From Austin Daye to Stanley Johnson, examples of failed development ain’t too hard to find in Detroit. Multiple whiffs spread out over the last decade laid the groundwork for the franchise’s ceiling to top out at ordinary. Assuming the big-picture goal of Dwane Casey’s tenure is to permanently transform the Pistons’ current environment of average outcomes into a culture of perpetual winning, it will start with an unwavering commitment to develop Bruce Brown.
The Pistons’ 2018 second-round draft pick made a name for himself on the defensive end and routinely held his own against the who’s who of NBA perimeter players. Quite the accomplishment considering a vast majority of second-rounders are never heard from again.
Look, I’m not confident enough to say Brown is definitely something, but I’m also not confident enough to say he’s not something, either. The Pistons are playing with house money from their initial draft day investment, we just don’t know how much they’re up.
Brown’s on-court game includes an inventory of must-improve skills making it easy to dismiss daydreams of his potential long-term impact, but snippets of unique defensive prowess suggest he’s a prime candidate to prioritize development. Adding to the intrigue are the circumstances surrounding Brown’s hype-less arrival in Detroit that make it possible he could check off another elusive culture-building box shared by all elite teams: dumb luck.
Take the Golden State Warriors for example, yes, they’re extremely talented, but it was the innocent twists of fate intertwining precisely at the right time that molded their unstoppable future. From the Timberwolves choosing Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry to Kevin Durant’s convenient availability to meet in the Hamptons to falling ass-backwards into one of the best defensive players in the game, and everything in-between. The amount of dumb luck bestowed upon the Golden State Warriors over the last decade (the same luck-less timeline of Pistons mediocrity) couldn’t be replicated in a million simulations.
The conundrum with basketball-luck is that trying to recognize it in real time is an almost impossible endeavor as there are way too many moving parts. It’s only after the dust settles that luck can be properly diagnosed.
We can, however, easily distinguish the ingredients needed for a delicious serving of luck.
Looking at the Warriors’ roster, the evolution of All-Star Klay Thompson isn’t lucky because lottery picks are supposed to heavily contribute. But the 35th player chosen in any draft won’t share the same expectations as the Green Room invites, so Draymond Green growing into a dominant defensive standout? Yeah, from the Warriors’ perspective, that shit is lucky as hell.
Likewise, if Luke Kennard develops into one of the Pistons’ starting wings for the next six to eight years, that’s not luck. If Bruce Brown developments into one the Pistons’ starting (real starts, not like this year) wings for the next six to eight years, from the Pistons’ outlook, that’s luck.
Now, I’m not comparing Bruce Brown to Draymond Green, or anything like that, because it would be foolish.
But, if I were to compare the two...
First, I’d start by conceding that Green’s IQ is difficult to duplicate. But I’m good with Green-lite.
Then I’d move into the surface similarities like both being second-round, 22-year-old rookies who are defensive-minded, position-less and shot-making challenged players with visible chips resting comfortably on their shoulders.
Major exports for Draymond Green include: confidence, passive-aggressiveness, and irritability. While Brown hasn’t established himself to be on the same level of jerk-ness, it’s a good bet it’s in his DNA.
Then I’d point to some chart like this:
...but, like I said, I’m not comparing the two, that’d be dumb and I’d rightfully get roasted in the comment section.
Whether it’s a timely bounce off the rim or pulling the right lotto ball, luck plays a role in every winning locker room, and the best teams freely admit it. Sadly, you cannot simply hike up to the local Meijer and grab some luck from the fairy-tale aisle. It just kinda happens.
Luck is best described as “when preparation meets opportunity”. With so few second-rounders ever getting this type of run as a rookie, there is a distinct opportunity for Bruce Brown to set up shop in Detroit, but is he prepared?
Remember, I’m not saying anything about what he can or cannot do. I simply do not know one way or another.
But if I was saying something...
I’d start by admitting he did some really fun things this year.
These rearview blocks are all hustle:
He’s certainly not afraid to get physical and annoyingly smoother his check:
A double-take was needed in the open court more than a few times:
And we talked about his fancy pants here.
Put it all together and if you add a reliable corner-three and a splash of hoops-maturity, it has the chance to be the foundation of a 12-year career. Evaluating rookies is so difficult because the learning curve from college or over seas to the NBA is so drastic, but Brown has already showcased a handful of useful tools.
...but, I’m not saying any of that.
Coaches view team and player-related goals thru two distinct lenses: the microscope and the telescope. The microscope point-of-view includes day-to-day judgements that immediately impact the team or player. The telescope is more long-term centric and geared towards nurturing a profitable future. A realistic timeline for the contributing-nightly Bruce Brown, at least the version I’m talking about, is still a couple years down the road making him the ultimate telescope goal. When’s the last time the Detroit Pistons met a meaningful telescope goal?
In the meantime, with no available money to throw at free agents this summer and no high-end draft picks on the horizon, how do the Pistons expect to improve on this season’s near-perfect-health win total? I’ll tell you how: unexpected internal growth. Heading into next year, Brown also becomes one of Casey’s most significant microscope goals.
Bruce Brown’s rarely-traveled path brought him to Detroit where an opportunity to establish himself as a key member of the Pistons’ core begins this summer. Even for a 22-year-old, it will be one the defining moments of his life. What happens when a defining moment comes along? You either define the moment or the moment will define you (h/t Roy McAvoy).
But seriously, I’m not saying anything like that. Are you?