Photo by Ben Standig for The Sports Capitol
NBA Draft prospect Troy Brown Jr.'s maturing game fits Wizards' needs
BY BEN STANDIG | JUNE 11, 2018
CAPITAL ONE ARENA — The generation post-Millennial remains nameless unless “IGen” sticks. An early defining trait, as evidenced by student activists and young celebrities, is preternatural maturity. NBA Draft prospect Troy Brown Jr., who shuffled into Washington Monday for a pre-NBA Draft workout with the Wizards, meshes perfectly with that perception. The 6-foot-7 forward’s basketball abilities are position-less, while his advanced presence far exceeds expectations for an 18-year-old. If the University of Oregon product continues surpassing evaluation forecasts, he could vault into the top-15 selections.
That the Wizards own the No. 15 pick partly explains the use of that specific mile marker. That Brown’s package includes a unique blend of size, playmaking from the wing, passing chops and basketball brains does as well.
It’s not smooth or proper to put a label on a player whose skill set expands into numerous categories. For purposes of talking Wizards, let’s go with this: Troy Brown Jr. is the antithesis of Kelly Oubre Jr.
Where Oubre is a shoot-first, pass-maybe player – worst assist per 100 possessions average on the Wizards – Brown’s experience as a high school point guard shines on look-ahead tosses and deft feeds. Washington received a dose of playmaking off the bench from Tomas Satoransky, but needed more.
Where Oubre entered the league, according to one NBA general manager, as “basketball illiterate,” the term “high basketball IQ” finds space in every evaluation of Brown. It allows the wing threat to feel comfortable on or off the ball.
“I feel like when you play guard, and you know what guys are supposed to be doing, (then) when you play off-the-ball it makes it a lot easier because you know what the point guard expects of you,” Brown told The Sports Capitol following Monday’s workout. “I would just say it’s an IQ thing and just having that experience with the ball in your hand.”
The contrast with the Wizards’ sixth-man cuts both ways.
Where Oubre’s athleticism wowed talent evaluators and raised his upside, Brown’s is considered as ordinary as his last name. That puts him in line with Washington’s starting and instinct-rich small forward, Otto Porter, who attended Monday’s session.
Oubre held up as a 3-point shooter during his lone season at Kansas. Brown shot 29.1 percent as a freshman for the Ducks. That he sank 74 percent of his free throw attempts while possessing solid shooting form suggests that practice, practice, and more practice should raise those numbers.
“My shot selection, some of the shots I attempted weren’t very good,” Brown said. “It’s just been repetition. Just making sure I’m in the gym putting up shots. I feel like I’ve done a really good job showcasing that. I feel like a lot of teams are impressed with my shooting right now.”
Similarities exist with Oubre. Both have the agility and length to defend four positions on the court. Confidence oozes from both. Brown’s showed Monday during his time with reporters and the shirtless body language he exhibited during a chat with Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld immediately after the workout.
“I think that just comes from me putting in the work, knowing who I am as a person,” said Brown, whose body fat is a mere 6.5 percent. “I feel like if you know who you are and know you prepared for these situations and you’ve given everything you have, there’s no reason for you not to be confident. I feel like it’s the people who don’t give their all, who try to take shortcuts around the process that don’t feel comfortable.”
The NBA game, with an emphasis on perimeter play and defensive switching, continues moving toward players with Brown’s full slate of abilities. What works in favor of the former 5-star recruit is this draft class doesn’t offer a deep pool of wing players among the top 20 prospects.
Another one those options, Texas Tech energy swingman Zhaire Smith, also participated in Monday’s session. Energy flows from the raw talent, who posted a 41-inch vertical leap at the Combine and slots a tick on higher on ESPN’s overall rankings (16) than Brown (18). The pair met for a third time during the pre-draft process having squared off for the Clippers and Nuggets.
Brown, evidently schooled by his agent and naturally secure in his own skin, easily explained why he stands out among his peers.
“My playmaking ability. Being my size and being able to be a playmaker, make plays for my teammates. Being able to score the basketball well and just being a versatile, all-around player really helps me a lot because I can really squeeze in anywhere as a player, defensively or offensively, passing,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of different stuff I kind of bring to the table.”
Not all of that stuff showed during his lone season with the Ducks. Beyond the shooting percentage from distance, the 208-pound Brown did not always flash desired one-on-one ability. Oregon finished 23-13 and ended its season in the second round of the NIT.
“Just going into the workouts, I don’t think people were expecting a lot out of me just because of the season I had,” Brown said.
Perceptions are changing one workout stop at a time. Brown takes his talents to Milwaukee next for his ninth overall workout. Los Angeles (12 and 13) and Denver (14) both pick ahead of Washington. Charlotte (11) hosts Brown and other prospects on June 17, a source told The Sports Capitol.
He offers what teams desire in the modern NBA – assuming that shot works. That aspect typically is fixable. Whether one can hone instincts remains something of a mystery.
“That’s a tough question. Instincts? I feel like instinct just happens,” Brown told The Sports Capitol. “You have to have it or you don’t. It’s hard to really say you can work on your instincts.”
That his natural impulses coincide with winning basketball thinking should put him in play at 15. The Wizards need more wing depth whether they keep the Porter and Oubre combo or not.
That he’s the third-youngest of the prospects likely drafted in the 2018 class and coming off a sideways season in his lone collegiate campaign offers doubt if Brown can contribute immediately. With no salary cap space, Washington needs a boost from this first-round pick.
It also needs youth, depth and a modern touch. Brown’s 3-and-D game fits the maturing NBA’s new generation, one that doesn’t define the individual by position.
Ben Standig is a host, writer and co-founder of The Sports Capitol. This D.C. area native grew up rooting for all the local squads and dabbled in the professional media world after college before making a full shift to sports writing in 2005. Since, Ben has covered every team and big event in town for several outlets including the Associated Press, NBCWashington.com and Scout.com.