In advance of the 2018 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down prospects, both from the college ranks and internationally, with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks will be evaluating in the coming days. More than 50 prospects will be profiled in this space and, in the end, the goal is to inform Hawks fans prior to June 21, when the Hawks are scheduled to make four selections with the first 34 picks.
Today’s edition focuses on Miami guard Bruce Brown.
After losing half of his sophomore season to a foot injury, Bruce Brown decided to forgo his last two years of eligibility at the University of Miami to enter the 2018 NBA Draft. Brown went through a similar process last season without hiring an agent but ultimately decided to return to school.
Given the injury and regression in his offensive game, that decision looks to have been a poor one, as Brown’s draft stock has dropped over the past 12 months. The Sporting News’ Chris Stone mocked Brown at 13 in late December and our own Brad Rowland had him at 14 earlier in that month, but now it look as though Brown will be targeted to come off the board in the late first round or early second at the earliest.
Brown was heralded after his freshman year as a do-it-all guard/wing who could defend at a high level, shoot out to the college three, and even bring some secondary pick-and-roll playmaking to the table, but his shot fell off a cliff and his finishing at the basket was almost as bad. Brown scored 43 points on 58 jumpers this season, better than just 21 percent of Division I players, and it wasn’t that he was taking a ton of shots off the dribble to bring down his numbers: he took more shots in catch-and-shoot situations than off the dribble and scored in the 16th percentile on those shots.
The playmaking is all the remained of his offensive game—despite trouble creating his own offense, Miami scored at an elite level whenever he ran a pick-and-roll, scoring 1.04 points per possession on 168 shots, fouls, or turnovers, which grades out better than 87 percent of his D-I counterparts.
The defense remains elite, though he certainly didn’t measure out as an elite defender in the drills he completed at the NBA Combine this past week. He was relatively average in the lateral speed and vertical explosiveness tests, though these measurements aren’t always accurate to describe a player’s functional athleticism on the floor.
Everything suggests that Brown should be a very capable defender at the NBA level and at 6’5, almost 200 pounds, and a plus-4 wingspan, he might even be able to switch 1 through 3 to give his team’s defense some needed versatility. If these playoffs have shown us anything, it’s that versatility on both ends of the floor is necessary to win and Brown should be able to bring that flexibility in spades, at least on defense.
The strongest NBA comparison for an offensively-challenged playmaker who can defend at a high level is Marcus Smart, who has made himself into a very good player despite the fact that he was one of the least-efficient players in the league. Brown’s ceiling looks very similar to Smart’s: versatile, strong defender capable of switching to three or even four positions and can make plays in pick-and-roll for his teammates but doesn’t have to be guarded if he doesn’t have the ball and almost assuredly won’t be filling up the scoresheet himself.
Still, there’s some hope that Brown’s offensive game will return to the level it was during his freshman year, at which point he was an above-average shooter and finisher to go with his playmaking and defense. No longer worth the lottery selection he could have been had he built upon his freshman year, Brown could still be a good pickup for a Hawks team that will be more defensive-minded under head coach Lloyd Pierce with their No. 30 or No. 34 picks in this year’s draft.