Los Angles Lakers fans have had their fair share of young prospects to be excited about this season while watching the growth and development of D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance, Jr. Most recently, 2015 second round pick Anthony Brown put his name on that list when replacing Kobe Bryant in the Lakers starting lineup for five games this season.
The Stanford product had his best game of the year on Tuesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. After taking over for Bryant in the second half when the 37-year old guard had to leave the game early with an Achilles injury, Brown scored 7 of his 9 points, making both of his three-pointers and earning an opportunity to stay on the floor as the Lakers closed out their ninth victory of the season. Brown additionally posted team-highs in offensive rating (111.2), defensive rating (89.4), and net rating (21.8) against New Orleans, all categories the rookie ranks first in for the season among Lakers players to average more than 15 minutes per game.
None of this is to say that the Brown has been the Lakers' best player, but the fact that he has graded out as a legitimately helpful one in his rookie season after being selected with the 34th overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft is an impressive feat. Brown has demonstrated good defensive instincts that allow him to be effective despite his offensive struggles (shooting just 26.4% from the field), and his activity on that end combined with his low usage offensive game have led most to project the Southern California native as a "three-and-D" role player, which is something Brown has embraced as he begins his career.
Part of how Brown stayed ready for his expanded Lakers role was by playing 7 games on assignment with the team's D-League affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders. The head coach of that team, Casey Owens, raved about Brown's "high character" and work ethic, factors which lead him to believe there could be more to Brown's game than just shooting and defense.
"I think he's got potential there to be a driving guard as well, not just pigeon hole himself as a shooter," Owens told Silver Screen and Roll. "With that size and length, if he can start to get confident in certain pick-and-roll situations with his ability to shoot it makes defenses really struggle on how to cover him."
Brown agrees, and told Michael Pina of Bleacher Report that while he will focus mostly on his current three-and-D role this season, he and the team plan to attempt to expand his game during the off-season:
Brown views himself as a 3-and-D cog right now, but in the future he envisions much more. Spot-up shooters who can't put the ball on the floor are problematic for offenses that need to stay one step ahead of a rotating defense. That means running secondary pick-and-rolls, and attacking close-out defenders off the dribble. The Lakers plan to work with Brown on his ball-handling this summer.
"I feel like I should perfect [three-point shooting and defense] first and then after I perfect that, if there's a time where I can come around and start doing more within the game, then that comes," Brown said. "But to start off, I want to master those two things first."
Brown currently ranks last on the Lakers in usage rate (11.4), true to his word of not trying to do too much too quickly. He has made most of his impact for the Lakers on defense, but Brown shot 40.3% on threes in college.If he spends the off-season learning to decisively and effectively put the ball on the floor to punish overeager defenders who close out on a three-point shot that will presumably start to come around as he adjusts to NBA range, Los Angeles could have another young, cheap contributor on their hands as they continue their rebuilding efforts.
Stats obtained via NBA.com, Basketball Reference, and Sports Reference. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise cited. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen