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The Wizards need to prioritize Troy Brown’s development for the rest of the season

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NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Wizards only have 22 games left in what can only be described as an eventful season. Eventful in this case does not mean good, as the Wizards stand in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, 12 games under .500, and four games behind the eighth-place Hornets. To get in the playoffs, they’ll need to pass the streaking Orlando Magic, winners of eight of their last ten, the Miami Heat--who just got Goran Dragic back--and either the Pistons or Hornets to get back in the playoff race.

While no one expects the Wizards to dial back their efforts in spite of their long odds, they need to have an eye towards the future. In the past, we knew what young players the Wizards should be focused on. We’d see John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter pose together at Media Day every fall, talking about making the leap, being aggressive, proving doubters wrong, and making the conference finals. Now, that era is over, or at least on a long hiatus as John Wall recovers and the team looks for another star to put alongside Wall and Bradley Beal. The future is uncertain, but there’s no doubt the Wizards should begin preparing for it now.

It starts with rookie Troy Brown Jr., the Wizards’ only first round pick from the last six drafts that is still on the roster. He’s played a grand total of 212 minutes this season, which puts him on pace to play fewer minutes than Porter did during his rookie season. At least Porter had excuses because he spent part of the year injured and the Wizards were in win-now mode. Brown has been healthy, other than a minor ankle injury, and Washington is outside of the playoff picture.

The problem is amplified when you look forward to next year’s roster. Brown is only one of four players under contract for next season. Two of the other four are John Wall—who may not be able to play at all next season—and Ian Mahinmi, who has bounced in and out of the rotation during three forgettable seasons in Washington.

Even if the Wizards are optimistic about Brown’s development, they cannot pretend to have any idea what to expect night in and night out from a player who is in the middle of what is turning into an NBA redshirt season.

Minutes that could go to him, are instead going to 26-year old journeyman, Chasson Randle. This is not a slight to Randle, who has admirably battled his way on to the roster and become a contributor. He is a decent enough shooter (44.8 percent from 3), but he struggles as a playmaker and has a -3.6 net rating this season. Should the development of the Wizards’ first round pick be curtailed for him though, especially in an underwhelming season?

It would behoove the Wizards to see if Troy, who 247Sports had ranked as the second best point guard prospect in his high school class can play that fill that playmaker role, especially considering the Wizards do not have a healthy point guard under contract next season? He offers length and rebounding potential at the point guard position, a premium in what is turning into a rangy Eastern Conference going up against teams like the Bucks and 76ers.

If they don’t think he’s a point guard, give him an audition on the wing where the Wizards lack depth after trading Porter and Kelly Oubre Jr. This is another position that is currently unmanned beyond this season and where there is a need to find a long-term contributor. Unfortunately for Brown, nine-year veteran Wesley Johnson—who came to Washington in the Markieff Morris trade—is averaging 18 minutes per game since joining the team earlier this month.

Johnson is on his sixth team in the NBA, shooting 40.6 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from the 3-point line. We know what Johnson brings to a team and have a long resume to back it up; we don’t know what Troy brings.

The Wizards now have a G-League affiliate, and they’ve been able to leverage it to get Brown some playing time he would not have received otherwise. However, his combined on-court time lags behind several of his teammates who have bounced between the Wizards and the Go-Go.

Minutes played with Wizards & Go-Go

Player Wizards Go-Go Total
Player Wizards Go-Go Total
Jordan McRae 172 913 1,085
Thomas Bryant 964 33 997
Devin Robinson 32 757 789
Chasson Randle 466 241 707
Troy Brown Jr. 212 339 551

Troy is last amongst these five players in total minutes. I would like to think that this is mitigated by the practice time he gets with Washington, but that has been limited to help manage Bradley Beal’s workload.

Brown has shown potential during his opportunities in the Summer League and the G-League. In Las Vegas, he averaged 18.4 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game on 43 percent shooting from the field. In the G-League he’s averaged 16.9 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game on 48 percent shooting from the field. However, his play in those 14 combined games is a small sample against sub-NBA competition and do not answer important questions the team should have about their first round pick.

  1. What position does Troy project to play?
  2. Is he going to be counted on to contribute next season?
  3. What impact will his development and projected role have on plans for this summer, where the Wizards have limited resources available and several roster spots to fill?

There are only 22 games left in the season and no, those games won’t answer those questions in their entirety, but by starting to figure out the answer now, they can start to figure out what they do or don’t have with Troy Brown Jr.