2018-19 Season in Review: Bruce Brown
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Dwane Casey’s first season as Pistons coach delivered them to the playoffs after a two-season absence. The Pistons have 11 of the 15 players who finished the season either under contract for next season or holding team options to retain them.
With the No. 15 and 45 picks in the June 20 draft and the mid-level and biannual exceptions available to supplement the roster, there will be several new additions on board when they gather at their new Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center in September to open training camp.
But as Casey said after the Pistons were eliminated by Milwaukee in the first round, “We’re going to have to grow from within. We have a lot of talent with our young guys, but they have some areas they can get much better.”
Blake Griffin emphatically returned to All-Star status, Andre Drummond likely would have joined him there had the Pistons not slumped during injury-riddled months of December and January, and Reggie Jackson bounced back from two injury-plagued seasons. They again figure to be central to the 2019-20 Pistons.
Then comes the group of young players that played major roles during the playoff stretch drive: rookie Bruce Brown and former lottery picks Luke Kennard and Thon Maker, the latter acquired in February from Milwaukee. The Pistons will also have two other 2018-19 rookies who did most of their work behind the scenes, in practices and the G League, in Khyri Thomas and Svi Mykhailiuk.
In our 2018-19 Season in Review series, we’ll take a look at the key players returning for the Pistons in Dwane Casey’s second season.
PLAYER: Bruce Brown
PROFILE: 6-foot-5 shooting guard/22 years old/1 NBA season
2018-19 STATS: 4.3 points, 2.5 rebounds in 19.6 minutes a game
STATUS: Brown signed a three-year contract in July 2018
DID YOU KNOW?: For the season opener, Brown drove to Little Caesars Arena expecting to be made inactive and watch the game in street clothes. Instead, he found himself in the starting lineup when Reggie Bullock was sidelined by illness and Stanley Johnson sat with a toe injury.
A LOOK BACK: Brown, a Boston native, spent his final high school days at a Vermont prep school. The No. 30 player in the high school class of 2016 according to Rivals.com, Brown chose Miami over Indiana, Purdue and Xavier. He spent two seasons at Miami before declaring for the 2018 NBA draft. Considered a likely first-round draft choice going into his sophomore season after a tremendous showing at the elite Adidas Nations camp in the summer of 2017, Brown suffered two injuries – a wrist injury early in the season, a foot injury suffered in late January that ended his season – and saw the shine dulled on his status. After shooting .347 from the 3-point arc as a Miami freshman, Brown slumped to .267 as a sophomore around the injuries, further clouding his NBA appeal. After trading two future second-round picks to Philadelphia for the 38th pick and choosing Khyri Thomas, the Pistons used their own pick at 42 to take Brown. Brown wound up starting 56 games and played more minutes than all second-round picks other than Dallas’ Jalen Brunson, the 33rd pick.
A LOOK AHEAD: A big summer is ahead of Brown. No one put up better numbers in strength testing at the 2018 NBA draft combine than Brown, so while there is room for development from a physical conditioning standpoint he’s already ahead of the curve for a 22-year-old on that front. That physical strength helped Brown become a defensive weapon for Dwane Casey, often guarding the opposition point guard or best perimeter scorer. His skills development, though, will be front and center. The primary focus will be improving his 3-point shooting – Brown shot just .258 from the 3-point arc and was a reluctant shooter, taking only 7.8 shots per 36 minutes and just 2.3 from the 3-point line per 36 – but Brown also must become a better finisher at the rim. He has an explosive first step and his strength should allow him to finish through contact with greater regularity. Casey maintained throughout Brown’s rookie season that his future is at point guard – Brown led Miami in assists with 4.0 per game as a sophomore – so work on ballhandling and incorporating pick-and-roll situations into his off-season developmental sessions figures to be on the docket.
MONEY QUOTE: “Starting in the playoffs, playing my rookie year, starting half the season – that’s really crazy. I would’ve never thought that would happen. … I don’t want to be crazy, but you come in and think everybody’s like super-duper great, right? And you realize quick that you can play with these guys. That was the first thing that really hit me. I used to think everybody was way above me and when I started playing, defending different players, I knew I could mess with these guys.” – Bruce Brown reflecting on his rookie season