Sterling’s Sterling Effect

by Alex Boeder Writer

One month ago, back on October 26 in the home opener, Sterling Brown spent the last few minutes of the overtime standing up.

With the game tied 123–123, Bam Adebayo went to the line and as he was about to shoot, Sterling stomped his feet and yelled something to try to distract Bam (who despite shooting just 64.5 percent at the line this season, looked like a regular Mark Price in the clutch at the line that night). It went in. The next one did too. After each make, Brown appeared to say something along the lines of dang.

When George Hill was whistled for an offensive foul on what would have been a big offensive rebound on the next possession, Brown’s reaction was physical, like your friend who gets worked up about big calls that go against his/her team. Up to that point in the game, Brown had played as much as your friend against the Heat.

In the first four games of the season, he played a total of five minutes, but Brown was still as invested in the outcome of the games as anyone. If that is not the most important thing you can get from someone in that role, then being ready to hoop when called upon is.

Brown has played 18+ minutes in each of the eight straight wins, and the Bucks have outscored their opponents by 75 points in those minutes. That has helped give him the best Net Rating in the league, which in straightforward terms means that the Bucks are crushing when he is on the court.

Net Rating
1. Sterling Brown — 19.6
2. Donte DiVincenzo — 17.0
3. Paul Millsap — 15.8
4. Will Barton — 15.4

His traditional individual defense numbers (steals/blocks) do not stand out, but he leads the NBA in Defensive Rating, which tends not to happen by accident.

Defensive Rating
1. Sterling Brown — 92.4
2. Joel Embiid — 93.7
3. Daniel Theis — 94.5
4. Donte DiVincenzo — 94.9

Against the Bulls, Brown shot 0–5 from the field, but he matched up against a variety of players on defense, from Kris Dunn to the red-hot Coby White to Zach LaVine. He was solid, composed, strong against each one.

When you look at the best three-man pairings in the league so far, Brown is a part of each of the top two (and a part of four of the top 11). He is fitting in with everyone.

Three-Player Lineups
1. Antetokounmpo/Brown/DiVincenzo — 68.6
2. Hill/Brown/DiVincenzo — 53.4
3. Hardaway/Wright/Marjonovic — 51.0
4. James/Howard/Cook — 50.2

During stretches of last season, Brown showed a willingness and ability to step into a larger role, particularly on offense. So far this season, he has moved more toward a niche offensive role focused on spreading the court and hitting threes. During the eight-game winning streak, he is 12–29 (.414) from deep.

It is early, but Brown is showing up in a lot of winning combinations. That is owed in no small part to Giannis and his teammates, who form a nearly-perfect environment for him to thrive. But when he is playing and when he is not playing, he is doing the same for them.


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