat the odds by finding an NBA-worthy prospect in the latter stages of the first round. Gritty Miami shooting guard Bruce Brown Jr. will be on the receiving end of today’s evaluation.
Bruce Brown Jr.
- Height: 6’5”
- Weight: 191
- Wingspan: 6’9”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: SG
- Age: 21
- Projected draft range: 26-42
- PPG: 11.4 | Per 40: 13.5
- APG: 4.0 | Per 40: 4.8
- RPG: 7.1 | Per 40: 8.4
- STL: 1.3 | Per 40: 1.6
- FG%: 41.5
- 3P%: 26.7
- FT%: 62.9
Brown Jr.’s NBA future is firmly rooted in his defensive acumen. A combination of instincts and athleticism make the 21-year-old shooting guard cable of smothering multiple defensive assignments. Thanks to his ability to cover ground quickly, the Boston native is highly effective at patrolling opposing passing lanes. When his isn’t occupied with locking down his own man, you can find Brown Jr. covering for his teammate’s miscues with stellar help defense inside the arc. He complements his outstanding defense by rebounding at an impressive rate for a player at his position. By consistently putting himself in great spots, Brown Jr. is able to clean the glass at both ends of the court. Along with his defensive talents, the former Miami standout does a adequate job of getting his teammates involved. They aren’t the flashiest passes, but Brown Jr. creates favorable looks for his running mates by keeping his head up when handling the ball.
A gifted defender like Brown Jr. should find himself in a much better position on draft boards, but his lack of shooting has seriously hindered his stock. Without the ability to convert catch-and-shoot looks and jumpers off the dribble, opposing teams began to completely ignore him on the offensive end. His lack of scoring doesn’t improve much inside the arc either, as he struggles with touch on midrange looks. In the paint, the 21-year-old wing depends on finishing at the rim due to an unreliable floater. Defensively, Brown Jr.’s shortcomings are minimal. Perhaps the only critique comes in the form of how aggressively he closes out on shooters. If he isn’t careful, he can get beat by dangerous shooters with believable pump fakes in their arsenal.
After flirting with the NBA Draft last year, Brown Jr. elected to return to the Hurricanes for a second season. Unfortunately for the talented wing, it didn’t go according to plan. Brown Jr.’s shooting numbers regressed across the board, and his season came to an abrupt end after surgery on his left foot. With only 19 games played last year, he did very little to improve his draft stock. The worst part for Brown Jr. is that he had to watch the final 12 games of Miami’s season from the sideline, which included a loss to Loyola Chicago in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Even with his excellent defensive ability, Brown Jr. will face an uphill climb in the NBA. Still, Tony Allen, Andre Roberson, and Marcus Smart provide prospective models. Despite significant offensive flaws, all three have played meaningful minutes on competitive teams. Brown Jr.’s form isn’t completely broken, so there is some hope for modest improvements to his shooting numbers. Teams that are looking to add grit to their rotations will make fine suitors for Brown Jr.’s services. His rebounding ability and versatility on defense should earn him minutes on a second unit as a rookie.
Portland’s defense made considerable strides last season. Adding a player like Brown Jr. would help reinforce those gains. Due to his length-to-speed ratio, the 21-year-old wing could spend time in a variety of backcourt lineups for the Blazers. He could be tasked with tough defense assignments on a regular basis. Floor spacing will hurt his chances to play alongside Jusuf Nurkic, but his shooting deficiencies could be mitigated by playing in lineups that feature Zach Collins. Brown Jr.’s offense won’t fit on a “win now” timeline for Portland, but his defense certainly answers the call. If his deficiencies appear to be somewhat fixable in the pre-draft process, the Blazers might take a flyer on his long-term potential as a 3-and-D wing.
Do you want to see Brown Jr. in a Trail Blazers jersey next season? What prospect would you like to see us highlight next? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com