After a solid rookie campaign, which saw him crack Dwane Casey’s starting lineup, Bruce Brown Jr. came into the 2019 season looking to expand his game and contribute at a higher level. But rather than start this review at the first game of this past season, we need to take a step back to mid-summer in Las Vegas, Nevada.
When the news broke in late June that Brown would be the Pistons lead point guard in Summer League action, many were intrigued by the decision. That intrigue rapidly turned into optimism as Brown shone in the primary ball handler role for the Pistons Summer League squad. In the four games that Brown featured for Detroit, he led the team to a 4-0 record. The former Miami Hurricane sparkled as the lead dog, leaving Vegas with averages of 13.5 points, eight rebounds, and 8.3 assists. Brown also drew a bit of national attention with a triple-double effort in less than three quarters against the 76ers, despite often drawing the defensive attention of the defensive-specialist rookie, Matisse Thybulle.
Despite showing out at point guard throughout the summer, Brown started the 2019 regular season slotted in at starting shooting guard. This would not last long however, as a clearly hobbled Reggie Jackson made it only two games before being shut down for roughly two months with back issues. On November 2, 2019, Brown made his first official start at point guard for the Pistons in a 113-109 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. In that game, Brown erupted for a career-high 22 points on 8-20 shooting. Perhaps the most impressive stat from that night was that Brown finished with ZERO turnovers in over 40 minutes of action.
From there, Brown would go on to be listed as a point guard every night until Detroit’s matchup with the Washington Wizards on December 26th. In that time, Brown flashed playmaking savvy, an improved three-point shot, and of course his tenacious defense and vicious mean mugs. Paired with Christian Wood, there may not be a more dynamic mean mug duo in the league! All jokes aside, Brown showed an increased versatility throughout the season, even making a few appearances at small forward alongside backcourt pairings of Derrick Rose, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway, and yes, Brandon Knight.
Looking back on Brown’s 2019 campaign, there are numerous areas of growth that stand out. From a box score standpoint, Brown saw significant increases in nearly every major category. On the floor, Brown became more assertive at both ends. Fearless on defense, Brown was a swarming pest. He forced turnovers, drew fouls, and flat out got under the skin of his opponents. Offensively, it was clear he had more faith in his shot. After shooting 25.8% from deep in his rookie season, Brown made it a priority to focus on his shot heading into 2019. A near nine percent jump from 25.8% to 34.4% has made it clear that the hard work is paying off. This increased confidence from outside has also helped Brown garner the respect of opposing defenders. Rather than leave him open for uncontested three’s, opponents have had to increase their closeout efforts, which has allowed Brown to use his solid handles and quick first step to get past onrushing defenders and into the lane.
With another offseason to continue to work on his offensive game and overall craft, Bruce Brown Jr. continues to look more and more like an absolute steal by Ed Stefanski. The energy and effort Brown brings to the floor every night makes him a valuable member of a team that features an interesting young nucleus, a highly touted new GM, and significant cap space. Heading into 2020, I plan to keep a close eye on Bruce Brown, not just for the mean mugs but also for the talent he is becoming before our eyes.