Is he a small forward? Is he a back-up point guard? Lots of questions surround Troy Brown Jr.’s position with the Washington Wizards.
But I have a question of my own: does it really matter?
James Harden is a shooting guard, point guard, power forward, all-of-the-above for the Houston Rockets. I’m not saying Brown is, or ever will be, Harden. What I’m saying is, who cares what you label a players as long as he’s having a positive impact on the game. In my mind, role is much more important than the somewhat antiquated idea of traditional positions.
We had Brown on the Bleav in Wizards podcast and asked him about his position. His response was mature and I’d encourage you to check out the full episode if you’re curious about him as a player or person. To summarize, Brown doesn’t care what you call him and views himself simply as a basketball player.
We talked with him about how the team tried to use him as a three-and-D wing earlier in the year and that not being his ideal role given his current skill-set. But he does seem committed to putting in the work to improve on that end.
We discussed with him his experience as a point guard in the NBA’s Orlando bubble, which included touching on the learning curve because of all the additional responsibilities that come with that. That role requires a player to quarterback the offense and Brown will need minutes and reps to get more comfortable doing that.
That conversation confirmed everything my eyes told me watching him play in Orlando: he’s a work in progress with the potential to be a Swiss Army knife for the Wizards long-term.
In 26 minutes per game, Brown averaged 10.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals, and only 1.1 turnovers. Those are solid for a second year player who was 20 years old for most of the season. They’re even more interesting when contrasted with a much more heralded prospect who also plays a facilitating role for his team.
I’m not saying Brown and Lonzo Ball are the same player or will play the same role. But the comparison provides perspective when putting Brown’s numbers up against someone tasked with creating for his teammates. It’s also important to keep in mind that Ball is almost two years older and has an additional year of NBA experience. He also drastically retooled his shot and his 37.5% from three represents a major improvement compared to the 33% he shot in his second season.
I could definitely rattle off a bunch of impressive individual stat lines like the 26 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists he had in a December win against the Knicks. Or the 25 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 assists he had against Denver in January. But some of my favorite performances from Brown came during the eight seeding games in the bubble.
There was a 22 point, 10 rebound, 8 assists game against Brooklyn. He had 20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists against New Orleans. And he closed the season with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists versus Boston.
The game that impressed me most of the bunch was against Philadelphia. He had 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists, which is a solid line. But how he got those stats was much more meaningful. He went 0-for-3 from three in that game but didn’t let it stop him from having a positive impact on the game.
Several times he drove right at Joel Embiid. On one particular play Embiid forced a miss but Brown got his own rebound and went back up for a lay-up. Afterwards, he shot Embiid a look before heading back down the court. It was really great to see no fear against one of the league’s most physically imposing players. Larry Hughes recently stressed on our show the importance of making it clear to the league that you’re not scared. If the top players smell fear they will come at you relentlessly.
For someone 6-6, Brown has an exceptional handle. He’s also a great rebounder for his size. He uses that combination of skills to take the ball off the glass and push it in transition. He has such good court vision that he’s able to make spectacular passes to cutting teammates. However, that often gets him into some trouble because not all of his teammates see the play unfolding the way he does. Playing with better teammates next year should allow him to showcase his skills even more.
Thirty. Four. Percent. That’s Brown’s three-point percentage for 2019-2020. It was even lower in 2018-2019. I’m not implying he won’t improve in that area, but it's certainly not ideal. After speaking to him, I have the utmost confidence that he’ll put in the long hours it will take to get better. During the podcast, Hughes told Brown that it’s all about getting those reps from the NBA line, and Brown seemed excited about proving doubters wrong.
For the time being, that’s the kill that’s going to determine how much impact he can have next season. John Wall is at his best when surrounded by superior shooters, and that’s not Brown at the moment. It’ll be hard to play the two together down the stretch of close games because teams will dare them both to shoot. Odds are he will have a long off-season to work on it so cross your fingers, folks! Personally, I'm confident we’ll see incremental progress in his shooting next year.
Future with the Wizards
The Wizards will pay Brown $3.4 million in 2020-2021, so unless he’s included in a trade he will be back next season. Then they have a decision to make. The Wizards have a team option on his contract for 2021-22, which would pay Brown $5.2 million.
We’ve had so many knuckleheads on this team over the years. Some of them lovable but knuckleheads nonetheless. Brown is the opposite of a knucklehead. He’s the kind of guy you want your locker room filled with. He produced on the court at a reasonable level for a second-year player, he’s high character, and he’s motivated to improve. When you boil it down, that’s the kind of player the Wizards should hang onto and help develop.