So rough, that Dwane Casey said the late great Kobe Bryant, who the Pistons honored before the game, would be “embarrassed” of the product Detroit left on the floor.
However, there was one thing that caught this writer’s eye during Monday night’s loss. And quite honestly, it has been on my mind all season long: The play of sophomore guard Bruce Brown.
Brown finished the game with only eight points and six assists; nothing to write home about. However, Brown displayed exactly why the Pistons are high on him, and why every Pistons fan needs to be excited about his placement in Detroit’s young core.
Before getting more into what was put on display in the Pistons most recent loss, and other recent games such as the Brooklyn Nets loss on Sunday, lets rewind the clock back a year. Brown was a second-round pick that no one in the Pistons community really thought much about. There was more hype about fellow second-rounder Khryi Thomas, who Ed Stefanski and the Pistons traded up to get at the 38th pick in the 2018 NBA draft.
The Miami product would go on this season to play 74 games for a playoff team, starting in 56 of them. Brown was a good defender for a rookie, but Pistons fans were just getting over the, “young player who can really defend but is horrific on offense” syndrome with Stanley Johnson, who Brown reminded a lot of fans of.
In his first season, Brown had a true shooting percentage of 46.9 percent, shot 25.8 percent from deep, and had a eFG percentage of 43.6. He also struggled finishing around the rim, shooting 56.3 percent within three feet of the rim. Those are some blindingly bad offensive numbers.
As a result, Brown didn’t have the ball in his hands a lot. Brown wasn’t ready (or good enough) to handle the ball, and this Pistons team had Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin dominating the usage. All Detroit asked Brown to do was defend, hustle hard, and cut to the basket when Griffin was double teamed on the block. And even with such a minimal role, a usage-rate-of-11.5-percent role, Brown was still largely inefficient.
However, Dwane Casey kept telling everyone Brown’s future was at point guard, because of Brown’s flashes of passing vision and a raw passing ability. But you could’ve said the same about Stanley Johnson during his rookie season. So, although you could see why Casey would say that, not many took it very seriously; most took it more as a coach supporting his young guy.
Fast forward a year and Brown, after playing zero percent of his minutes his rookie season at point guard, has played 32 percent of his minutes at point guard this season. Against Cleveland, Brown showed off the playmaking that leaves anyone monitoring his development in awe.
He showed aggressiveness attacking the rim, while keeping his head up and finding players around the basket and beyond the three-point line.
This is just a continuation of everything we’ve seen thus far from Brown this season, even going all the way back to Summer League, where the sophomore put on a absurd display of passing. His improvements in ball-handling and creating offense for others in the offense is only the tip of the iceberg with Brown’s season.
Brown also has been asked upon to carry much more of a load on offense this season. With the injuries to Jackson that has kept him out the majority of the season, and Griffin, who is now sidelined for the year and was never healthy on the court this season, Brown’s role has been increased.
Increasing the workload of a second-year player who was one of the most inefficient offensive players in the NBA the season prior is usually a recipe for disaster. Exposing a player this wet behind the ears to this much responsibility could not only turn the entire fanbase against him, but also shatter the players confidence.
Against all odds, however, Brown has gotten much more efficient with an increase of usage and responsibility.
First and foremost, Brown has done a fine job generating open shots for his teammates. Through 45 games this season, Brown has 417 points generated by assists, to last season’s 228 points.
Brown’s usage rate this season has increased 4.5 percent, going from 11.5 to 16.0 percent.
His true shooting has gone from 46.9 percent to 52.3 percent.
He’s shooting 60.6 percent from within three feet of the rim, a 3.9 percent increase over his rookie season.
Brown’s three-point percentage has gone up nearly 10(!) percent — from 25.8 percent to 34.7 percent. Along with this, Brown zoned in on his shooting from the corner throughout the entire offseason.
I talked with Bruce about his improved three-point shooting after the game.— KUpa Kid (@KuKhahilNBA) December 27, 2019
Here’s a snippet of that.
(Yes, I was a bit nervous at first) pic.twitter.com/GJ37aDMsFx
Brown gave me insight into the work he put in last summer to improve his outside shot: “I literally shot only from the corner in the summer, because that’s where all my shots came from last year.”
The hard work certainly has paid off, as he is shooting 54.7 percent of his three-point attempts from the corner... converting these attempts at a 46.3 percent clip— a 10.6 percent increase over the previous season.
For more in depth talk on specifically Brown’s shooting this season, take a glance at this article I wrote a few days before Christmas. But Brown has improved in any area you wanna look at.
Brown’s aggression attacking the rim has opened up his entire offensive game. As pointed out earlier, Brown struggled to finish around the rim. Despite Brown’s freakish athletic ability, he didn’t show it nearly enough in his rookie season. In 74 games, Brown only dunked the ball 16 times and drew only 29 shooting fouls last season. Through 45 games this season, Brown has already topped both of those marks— dunking the ball 19 times and drawing 43 shooting fouls.
Brown is learning how to use his crazy athleticism and 6’9 wingspan to try to finish through and above contact, something that was a point of emphasis this past offseason for the young guard.
What a game for Bruce Brown. He talked about creating, finishing at the rim and getting to the FT line all summer. Did all three things tonight. Has 12 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds, and got to the stripe six times.— James Edwards III (@JLEdwardsIII) October 12, 2019
To drill this point even further, Brown only converted on eight and-ones last season — he’s already at seven through 45 games this season.
Bruce Brown wasn’t recognized by Pistons fans as much more than any other second-round pick before his rookie season. The doubts remained after his rookie season, as many thought he simply lacked an NBA-caliber offensive skillset.
The Detroit Pistons season may be lost, and the playoffs should be an afterthought for this team. Overall, Pistons fans haven’t found much to be happy about this season.
However, there’s been been bright spot all along; and it’s been getting brighter and brighter in front of everyone’s eyes.
All the work put in last summer is paying off in big ways thus season for the 23-year-old.
It’s time to put some respeck on that man’s name.