Brown started 56 games last season and will work on shooting and ball-handling to become a bigger contributor. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Las Vegas — Bruce Brown got one of the biggest surprises of his basketball career on his first regular-season game with the Pistons. Instead of getting to sit back as a wide-eyed rookie and take in his first game, Brown was a surprise starter.
It was a whirlwind first season for Brown, who was a second-round pick and finished with 56 starts — and a ton of experience to reflect on this summer, as he prepares for his sophomore campaign.
Not so fast.
Brown doesn’t get to fast-forward through his development; he’s back on the Pistons’ roster for the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas this week. It’s an unusual assignment for someone who played as extensively as Brown, but the development is necessary, after the pock marks showed in his extended court time.
As Brown looked around the practice court at Cox Pavilion, he realized how much experience he gained during this rookie season.
“I probably have the most years in the group, so I’m the Blake (Griffin) of the group. I like that,” Brown said. “I feel really comfortable. Obviously, the game has slowed down a lot more and I’m making better reads. Really, I’m just trying to pick defenses apart.”
Brown had modest numbers: 4.3 points and 2.5 rebounds in about 20 minutes per game. He struggled on offense, but he made defense his calling card, often guarding the opponents’ best offensive perimeter player and acting as the outlet on offense to take the open shot.
That’s where the problems came in.
Brown shot just 40 percent from the field and 26 percent on 3-pointers, so defenses were more than happy to let him take whatever shots he wanted. His work in the offseason has been to get more consistent with his shot and to turn the tables on those openings.
More than that, he’s being put in a different position on the court, to develop a strength and to fill a need on the summer league roster.
At point guard.
“If I come back next year shooting the ball well — better than last year — it’s going to make the game easier for Blake and they’re not going to double him as much,” Brown said. “They left me (open) all year last year, so I want to come back shooting the ball well and it’ll be good.”
The Pistons already have Reggie Jackson as a primary point guard and added Derrick Rose and Tim Frazier in free agency to solidify the position group, but there’s nothing to say that Brown couldn’t get some time at the spot when defense is the priority.
He’ll have to continue his offseason work to make it a worthwhile ploy, and that starts with hundreds of repetitions on his shot.
“Really, just shooting. Obviously, a lot of pick-and-roll stuff, because maybe they’ll use me in pick-and-roll this year, but a lot of shooting,” Brown said. “(I want to show) I improved offensively and that I can contribute on the offensive end next year, shooting the ball and playing some guard and ball-handling.”
When all the trades from draft night are completed, the Pistons will end up with Tennessee’s Jordan Bone, but until then, they aren’t at full strength at the position, which will allow Brown, Khyri Thomas and Svi Mykhailiuk an opportunity to take the reins.
Brown looks to have a high upside and with his experience from last season, is a step ahead of the other two.
“He’s done a good job. The biggest thing right now is mechanics, not makes,” Pistons summer league coach Sean Sweeney said. “You’re trying to make sure you’re doing a good job in terms of what the technique is, fundamentally making sure it’s habitual and then build from there.
“He’s been working his butt off and you know you’re seeing progress.”
Along with the on-court development, Brown can develop other traits, including his leadership, having seen more of what it’s like at NBA game speed and playing with mostly developmental players, including rookie draft picks Sekou Doumbouya and Deividas Sirvydis.
“(I can) take a bigger step, for sure,” Brown said. “I can be the captain of this team and lead them in the right direction and get them ready for the games.”