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Pistons Tune-Up: Bruce Brown needs to maintain limited role, not expand it

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Bruce Brown isn’t a PGOTF.

Detroit Pistons v LA Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s a tantalizing path to go down.

A player shows some flashes as a rookie or has a strong Summer League, and fans start asking “What if?” They start dreaming of an expanded role - and usually it’s a really bad idea.

That’s the case for Bruce Brown. Whispers about him handling point guard duties are inevitable after flashing the potential in the Summer League. But, no.

There’s a route that could see Brown as an effective starter in this league. But let’s also be clear: Bruce Brown wasn’t very good last year. Sure, he exceeded expectations as a rookie second round pick and wasn’t a disaster while starting 56 games. That’s commendable. But that also doesn’t mean he was a good player.

To expand Brown’s role this year would be to make the same mistake this franchise made with Stanley Johnson, Andre Drummond, Brandon Knight, and hell pretty much every young player since Rodney Stuckey.

In order for Brown to be an effective starter in this league, he doesn’t need to do more. He just needs to do better at he’s currently bringing to the table. He can be an effective perimeter defender, attack and pressure the rim from the wing, and help push things in transition. That’s all the team needs him to do.

Spending time at point guard and helping set up the offense would just set him up for failure, just like it has for every other Pistons prospect who was asked to do too much too early.

Despite some very clear weaknesses - namely, an inability to put basketballs through basketball hoops - Brown still was an effective player last season.

It’s interesting. Much of what Brown brings to the table as a player is the same as what the Pistons got from Stanley Johnson. A strong, energetic perimeter defender. A guy who can pressure the defense by attacking the rim from the wing or in transition (even if they’re not that good at finishing). A good, but not great ball-handler.

Yet, after four years of getting suckered by Stanley Johnson’s potential, here we are back to trying to tell ourselves about Brown’s potential. Why?

The reason is simple. Brown doesn’t do as much stupid shit. Neither are adept scorers. But Johnson took 17.7 field goal attempts per 100 possessions, compared to Brown’s 10.7. He averaged 3.3 turnovers per 100 possessions, compared to 1.6 from Brown. Johnson had a 19.4 percent usage percentage, Brown’s was just 11.5 percent. Despite only shooting 28 percent from three, Johnson took 8.7 per 100 possessions. Brown was an even worse three point shooter, but much less prolific at just 3.2 attempts per 100 possessions.

Johnson’s inability to play within his limits took him from a lottery pick to just barely hanging on in the league four years later.

Putting Brown at point guard would be going down that same old route. Addressing a player’s weaknesses with wishful thinking, give him a role where he’s in over his head, and fail to put the player in a position to succeed.

It’s difficult to see exactly what folks are looking at when they see Bruce Brown, Point Guard Of The Future. He had an 8.8 percent assist percentage last year. He doesn’t have a terrible handle, but it’s not particularly loose. There’s none of that je n’ais se quoi that screams point guardyness with him.

It mostly seems to be a perception that he’d have more value at point guard than in the role of a defensive stopper on the wing who mostly hangs out in the background on the offensive side of the ball. And certainly, competent point guards are much more valuable.

But perhaps with Brown, the Pistons could finally learn from all of their past mistakes with developing young players. The lesson has been: a player who is able to excel at his role is much more valuable than one who can’t.