In the basketball world though, there exists another reason why the team keeps a very close eye on the second-year guard. The team is simply waiting for “the leap”.
It is easy to say that the team will grow exponentially under new coach, Mike Budenholzer. With him, the Bucks come into the season with arguably a top-7 NBA coach. The improved X’s and O’s will invariably help. The front office will also now be confident that the talents of the players will be maximized, elevating the overall ceiling of the team.
A trade for a star will obviously fast-track the win-now process. However, the ideal way for the Bucks to exceed its current iteration is for many of their players to take the proverbial leap. Most fans will automatically look to Giannis, Khash or even Jabari and Bledsoe to drive this point. Sometimes, however, it is the jump in production of perceived role players into unexpected success, that will separate a good team from a great one.
I present to you, the case for Mr. Sterling Brown.
Apart from Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell, the Bucks lacked proto-typical 3-and-D players in their regular lineups. The absence of defensive minded 3-pt marksmen often resulted in lack of spacing, clogging the driving lanes for the team’s lone superstar. This led to a high dependence on 1-on-1 plays and numerous basketball actions being limited to the strong side of the court. Unsurprisingly, these in turn, resulted in a large number of forced and highly contested shots every game.
All of Coach Bud’s past teams required sharpshooting gunners. Fortunately for the Bucks, they already have a potential specialist developing on their bench. Barring substantial changes to the team’s makeup on opening night, Sterling Brown remains to be the lone player on their bench with great size, can shoot the 3 and effectively hound opposing guards and forwards.
Eric Bledsoe’s jump shot blows hot and cold. Jabari Parker doesn’t play defense. Tony Snell can’t handle strong wing players. Malcolm Brogdon can’t keep up with the speedier guards. And as good a defender as Khris Middleton has been in his career, his hamstring injury has lessened his ability to keep up with quick guards and forwards around multiple screens.
Enter Mr. Brown and his sterling defense. At 6’6 ½ feet and blessed with a strong, athletic body and quick reflexes, Sterling Brown is the player poised to blossom into the role of the Bucks’ defensive stopper. With pure shooting mechanics, it is likewise not out of the question for Brown to come into next season as a 3-pt gunner once he develops a quicker release. He already has a shooter’s reputation after shooting 45% from 3 in his 4-year college career. Having shot a decent 35% clip in his inaugural NBA season, Brown will surely improve in the coming years.
Even as a rookie, Sterling Brown earned the respect of the team veterans for assuming the role of the resident tough guy, after he backed his teammates in numerous scuffles throughout the course of the season. He likewise displayed a high level of understanding for basic defensive principles as he was always in proper defensive position as a helper yet was still able to consistently account for his own man. He was tenacious as a man to man defender, though it sometimes led to him being called for early and unnecessary fouls. With enough coaching and game-experience, Brown will soon learn to strike the right balance.
This rising Buck is also quite driven. In his exit interviews following their playoff loss to the Celtics, he was asked about his expectations for next season. He answered, “There is no ceiling for me. I’m going to go out and get better every day. I don’t even want to talk about it I just want to go out and do it.”
Bucks lifers were irate when Terry, Shabazz and Dellavedova all played significantly more minutes than Brown in the Playoffs. We can, at least, point to Brown’s inexperience as the primary reason for the lack of playing time. This excuse will be thrown out the window next year.
The Milwaukee Bucks will scour the Free Agent list and team-trade targets for the next PJ Tucker or Trevor Ariza. If the Coach Bud’s reputation is any indication, they may no longer even need to. It has become apparent that developing 3-and-D players is his specialty.
DeMarre Carroll was his past hit sensation. Taurean Prince is his remarkable success story at present.
In Sterling Brown, Coach Bud already holds the future.
Let’s go Bucks!