Every NBA team needs glue guys; players whose numbers won’t stand out on a box score, but will play exceptional defense, always hustle, create shots for their teammates, and step up when called upon. Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors and Serge Ibaka of the Toronto Raptors are two of the best recent examples of this.
The value of these glue guys have been up in recent years, as teams who can’t find that team-first fifth starter never make any noise in the playoffs. As talented as teams like the ‘Lob City’ Los Angeles Clippers were, they were never able to flip the switch from ‘good’ to ‘great’ because they never found that fifth starter to round out their talented crunch-time lineup.
Luckily for the Detroit Pistons, it’s looking like they have found their glue guy in Bruce Brown. And based on how well he played in the California Summer League, he may very well end up being more than that.
The main knock on Brown last season was that even though he was always great on defense, he was basically a cardboard cutout on the offensive side of the floor. He went from a shooting guard who couldn’t really shoot last season to an offensive skill player who can not only create shots for others, but also himself.
In the four games Brown played in Summer League, he averaged nearly a triple double, averaging 13.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and a Summer League-leading 8.3 assists per game, all while leading the Pistons to a 4-0 record and a No. 2 seed before getting bounced in the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies.
Bruce Brown didn’t just barely lead all the young players in assists per game, he was almost two full assists ahead of the second place player in the category (Chris Chiozza of the Houston Rockets). In other words, it’s safe to say that Brown was the best shot creator in all of Summer League.
Brown’s efforts this month have not gone unrecognized, as he was named one of the best players of Summer League by both Bleacher Report and The Ringer. He even managed to crack Sports Illustrated’s All-Summer League second team among other talented young players.
So what changed for Bruce Brown? How did a player who was left open at the three-point line countless times in his rookie year turn into one of the most encouraging play makers entering his sophomore season into the league?
One obvious change has to be his shooting form, as with one small tweak to his right elbow, the former Miami Hurricane who practically got the sound of the ball clanging against the rim stuck in his head last season now has a jumper that looks good and produces enough to for him to make more than 40 percent of his Summer League shots.
Despite shooting 41 percent in Summer League, Brown only went 2-for-10 from three, meaning there is clearly some room for improvement as the offseason goes along. But Brown will be the first one to tell you that he is ready to make the necessary improvements to keep his NBA dreams alive.
“I’m definitely still working on it because sometimes my elbow’s out, sometimes my elbow’s in,” Bruce Brown said after his triple-double in last Wednesday’s 96-81 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. “I’ve worked on it at least 20% of my summer. After this, more repetitions for the whole summer, I think it should be good by the time the season starts.”
Brown mentioned that the game feels as if it’s getting a lot slower for him, which are encouraging words for any Pistons fan to hear. That summer between the first and second NBA season is when most players make the leap and start to fully understand how to succeed on an NBA floor.
Pistons fans saw Brown’s rookie season unfold in what was sometimes excruciating fashion, as he averaged a mediocre 4.3 shots, 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists on 19.6 minutes played per game. He shot the ball very inconsistently, as he shot less than 40 percent from the field and just a hair above 25 percent from three, making the teams that didn’t cover him on the three-point line look very smart.
Many Pistons fans were frustrated by the fact that Brown managed to start 56 games for Detroit last season, but head coach Dwane Casey felt like he was vital to the starting unit because he was able to lock down fellow two-guards on the other side of the floor. After his outstanding performance earlier this month, the number of games that he starts is bound to go up in the 2019-20 season.
There were a lot of positive takeaways from the Pistons’ 4-0 summer league. Both Svi Mykhailiuk and Khryi Thomas looked to make similar sophomore leaps after combining to shoot almost 40 percent from three in the games. And while the former Michigan State Spartan is unlikely to sniff an NBA floor, big man Matt Costello showed enough potential on both sides of the ball to be the 3rd center and 15th man on the Motor City roster.
But the most encouraging thing of Summer League for the Pistons has to be the play of Brown, as he was able to put this Pistons summer squad in the limelight. The Miami man was #Trending on NBA.com’s main page, racking up multiple highlights to help casual fans finally pay attention to Detroit basketball.
The rest of this offseason will be huge for Bruce Brown. If he can keep improving his jump shot and prove that this summer was not a fluke, he can not only be that glue guy the Pistons need in crunch time, but also grow into being a reliable starting guard and ideal ‘3-and-D’ guy in Detroit for the better half of the upcoming decade.