Bruce Brown Jr. clearly has a definable NBA skill in his defensive abilities. But there are a lot of rough edges he will have to smooth out to make it.
The NBA can be a funny place.
There is always a demand in the league for rookies to arrive with some NBA-ready skills. But there also remains a confidence that a player can continue improving despite playing top-level competition and facing the pressure to deliver. Teams can talk themselves into anyone believing they can smooth around the rough edges.
Development in the NBA is still the most vital thing for young players. It was not that way even a decade ago. But the league has had to keep working to evolve its players constantly.
And so the Draft then becomes about finding guys with at least one smooth edge to rely on. Especially when the draft becomes less about potential and more about finding contributors. By the middle of the draft, having a clear NBA skill creates that immediate payoff to play a role, and maybe the chance to do more.
That is where Miami Hurricanes guard Bruce Brown comes into play. A player the Orlando Magic interviewed at the NBA Draft Combine, but is likely to go in the mid-to-late first round, he is less heralded than his teammate Lonnie Walker IV. But Brown and Walker proved a capable and strong duo. With their focus on defense.
Bruce Brown averaged a meager 11.4 points per game, but a stellar 7.1 rebounds per game. Brown is a forward in a guard’s body. He has the size and strength to be a strong defensive presence.
But there are a lot of rough edges. He is not a good shooter and relies heavily on his driving ability to get to the basket. He thrives in transition where his length and athleticism for his size can truly spread their wings.
Finding young players who enjoy and thrive on defense is rare. It takes a very special player to put the focus on that end of the court with the attention and passion that a player like Brown does.
The question will be how does he — or the team that drafts him — pare down the rough edges.