NUGGETS

Why the Nuggets hit a home run in signing Bruce Brown

Jul 1, 2022, 12:55 PM | Updated: 12:57 pm
Bruce Brown...
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets strengthened their defense once again on Friday, adding Bruce Brown on a two-year deal.

The new signee follows a pattern of moves by first-year lead executive Calvin Booth to overhaul Denver’s roster around Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon. Booth traded for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope earlier this week and drafted Christan Braun and Peyton Watson last week. The common skill for each is defense.

Adding KCP was the Nuggets biggest singular swing, sending out starters Monte Morris and Will Barton for the 3-and-D wing. But the addition of Brown solidifies the 3-and-D need the Nuggets have had on the wing for years. Denver had one chance in free agency to get a valued contributor, and they nailed it by signing Brown to a two-year, $13 million deal; here’s why.

The 6-foot-4 player was moved off of his natural point guard position and to the wing by the Brooklyn Nets. While Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden were creating chaos, Brown was finding a way to thrive as a supporting player. Off the ball, he became a good screener, cutter, transition attacker and spot-up shooter. Brown averaged 9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game last season in 72 games, playing about 25 minutes a night. His efficiency peaked, shooting above 40% from deep, but he’s a career 33% guy. Maybe those percentages hold off as teams keep sagging off him around other good shooters the Nuggets have acquired, plus the passing of Jokic.

Brown was one of just three players in the NBA to average 14 points, five assists and three rebounds on 50/40 shooting splits after the All-Star break. The others? Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum

About 45% of Brown’s shots came within four feet of the basket in his four seasons, and he finishes at a rate on par with the average forward.

Of Brown shots, 97% of them from deep were assisted on, and 74% inside the arc were from helpers. This proves Brown’s ability to be effective without needing the ball, a key factor to being a role player around Jokic and Murray.

On the other end Brown regularly guarded the other team’s best player and became pretty tenacious. Brown rates in the top 15% of the league for defensive-matchup difficulty, positional versatility and role versatility with his deflections (3.5) and steals (1.7) per 75 possessions both ranking in the top 10%.

Just watch his efforts on Jamal Murray.

Some of Brown’s best efforts have been in the postseason, this year he dropped 20 twice in games against Boston. In his final season in Detroit, Brown was getting four helpers a game which is key for the Nuggets. Brown is an upgrade over the Austin Rivers role from last season and he could be relied upon for even more playmaking then Rivers with Morris and Barton gone. Brown’s assist and turnover rates were in the 80th percentile for the second half of last season.

Brown’s biggest impact will come as a possible closer, alongside KCP, Murray, Gordon and Jokic. Giving the Nuggets an option to take MPJ off the floor for defensive reasons. Brown may also form a nice tandem with the sweet-shooting Bones Hyland as a backup off the bench, a lineup that will also include another 3-and-D wing in Davon Reed.

The deal is for two years with the second season being a player option. This is actually advantageous to the Nuggets because the cap rules will allow Denver to offer him more money in the second year if they want to keep him around. And if the 25-year-old is to be a part of the long-term future the Nuggets can skirt their way into a quick payday after this and another short-term deal.

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