Bruce Brown took a big step forward this past season for the Detroit Pistons. While it is definitely encouraging to see the Brown’s game grow, he still has a long way to go.
It’s rare you see a player take a big step in every deficiency in one offseason, so if Brown needed to focus on one area where he struggles which should it be?
There’s many routes you can go here. You could ask for Brown to continue improving his outside shot, which went from 25.4% his rookie season to 35.1% this season (if you take away all heaves). If you believe Brown’s future is at point guard, looking for improved ball-handling from the Miami alum.
As said before, there are plenty of options here to key in on. However, there is one clear answer here that would help Brown become more effective as soon as next year.
The answer: finishing around the rim.
Brown improved in every aspect this season, sure, but he still is far from entrenching himself in most NBA starting lineups. If Brown were to take the next step at improving his accuracy around the rim, it would instantly make him a really good player.
The 23-year-old has showcased his playmaking ability through two years in Detroit, specifically last season. This is by far Brown’s biggest plus on offense, as he’s really gotten accustomed to making nice dump-off and kick-out passes to open players. Brown finished in the 84th percentile in assist to usage ratio.
The problem is, Brown finished in the 16th percentile in turnover percentage. Bad decision-making is partly to blame, sure, but another reason for this right now is his lack of ability to finish at the rim.
In order to become a great playmaker, you need the defense to bend to you and attract the opposing team’s attention when you get in positions of vulnerability. The inability to do so often makes passing lanes tighter and can lead to indecision by the ball-handler.
In the clip above, you see Brown gets to the key. However, once he gets there, he’s indecisive on what he wants to do and it causes a turnover. This is an example of where improved finishing ability and confidence in that ability can eliminate a turnover. If Brown was a better finisher and had more confidence in that skill, he could’ve drawn some free throws and potentially an and-one.
There are many out there who will say Brown’s outside shot is the main focus this off-season, but that’s not the case. First of all, he’s already taken a nice step in that department. To add on to the near 10% improvement from deep overall, Brown finished as an above-average shooter from the corners.
One positive from continued improvement from deep is that it will open up driving lanes and should make him even more dangerous and effective at the rim. If Brown doesn’t focus on improving at the basket, though, it won’t matter how wide the lanes open up.
To be blunt, Brown also is simply much worse right now at finishing at the rim than he is at shooting.
For a player who takes 51% of his shots at the rim, which is in the 98th percentile for his position, it’s really eye-popping how bad his efficiency is in this area. Brown shot 53% at the rim, which is in the 24th percentile for his position. In other words, Brown is in the bottom quarter of the league at his position when it comes to finishing at the rim.
Yeah, that’s pretty bad.
Plays like the one above gives you mixture of good and bad with Brown. As I have mentioned nearly 100 times this past season, Brown’s first step and sheer athleticism allows him to beat guys off the dribble even when the defender is completely ignoring his outside shot.
As you see, Brown beats Shai Gilgeous-Alexander rather easily off the dribble. However, Brown is incapable of completing the play over a relatively small defender at the rim.
This happened far too often and cannot continue to happen at this rate moving forward if Brown ever wants to become a good player.
The crazy thing is, Brown has all the tools to become a better finisher.
Athleticism, length, aggressiveness, you name it.
He’s even rather good at drawing fouls! Brown drew fouls on 10.9% of his shots, which ranks in the 81st percentile in the league relative to his position.
This is what makes Brown such a fascinating and intriguing prospect for the Pistons. With every negative, there’s a positive that makes you go, “huh, he could really be something.”
He struggles to finish at the rim, but he’s very capable of getting there and drawing fouls.
He turns the ball over too much, but also creates a lot of assists when he has the ball in his hands.
He can’t shoot off the dribble, but he was rather respectable from the corners this season.
Brown has many things to work on, yes. But, the key to unlocking Brown’s potential right away and becoming an objectively really good player next season is his ability to finish at the rim.
If Brown improves his finishing, you now have a legitimate two-way player on your roster who can: draw fouls, find open teammates, score for himself at the rim, and guard the opposing teams best guard with relative success.
This improvement would not only help cut down on his turnovers and open up even more passing lanes for the young guard, but it also would also improve his overall efficiency from the field.
Bruce Brown worked extremely hard last season to become a better player, and it showed on the court almost instantly. His work ethic is crazy and he’s shown the willingness to put in the time to get better.
If Brown can put the same type of effort last off-season into improving his finishing next year, the Pistons will have a legit piece moving forward.