Before suiting up for the first time as a Los Angeles Laker, having already missed the entire preseason and two regular season games, Troy Brown Jr. laid out exactly how he felt he’d be able to help his new teammates:
In the clip above, the 6’6 Brown rightly noted that his length gives the Lakers a look they otherwise wouldn’t have defensively. Specifically, being bigger than the majority of the team’s current perimeter corps gives him a chance to deter drives in the middle of the floor and close out to shooters more effectively, slowing the opponents’ attack to buy time for his teammates to get back into position.
Then, after being activated, Darvin Ham threw him “into the fire,” just as the Lakers head coach had promised to do pregame. And after 50 minutes across two games, Troy Brown Jr. has yet to start but looks like one of the Lakers’ more necessary role players.
On the defensive end, he’s been as advertised or better — in an admittedly microscopic sample size, the Lakers have been 15.4 points per 100 possessions better on defense with Brown on the floor than with him off of it. Although that is probably just as damning of the Lakers’ limitations in wing depth as it is impressive, it goes to show that Brown is doing his job, and it’s working.
Here he stunts at a driving Jamal Murray, giving time for Anthony Davis to step in and contest the drive while Lonnie Walker IV slides into the passing lane. When Murray slings a pass to the perimeter, Walker IV is there to break it up and Brown collects the steal and starts the break.
He’s a bit longer, quicker, and bouncier than he looks at first glance, allowing him to be in the right place at the right time more often than he isn’t.
And offensively, there is a lot to like, even if (like the rest of the Lakers) his outside shot has yet to fall (he’s 0-for-5 on threes, but presumably, he’ll shoot closer to his career average of 33.3% as he compiles court time). As Brown stressed in the interview above, his playmaking for others has been a surprising boon to his time on the court. In two games he’s dished out five assists, mostly coming from crisp and timely passes to an open man.
Here Brown smartly feeds a cutting Kendrick Nunn in the high post to break through the Nuggets’ 2-3 zone.
Although he doesn’t get the assist, due to what looks like some severe rust from Nunn’s yearlong injury-related absence, exploiting open creases in the defense is how you make teams pay for cheating off of shooters and onto the Lakers’ two stars.
Here he is working in concert with the King, keeping his hands ready to receive the pass and kicking it right back to LeBron for a give-and-go that gets James an easy layup.
And here he puts it all together, dragging down a rebound from between a pair of Nuggets and immediately shoveling the ball to a wide-open Matt Ryan, who bangs the triple to give the Lakers a little bit of life before the Nuggets shut the door on them for good.
These aren’t the kinds of reads that will make a typical highlight reel, but they’re the exact kinds of plays you need from players hoping to make the most of LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ ability to create advantages with their top-of-the-scale offensive firepower.
With that being said, there’s a reason Troy Brown Jr. was available to the Lakers this summer on a veteran’s minimum deal. He is somewhere in between passable to solid at just about everything you would want from a modern 3-and-D wing, but he’s not likely going to go above and beyond on any given night. After four NBA seasons, his career-high in points is only 26, and he hasn’t dropped 20 in a game since 2020.
If he had a chance at growing into a starting-caliber talent, the Wizards and Bulls likely wouldn’t have let him escape their contractual clutches so early in his career. For the Lakers, a team with no more than two players good enough to start on most NBA teams, Brown probably should open games on the floor as soon as he’s reacclimated to a full minutes load, especially given the Lakers’ lack of feasible options at the 3.
Nonetheless, he looks ready to help the Lakers in a place they desperately need it.
Cooper is a lifelong Laker fan who has also covered the Yankees at SB Nation’s Pinstripe Alley — no, he’s not also a Cowboys fan. You can hear him on the Lakers Multiverse Podcast and find him on Twitter at @cooperhalpern.