When I started writing, I mistakenly thought Isaac Bonga had won the poll. I ran him through the statistical doppelgänger machine and the name that popped to the top literally made laugh. But, it turns out Troy Brown was the victor (65-61) when I double-checked, so you’ll have to wait on Bonga’s statistical twin.
Two years into his career, Brown remains something of a tabula rasa. Is he a big PG? I could argue it. Is he a SG? Not really, but he could be. A SF? That’s what Scott Brooks thinks, and he’s the coach.
In truth, Brown doesn’t quite fit in any of those spots, though he probably could depending on what he emphasizes in his development and what role the team gives him. He’s a pretty good player (around league average this season), and given that he just completed his age 20 season, odds are decent that he’ll improve.
Like teammate Thomas Bryant, Brown is fairly unique statistically. As I mentioned when I wrote about Rui Hachimura, in the statistical doppelgänger machine, 100 is a perfect match (I’ve never seen it be anyone other than the player himself) and the closer to 100, the better the match.
Most players I’ve run through the machine have several players from history score in the 90s. Brown’s closest match squeaked in with a 90. He has decent ball handling and play-making, off and on shooting (his .341 from three-point range was almost league average), his defense isn’t bad (one of the few Wizards who can make that claim), and he rebounds like a PF. There just aren’t that many guys who can do all that.
While there aren’t a ton of guys with his full set of attributes, what leaves him somewhat unformed is he doesn’t have one defining characteristic to his game. And that shows up in the statistical comps.
If I was running the Wizards and using this doppelgänger machine as anything other than a toy, a) I’d fire myself (well, not really because I’m sure the paycheck and perks would be nice) and b) I wouldn’t be thrilled by the names at the top. But, there are some intriguing names that suggest some possible paths for Brown’s continued development.
Here’s the list:
- Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors, age 20
- Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings, 21
- Hedo Turkoglu, Sacramento Kings, 22
- Joe Johnson, Phoenix Suns, 21
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats, 19
- Maurice Harkless, Orlando Magic, 19
- Paul George, Indiana Pacers, 20
- Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers, 22
- Darius Miles, Los Angeles Clippers, 20
- Martell Webster, Portland Trail Blazers, 21
Brown would probably leap for joy at the Barnes comp because if history repeats itself, he’d be in line for a minimum $167 million in career earnings. Barnes hasn’t been bad, but that’s not the same as good either. He’s been...okay. Right around league average, and not much better. Yet somehow, he got one maximum contract and another one that may as well be (though the salaries decrease on his current deal).
Still, the best words to describe him are “okay” and “decent” and “not bad” and if he retires in 2023, he’ll have raked in $167 million.
And by the way, Brown was better in their most similar season. Barnes had the better three-point percentage, but Brown shot better from two-point range and the free throw line, and also had more rebounds, assists, and steals while committing fewer turnovers and scoring a shade more.
I can see the comp with Casspi, but I dismiss it because Brown was already better this season than Casspi ever was.
Now we’re to the good part. Turkoglu? Yes, please.
Joe Johnson? You mean, the seven-time All-Star and one-time All-NBA player? Yeah, Wizards would take that from Brown, who was better than Johnson at the same point in their careers. Johnson didn’t launch until year four.
Ditto for Paul George. Keep in mind that at age 20 it was far from inevitable that George would become a star. He was a promising but below average rookie — a mere 10th pick — who became good (138 PPA) in his second season, and took off from there. His pre-broken leg peak was a 163 PPA (in PPA, 100 is average and higher is better). His overall peak was a 184 this past season. George is a couple inches taller, but there are worse players upon whom Brown could model himself.
The point, of course, is not that Brown is the next Joe Johnson or Paul George. But, the Wizards could take some encouragement from players who performed in similar ways at a similar age. When these guys were 20, 21, 22, it wasn’t clear they’d become quality NBA players. That’s true of Brown too.
The list of players is short on busts, though, which suggests Brown is likely to be at least productive for the next several seasons.
The diversity of styles suggests a few different paths he could follow — a 3&d guy like Barnes (who was at his best and most valuable when he was focused on taking open threes), an iso-ball hero like Johnson (Brown’s probably already too much of a playmaker for that), or a do-everything superhero like George?
The guy Brown reminds me of more than anyone else is Paul Pressey, a point-forward for the Don Nelson Milwaukee Bucks back in the 1980s. Pressey doesn’t show up as “similar” because they didn’t shoot threes back then. In 11 NBA seasons, Pressey had 356 three-point attempts. Brown will almost certainly pass him in career attempts next season, his third in the league.
Pressey had serious game though — good ball handler, playmaker and rebounder who scored on good efficiency. His best year was 1985-86 when he made first team All-Defense (for the second time) and posted a career-high 169 PPA.
Who’s next in The Doppelgänger Machine?
This poll is closed