Filling in at shooting guard in the absence of the injured Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown has shown real promise in recent games.
It’s been a bit of a rocky season for Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown.
Brown started off the season struggling to find playing time at guard behind starters Eric Bledsoe and Malcolm Brogdon. Then, when he seemed to be on his way to becoming a regular fixture in the rotation, he suffered a wrist injury that affected his play and kept him out for several weeks.
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Since coming back from injury, however, Sterling Brown has begun to show real promise. In fact, he’s becoming a crucial rotation piece for the Milwaukee Bucks at a pivotal moment in the season.
Before his injury, Brown was a solid, albeit unspectacular option off the bench at guard. Whenever starting shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon went to the bench, Brown helped fill those minutes at that position.
He initially struggled to find consistent playing time, featuring in just over five minutes per game in October, and ten minutes per game in November. Like his fellow break-out teammate, D.J. Wilson, he was relegated to playing only when the Bucks were well ahead of their opponent late in the game.
Brown then began to see an increasing role in December, especially with Pat Connaughton struggling find his shot from deep. Brown found his three-point range, shooting 40 percent from three on 2.7 attempts, up significantly from the preceding 13 games when he shot well under 30 percent. He was also providing solid rebounding for a guard, averaging 4.3 boards in over 20 minutes per game.
Brown was also beginning to make an impact on the defensive end. The team’s defensive rating with him on the floor that month was an incredible 98.4. The Bucks had a positive net rating of 6.5 in the minutes he played. It looked like Brown might be on his way to becoming yet another steady contributor on an already stacked team.
The following month, however, was a mixed bag. Though Brown improved on his shooting, going 52.2 percent from the floor and 45 percent from three (on over three attempts), the team’s defensive level dropped when he was on the court.
In 13 January games, the team’s defensive rating with him on the floor went from 98.4 the preceding month, to 111. That trend continued into February, as the team posted an atrocious 113.1 defensive rating when he played.
Brown also struggled to find his shot that month as a wrist injury began to plague him. Suddenly, the Bucks were getting rolled when Brown was on the floor, posting a -12.8 net rating in February in the minutes that he played. It looked as if Brown was going to end up losing his spot.
It’s been a completely different story since he returned from injury. Forced into a larger role in the absence of the injured Malcolm Brogdon, Brown has stepped up to the plate in a major way.
In the six games he’s played since returning from injury, Brown is averaging 13.3 points in 25.1 minutes per game.
His shooting, which had been trending in the right direction before his injury, has continued on an upward trajectory. Brown has shot 50.8 percent on over 10 attempts per game, and has made 42.3 percent of his shots from three on 4.3 attempts per game.
Brown has been, from a shooting perspective, a perfect fit for the Bucks style of play. He’s been a great spot up shooter, where nearly every attempt he’s taken this season has been from three. On the season over 40 percent of his total shot attempts have been catch and shoot. He’s shot 39.6 percent on catch and shoot attempts, and has an effective field goal percentage of 58.6 percent on them.
To put that effective field goal percentage in perspective, his percentage on those catch and shoot attempts is comparable to his teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s effective field goal percentage on the season, granted it’s on significantly fewer attempts.
Brown’s also doing a great job of getting to and finishing his shots at the basket. Because of the space that’s provided to him by the system, and his own quickness and reads, Brown is often able to get to the basket with ease. He’s made 58.8 percent of his attempts within five feet of the basket.
In many ways, the scoring part of his game has mirrored the man whose minutes he’s helping to fill. Brodgon was even more elite on catch-and shoot attempts, but their percentages at the rim are nearly identical. He’s essentially been a poor man’s version of Brogdon on offense.
Brown has been contributing in other ways as well. He’s averaging 2.2 assists per game during this stretch, and his assist to turnover ratio is a solid 2.17.
The Bucks have posted a positive net rating of 6.0 when he’s on the floor, thanks in large part to his offensive contributions. The team has posted a 109.5 offensive rating in his minutes since his return, up significantly from the 102.8 rating they had with him before the All-Star break.
On defense, the team has begun to trend in the right direction when he’s on the floor as well. The team’s defensive rating with him on the floor is 103.5 since his return. Because of his size and speed, Brown can help in switches and make it tough for opposing guards to hit shots.
Brown is helping to fill a significant void left in the team by Brogdon’s absence. Though it’s obviously a small sample size, there’s a lot to like about Brown’s game recently.
He’s shown that he’s capable of operating as a great spot-up shooter who can also drive to the basket and finish there when the opportunity is right. He can help the Bucks maintain a good level on defense when the second unit is on the floor. All of the things he’s doing now are things he’s shown he could do at different points during the season.
If he continues to build on these performances, the Bucks will be much better suited to make a deep playoff run. The Bucks need players like him playing at a relatively high level given that they’re likely going to be without Brogdon until the Eastern Conference Finals.
Let’s hope that Brown’s performances aren’t an aberration.