The 2018 NBA Draft is close upon us, now, and the Denver Nuggets still have nearly unlimited options with regard to where they draft. Troy Brown, the Oregon wing who has a lot of draft helium with selection time just a few days away, could fall anywhere from the back end of the first to the range Denver is in now. His college career was just one year, but Brown showed several interesting NBA skills and is almost assuredly a first round pick. His upside as a wing defender who might be able to expand his game out past the three point line will make some team overlook his age in favor of his expected growth curve.
Denver likes growth potential more than most draft attributes, so expect Troy Brown to be on their radar too.
Height with shoes: 6’6.75”
Weight: 210 lbs
Standing reach: 6’9”
Multi-position defender: Brown is proud of his ability to defend three positions with his size and length, and has said he takes a special pride in stopping point guards as they are almost all smaller and quicker than he is. He uses his body well and doesn’t get off-balance too often, preferring to move rather than reach. He may not be able to stay with the burners that play point guard in the NBA but he can slide down to guard more stretch fours. Brown’s defensive potential is what will make him a first round pick.
Passing ability: Brown is proud of his passing, which shows up in behind-the-back dishes, bounce passes through traffic and after spin moves in the paint. He will not be a point guard at the next level but having a wing who can be trusted as a secondary ball-handler is useful whether they are coming off the bench or playing with Nikola Jokic. He averaged 3.2 assists and quite a few deft and court-aware passes. Jamal Murray averaged 2.2 as a freshman and Gary Harris had 2.7 as a sophomore for reference.
His assist-to-turnover rate was not great (though in line with both Murray and Harris) but by his own admission he was trying to do too much both from a shooting and passing perspective and not properly valuing the ball, as Michael Malone would say. His road numbers in those departments were also poor - as one would expect from a young player shouldering a lot of responsibility. The passing ability is there regardless.
Awareness: As I said, this shows up in his passes, which sometimes get him into trouble because not everyone is as aware. It shows up in his thoughtfulness about his own game, and his desire to hunt steals. Brown relies on his awareness to get to the correct spot on the floor and supplement his athleticism, which is fairly remarkable for an 18 year old freshman. It allows him to be a good team defender as well as an individual one. I’m not always in favor of taking extremely young players, but if Denver decides to do that again with Brown at least they’re getting a smart, heady player.
Three point stroke: His distance shot isn’t broken, but he does have a long windup and some aiming issues (and a 29.1% success rate on 110 shots). His free throw stroke (74.3%) provides anticipation that he can clean up those distance woes, as free throw percentage is a better college indication of shot potential than the actual three-point percentage, but it’s still a concern.
Lack of elite athleticism: He is not an elite athlete. He is a good athlete, and an NBA-caliber athlete, but he does not bound down the court like a gazelle or jump out of the gym. His measurements similarly are NBA-caliber but not elite. For a player who relies on his ability to defend three positions and drive the lane to pass, it’s a concern that he might not be able to do those things as easily against other NBA athletes. If he can only defend one position and stand on the perimeter to pass and shoot, his value plummets.
Fit with the Denver Nuggets
As a player who likens his game to that of Andre Iguodala there’s a lot to like. His defensive chops are legitimate and his three point shooting woes probably over-rated, but a downside comp for Brown would be something like Corey Brewer with better basketball IQ. His upside isn’t Iguodala as he lacks Andre’s elite athletic gifts, but even a lesser version of that is still incredibly valuable to Denver. Brown’s ability to pass and handle the ball, run in transition, defend multiple positions and in time learn a three point stroke would make his prime contributions one of the best possible fits for Denver.
Unfortunately it will likely take until his second contract for him to hit that point in all facets. He is one of the youngest players in this draft and would be a work-in-progress for multiple years. His ability to be a secondary ball-handler and to defend most bench positions would get him early playing time though, especially because his free throw ability is there. He has Andre Roberson’s size but not his critical shot deficiencies. Maybe he tops out as Evan Turner offensively, but if he can come anywhere close to being Roberson-with-a-shot then that’s someone the Nuggets could absolutely use.