The Los Angeles Lakers’ biggest transaction of the offseason may still be in the works — in the form of a potential Russell Westbrook-Kyrie Irving swap — but the Lakers have already made a handful of meaningful moves.
Already, they have locked down deals to bring back a couple of big men in Damian Jones and Thomas Bryant. They also landed the first Mexican NBA champion in Juan Toscano-Anderson. On his way as well is Lonnie Walker IV, the high-flying former Spurs guard whose potential to posterize could help him become a new fan favorite.
And last, but certainly not least, there’s Troy Brown, Jr.
Last regular season with the Chicago Bulls, Brown Jr. averaged just 16 minutes per game along with 4.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.0 assists before barely making it on the court in their first round series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
However, in spite of his underwhelming NBA resume through his first four seasons, he brings a certain set of skills scarcely found elsewhere on the current Lakers roster, giving him a strong chance of making an outsized contribution this season in comparison to his unassuming hype.
Brown’s biggest boon to the Lakers is his potential to make an impact on the defensive end. Standing 6’6’’ with a 6’11’’ wingspan, he has the frame to be a potential weapon for the Lakers’ defense that they simply did not have last season.
Brown found himself in the 64th percentile of all defenders last season according to D-LEBRON (B-Ball Index’s defensive impact metric), but he excelled in specific areas on that end that should make him even more impactful on this exact Lakers roster.
For one, he has great instincts away from the ball, especially when helping on the weak side. Below you’ll see him snag a number of steals that mostly come from when a driving ball-handler tries to kick it towards his side of the court.
On a few of these, Brown’s able to turn his steal into a fast break, something new Lakers head coach Darvin Ham has repeatedly stressed will be a point of emphasis for his club.
“Just talking about pace, being able to get out and play faster,” Brown said Wednesday when asked about what Ham communicated to him about his new team’s preferred style of play.
“On the defensive end, how to speed up offenses and stuff like that for other teams. Being able to put pressure on guys where we can close out and then get out and run on transition.”
If Brown was able to do just that with far less qualified rim protection beside him in Chicago, just imagine the kind of havoc he can cause from the weak side when opposing teams are driving into the likes of Anthony Davis, Damian Jones, and Thomas Bryant.
Playmaking and shooting
On the offensive end, Brown won’t be any sort of primary, or even secondary creator for the Lakers. Still, he does possess some connective playmaking ability by way of quick decision-making and keen passing, which could help him slot into a supporting offensive role similar to how Stanley Johnson and Austin Reaves were able to lean into their specific strengths on last season’s team.
Brown’s primary mode of offensive contribution can be as simple as punishing tardy closeouts, or attacking timely ones in order to find the open 3-point shooter along the perimeter. Below he does just that time and time again for the Bulls’ offense.
“I definitely still have the playmaking. It’s just more so of what I’m asked to do,” Brown explained when asked about his changing roles between his first couple of seasons with the Wizards and Bulls.
“I think that’s the biggest thing is I’m definitely a team guy and I definitely want to win. So it’s one of those things where if I’m asked to be 3-and-D or if I’m asked to be a playmaker, I can definitely adjust. I think my versatility is the reason that I’m here in the NBA.”
Brown’s seemingly mediocre actual shooting talent seems to be on the upswing, coming off of a career-best 3-point percentage of 35.3%. However, there’s reason to believe in some room for improvement to his raw shooting percentage given the fact that B-Ball Index grades only 13% of his 3-point attempts as open.
Alternatively, when Brown was considered “wide-open” (meaning his defender was at least six feet from him), he knocked down 3-pointers at an impressive clip of 42.9%. On these Lakers, Brown would likely benefit from frequently collapsed defenses tasked with managing LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and maybe Kyrie Irving.
Brown intimated as much himself when discussing the skills most necessary for him to thrive with the Lakers: “For me personally, I think the two biggest things are being reliable on defense and being able to knock down shots, especially in the corners. With guys being able to create so much and being able to get to the basket whenever they want, just being able to be that outlet for them. I think that’s the biggest thing right now and that’s the most important.”
For his career, Troy Brown Jr has made 64 of his 164 attempts from the corners (39%). https://t.co/81EzAxFRaq— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) July 6, 2022
Perhaps most importantly, even beyond Troy Brown Jr.’s preexisting strengths and potential synergies with these Lakers, the kid is only 22 years old!
His age and adaptability give reason to believe that Darvin Ham and Phil Handy’s top-tier player development could bring even more out of his game than what simply playing alongside future first-ballot Hall-of-Famers already will. If that’s the case, then maybe we’ll all end up looking back on this summer and wonder why we didn’t buy more stock in Troy Brown Jr.
There’s plenty of open real estate around my beachfront property on Brown Island. Come take a look! You might be happy with the appreciating value once the 2022-23 season gets underway.