Milwaukee Bucks: Sterling Brown’s costly shooting stagnation

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 19: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 19: (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Heading into free agency for the first time, Sterling Brown’s disappointing shooting for the Milwaukee Bucks this season will likely prove costly.

Having been a starter for the Milwaukee Bucks for a significant spell in their playoff journey last year, Sterling Brown has had to adjust to a very different role as he’s essentially slipped out of the rotation during the 2019-20 campaign.

That would be troubling for any NBA player in normal circumstances, but in Brown’s case the timing is even worse than usual, considering he’s facing the prospect of being a free agent for the first time this summer.

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As a second round pick, that’s by no means insignificant. The 25-year-old will have earned a total of $3.8 million in career salary by the time he’ll potentially find himself hitting the open market in the offseason. That would be a lot of money to the average person, but it’s by no means the kind of money that would set up a professional athlete for the rest of their life.

On that front, a second round pick’s second contract is so important. It’s for that reason that Malcolm Brogdon will have been quite content to leave a good thing in Milwaukee last summer in exchange for a lucrative, and life-changing, $85.5 million deal with the Indiana Pacers.

No such offer will be forthcoming for Brown, and in fact, his NBA future may prove to be more precarious than anyone would like to imagine.

If that proves to be the case for Brown, his shooting performance this season will certainly be to blame.

Having emerged from college as a good three-point shooter, and backed that up with a couple of above average seasons in his rookie and sophomore campaigns, the kind of extended slump that Brown has endured this year wasn’t exactly expected.

Brown has made just 31.6 percent of his three-point attempts in 2019-20, while his field goal percentage overall has also slipped to 36.7 percent, the first time in his career that it has been sub 40 percent.

As a wing with the physical attributes to thrive in terms of versatility in the modern NBA, an intensity that often sparks positive defensive efforts, and an incredible nose for coming up with rebounds, there’s a lot to like about Brown’s game.

Still, to be truly playable he needs to offer something offensively. His three-point shooting had adequately fulfilled that function before the current campaign, even stretching further to include some deadly flashes from the corners.

That area of Brown’s game has yielded 41 percent shooting on 39 attempts so far this season, but that pales in comparison to his 50.8 percent on 57 attempts last season.

To make matters worse, that slump in what was one of the greatest areas of strength in Brown’s offensive arsenal has also coincided with other drop-offs offensively.

After making 58.2 percent of his shots from within five feet of the rim last season, this year that efficiency has plummeted to 49.3 percent.

Brown will be a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning the Bucks will have the option of matching any offers made by other teams. At present, though, will the Bucks even be interested in retaining Brown?

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In spite of having demonstrated real promise as a role player through the first few years of his NBA career, a poorly timed shooting slump could do lasting damage to Brown’s prospects of a career in the league.