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Wizards 2019-20 season preview: Will Troy Brown Jr. develop into a reliable rotation player?

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Washington Wizards’ former rookie hopes to ease into the starting lineup in the small forward position. Will we see him more this season?

NBA: Summer League-Washington Wizards at Brooklyn Nets Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Wizards drafted Troy Brown Jr. with the 15th overall pick in 2018. At the time, the thought process was that he’d work on his game and would continue to develop while learning from guys like Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre Jr.

Fast forward one year and neither Porter nor Oubre are on the Wizards roster which means they’ll be plenty of opportunities for Brown this season.

His 2018-19 Season

Washington’s coaching staff played Brown Jr. reluctantly at first last year. Brown was out of the Wizards’ rotation at first as Scott Brooks would alternate playing him a few minutes on a given night mixed in with some DNPs-CDs. Save for a few nights where the Wizards were really shorthanded, Brown Jr. didn’t see much playing time until March 2019, giving the Wizards faithful a glimpse of what he was capable of.

Brown appeared in every Wizards game starting in March through the rest of the season averaging 8.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists over that span. On the offensive end, he mostly played off the ball and did most of his scoring either on slashes to the hole or catch- and-shoot attempts. Brown was a notable finisher in the painted area evidenced as he connected on 62.5 percent of his shots from 5 feet or closer. However, Brown’s jumpshot was and still is a work in progress as those numbers became more and more pedestrian the further away he got from the hole.

Brown’s strongest performance of the 2018-2019 season came on March 31st against the Denver Nuggets where he exploded for a career-high 24 points while knocking down five three-pointers in the process.

What His 2019-20 Season Could Look Like

Troy Brown Jr.’s 2019-2020 season is not off to the best start. Entering his second year, he’s currently dealing with a calf strain which is expected to keep him out about four weeks. If that timetable for his return is accurate, that’ll mean his availability on opening night will be in jeopardy and he may end up missing the first week or two of the regular season.

Once Brown returns from injury, it’s a given that he’ll be inserted into the starting lineup right away. As we saw in the Las Vegas Summer League, even though he was listed at a forward position, he mainly played with the ball in his hands. Brown looked much more comfortable as a facilitator than he did off the ball. It’ll be important that the Wizards use Brown as the trigger man of the offense as defenses will be keyed in on Bradley Beal and just have Isaiah Thomas (who’s currently injured) and Ish Smith on their roster as the only reliable point guards.

Once the Wizards were eliminated from playoff contention and Brown saw his minutes increase, his assist numbers spiked as well. Assuming Brown only missed the first week or two of the season and this injury doesn’t lag, it’ll be interesting to see if Brown will be able to get his assists up to 5 per 36 minutes. Playing with the ball is clearly more natural for him so hopefully the coaches will play to his strengths and get him in more pick-and-roll opportunities and in space so he can create for others.

As far as his scoring goes, Brown will need to develop a more consistent shot. As mentioned, he’s a good finisher around the hole but shot just 32 percent from three-point range last year. If Bradley Beal plays at a near All-NBA level and Isaiah Thomas returns to even 80 percent of what he was in 2017, Brown should get plenty of open looks as defenses will have to key in on those two.

If Brown takes what I think is the logical next step - we’re looking at a 10-5-5 guy next year. He’ll have plenty of opportunities to get his shots up, learn through his mistakes, and won’t have the stress of looking over his shoulder after every mistake. Brown has already proven that he’s a good rebounder, now it’s up to him to work on his jump shot and for the coaching staff to put him in advantageous positions with the ball in his hands.

At the end of the day, Brown really just needs to show that he’s capable of being a solid rotation player on a nightly basis and is worthy of the place in the starting five. It’s unrealistic to think that he’ll make some enormous leap so all eyes will be on him as he needs to prove that he can be a foundation guy for the Washington Wizards for years to come.