Milwaukee Bucks: Sterling Brown earning his minutes

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 1: Sterling Brown /

Milwaukee Bucks rookie guard Sterling Brown is seizing his opportunity in the face of injuries to teammates and solidifying himself as a reliable rotation player.

Jabari Parker’s return on February 2 against the New York Knicks was supposed to be the start of the future for the Milwaukee Bucks. For the first time ever, fans were going to be able to see Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Malcolm Brogdon share the floor together.

Unfortunately, fate intervened, once again suggesting Bucks fans can’t have nice things without paying some kind of price. The day before Parker’s return, reigning rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon suffered a partially torn left quadricep tendon that is projected to keep him out 6-8 weeks.

Soon after, backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova sprained his right ankle and is projected to be out for up to four weeks.

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While the injuries are obviously unfortunate, they provide opportunities for bench players to make a bigger impact. As a result, the one bench player who is slowly garnering more attention is rookie Sterling Brown.

Brown’s playing time with the Bucks was sporadic to start the season. He was either getting bounced around Milwaukee’s G League affiliate, seeing minimal court time, or not seeing the court at all. However, his recent uptick in play has allowed the 23-year-old to see at least 15 minutes of time in all but one of Milwaukee’s last 12 games.

Per Brown has averaged 21.4 minutes in his past 15 games. Those steady minutes have allowed Brown to build up experience and an understanding with his teammates, while adding to a quietly impressive rookie season in which he’s shooting 40.2 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep overall.

While the former SMU Mustang had impressive shooting clips during his breakout senior season (46 percent from the field and 45 percent from three), his defensive potential was just as intriguing. Luckily for Milwaukee, that defensive talent showcased at SMU is transitioning nicely to the NBA.

In his last 15 games, Sterling is posting an impressive 98.6 defensive rating. The rating is only bested by Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker (he’s only played three games) and Marshall Plumlee (he’s only played six games) during that stretch.

What may be more impressive than that is how Brown stacks up against his fellow rookies. Among the 42 rookies that have appeared in at least 20 games this season, Milwaukee’s rookie guard is just ahead of Boston’s Jayson Tatum in defensive win shares (.068) and defensive rating (99.0) per 36 minutes according to He also leads that same crop of players in steals with 2.0 per 36 minutes.

Browns success on the defensive end can be attributed to his versatility. He can guard perimeter players with his quick feet, he’s able to switch on pick and rolls, has shown both in college and the NBA he’s willing to guard bigs in the paint. Brown also has a knack of getting in passing lanes and has shown himself to be extremely tenacious.


Off the ball, Brown’s high basketball IQ often puts him in the right spot at the right time. He has the knowledge and physical tools to capitalize on even the slightest of mistakes.


But on the ball is where Brown shines. His quickness, strength and active hands cause havoc for even the most offensively gifted players. Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins is never in a position to make a play once he squares Sterling up at the three-point line.

For a shooting guard, Milwaukee’s second round pick is also a very good rebounder. He’s averaging 6.5 rebounds per 36 minutes this season, which is the highest for any Milwaukee back court player. With the Bucks being dead last in the league in rebounding, Brown’s efforts are even more noticeable.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks: D.J. Wilson’s quiet rookie season and the potential for regret

The NBA All-Star break is almost upon the Bucks, and it’s coming at a great time. It’ll give Milwaukee some time to get healthy, or at least closer to being healthy, and give Sterling Brown the chance to build upon an encouraging stretch of games heading into the second half of what hopes to be a promising rookie season.