Anthony Brown has appeared in just 18 of the Los Angeles Lakers' 43 games this season, but in recent weeks has begun to hit his stride and show he could be a role player for the team for years to come. Brown has mostly made his mark on defense, where the Lakers are allowing just 95.9 points per 100 possessions when he is on the floor, which is not only the best mark on the team, but also 11.8 points better than their season mark (107.7). It is a small sample size, but that rating of 95.9 would rank second in the league, second only to the historic defense of the San Antonio Spurs.
Brown is not some hidden defensive player of the year candidate, he has played quite a few minutes in garbage time and his defensive rating will likely trend upward as he continues to get more minutes against opposing teams' starters, but it is notable that among the Lakers' five most frequently used lineups, the one featuring Brown in the starting lineup in place of Kobe Bryant and alongside Lou Williams, Roy Hibbert, Larry Nance, Jr., and Jordan Clarkson also boasts the best defensive rating, giving up a stellar 97.4 points per 100 possessions.
None other than Bryant himself has taken notice of the improvement those numbers describe, as Brown relayed to Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News:
"‘If you can defend, you'll have a job," Brown recalled Bryant saying. "‘Everything else from there, it'll come. But defend first.'"
Bryant is right that Brown will make his bones on defense, where his impressive sense of positioning, active hands, and lateral quickness have already made him effective against NBA wings in his first season. Brown has spoken of wanting to be a three-and-D player, and recently his shooting has picked up enough for the first part of that to look like a plausible outcome. After struggling to adjust to NBA range at first, Brown is shooting 43.8% from on threes over his past five games after shooting 40.3% from behind the arc in college.
If Brown keeps this up, he will be the latest example of the Lakers finding value players outside of the lottery, something that will be key for the team as it continues to rebuild while still owing first round draft picks to the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic.
All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.