Welcome to our Lakers Season Preview Series! For the next several weeks, we’ll be writing columns every weekday, breaking down the biggest questions we have about every player the Lakers added this offseason. Today, we take a look at Troy Brown Jr.
Desperate for 3-and-D wings with few significant assets to acquire them, the Lakers entered this offseason on a mission. And despite spending their biggest chip on a 6’4 guard with a reputation as an inconsistent 3-point shooter defender (at best) in Lonnie Walker IV, they were able to nail down a pair of potentially viable candidates to fill out their wing rotation.
While coming with their own set of slightly different strengths and weaknesses Juan Toscano-Anderson and Troy Brown Jr. will likely be in competition for the same set of wing minutes.
After four seasons split between the Wizards and Bulls, Brown is coming to the Lakers on a veteran’s minimum contract, presumably due to the lack of a bustling market for his services. And despite entering the season with arguably the least credible NBA resume of the three, there is a case to be made that Brown’s specific skillset could align best with what the Lakers need at his position.
What is his best-case scenario?
If everything goes right, Troy Brown Jr. could end up being the better shooter between himself and JTA, making him the cleaner fit beside the Lakers’ other presumptive starters. Last season, he shot a career-high 35.3% from distance on his second-largest number of total attempts in a season. Although that mark is a mere tenth of a percent above league average, it’s at least a couple of ticks better than what JTA (32.2%) put up last season. Although he’s not exactly a sniper from long range, Brown shot well enough in recent seasons to make defenses pay for leaving him wide open from beyond the arc, something the Lakers could scarcely get out of their defensively viable role players last season.
On the other side of the ball, Brown grades out as a better-than-average perimeter stopper. According to The BBall Index, Brown was in the top quarter of the league as an on-ball perimeter defender and chaser, two skills he’d likely be asked to lean on with the Lakers. Although his minutes typically came against opposing teams’ bench units, he acquitted himself nicely against a wide variety of outside scorers. He doesn’t pop off the screen as any sort of world-class mover, but his 6’11 wingspan allows him to hang with players who outclass him in terms of agility and explosiveness.
What is his worst-case scenario?
The biggest concern regarding Brown’s potential to slide in smoothly beside the Lakers’ presumptive offensive load-bearers is the fact that he’s yet to crack a rotation for a consistently heavy minutes load through four seasons on middling teams.
Despite having his best shooting campaign yet last season, he’s still only a career 33.7% 3-point shooter. That mediocre mark was better than a bunch of regulars like Austin Reaves, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis, but is still a ways away from being the kind of off-ball threat who makes defenses think twice about leaving him open. If he’s incapable of knocking down open threes at an above-league-average clip, he might not be of much use to the Lakers outside of eating up minutes in garbage time.
And while the math favors Brown on defense, the quality of his competition and his limited run are causes for concern. Without ever really being tasked with locking down the Devin Bookers and Paul Georges of the world, it’s hard to know exactly how Brown’s lack of burst will fare against the NBA’s best wing scorers. If he turns into a turnstile against fiercer opponents, he won’t be able to stay on the floor when it matters.
Brown’s most recent showing is possibly his most damning, having failed to step up in these past playoffs for a Bulls team that desperately needed wing help. In Chicago’s gentleman’s sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bulls, Brown made just two of his 11 threes while posting a minus-1.3 net rating in almost 37 minutes of burn (though his team lost all three of those games by a combined 70 points). For a 23-year-old on an expiring contract, Brown’s inability to score wing minutes for a team that definitely needed them marked a missed opportunity to augment his stock on the open market.
What is his most likely role on the team?
At just 23 years old, there’s a chance that a fully formed good player exists within the rough outline of the one Troy Brown Jr. has sketched across parts of four NBA seasons so far. However, he’s far from being a lock to see more than scant playing time early on in the season. Still, without much competition in the way of rostered wings, especially after Stanley Johnson’s departure, Brown will get a chance to make an impact.
That opportunity will inevitably come, but only time will tell how much he can make of 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.