Milwaukee Bucks: Weighing up Sterling Brown’s future with the franchise

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - NOVEMBER 16: (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - NOVEMBER 16: (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Slated to become a restricted free agent this offseason, Sterling Brown’s future with the Milwaukee Bucks is complicated due to many factors.

Sterling Brown‘s restricted free agency will soon be a popular topic of conversation for the Milwaukee Bucks if and when the offseason officially begins.

As the future of the 2019-20 season remains in danger of being unfinished due to the coronavirus pandemic, very little stands in the way of Brown contemplating his future as he’s set to venture into free agency waters for the first time in his young career.

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The second-rounder has spent his three years in Milwaukee trying to establish his place among the Bucks’ deep rotation and in the league overall.

With his brand of physical, hard-nosed defense, 3-point shooting as well as a developing ability to handle and create offense with the ball, Brown’s shown plenty of flashes in a Bucks uniform, especially over his sophomore campaign.

But whereas Brown was expected to step up and continue asserting his mark within the Bucks wing depth chart, the SMU product has taken a poorly-timed step back over the course of his third season from a production standpoint.

It certainly doesn’t help Brown’s case to attract any potential suitors that he underwent his worst shooting season of his NBA career as he averaged 5 points on .367/.316/.771 shooting splits (good for a 47.8 true shooting percentage) across his 45 appearances on the year.

That came at the cost of Brown beefing up his defensive prowess and showing his gritty, improved rebounding capabilities where he averaged 8.9 rebounds per-36 minutes and tallied a 19.2 defensive rebounding percentage, per Basketball-Reference. Add in Brown’s 100 defensive rating through his 665 minutes on the floor, per, and the 24-year-old certainly offers plenty of versatility on the defensive side of the ball to the Bucks.

As far as his ability to attract interest elsewhere that’s not from the Bucks, Brown was a player of interest to opposing teams as ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported back at the time of the trade deadline earlier this season.

However, the financial circumstances that hang in the air with the season stoppage are bound to impact all impending free agents and restricted free agents that have battled through ups and downs like Brown will be hit even harder.

That makes Brown’s search for a decent pay day, or even just creating leverage up against the Bucks, very tough in a few months time, especially as there are plenty of wings set to hit the open market and saturating a free agent class that is far from heralded and full of glitzy names.

That may be music to the Bucks’ ears, especially as their wing crop could be overhauled with the likes of Pat Connaughton and Kyle Korver standing as unrestricted free agents and Wesley Matthews holding a $2.7 player option for next season. Along with Donte DiVincenzo under contract, the Bucks holding the trump card of being able to match any offer that comes in for Brown gives them some security in being able to maintain their depth at that end of the roster.

The question, then, simply comes down to whether the Bucks feel they can improve their wing depth this offseason with the limited resources they have, whether that’s through free agency or the draft, and whether Brown can continue serving a supporting role within the Bucks’ system.

Even as he’s largely stood on the periphery of the Bucks’ foundation, Brown still stands as a decent product within the Bucks’ development program and general manager Jon Horst reflected on Brown’s progress as a pro since drafting him in the 2017 NBA Draft during the Bucks’ Town Hall Q&A last fall:

"“I tell Sterling all the time how proud I am of him. We drafted him out of, I would say like a little unknown, smaller school at SMU and he was a guy we were extremely excited to get in the second round because he shot a ton of threes in college, he made them at a high rate. Big time athlete, defender. All of the things that we thought he’d able to do in the NBA, he’s starting to do. He works tremendously hard, he gets better every day. He’s a great young man and just really proud of him and grateful to have him.”"

And even as Brown had struggled to salvage his poor shooting season, he does fit with the defense-first philosophy that exists in Milwaukee with Budenholzer in charge.

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For a player that plays at a position that is at a premium throughout the league, yet stands among a wing free agent class that is surprisingly deep, Brown’s offseason may be a humbling experience for a player that has had to scrap and work hard to make it in the NBA to begin with.