The regular season is rapidly approaching. That means it’s time for the now-annual tradition of our Calculated Countdown series examining a particular stat that corresponds to the number of days until tipoff. Today, that figure focuses on Sterling Brown’s shot location.
13 Days to Tipoff
“13.7%” of his shots came within 3-10 feet of the basket
It’s not necessarily fair to expect rapid growth out of a second-round pick. Typically older with limited upside, these players improvement often comes on the fringes rather than a massive step forward. Sterling Brown would seem to fit the bill in that regard. Flashing some impressive chutzpah on defense with a serviceable jumper to boot, he laid the groundwork in his rookie year to serve as a serviceable 3-and-D wing in Mike Budenholzer’s system. Of course, there were plenty of warts within his rookie season too. First and foremost was his finishing at the rim, which feeds into the focus on today’s stat: 13.7% of Brown’s shots were in the dreaded 3-10 feet range.
Of course, it’s important to note that anything Brown can add as a rim finisher and off-the-dribble guard is a bonus. He’s in the league to shoot three and play gnarly defense, the rest is just gravy. But Milwaukee needs to pinpoint areas of improvement for all its players if they hope that this roster can elevate to the level Giannis requires to compete for the ultimate prize. That necessitates peering a little deeper beyond a player’s base skills.
Brown didn’t get inside for shot attempts that often. His shot selection is actually quite good, with 45% of his attempts coming from beyond the 3-point arc, ranking in the 66th percentile among wings according to Cleaning The Glass (CTG). Additionally, only 20% came from midrange. Indeed, even the fact he took 35% of his shots at the rim (in this case within 0-4 feet of the basket per CTG), ranked in the 72nd percentile for wings, illustrates that Brown has a decent understanding of how to pick shots for maximum efficiency. The problem, particularly down low, is with effectiveness.
In CTG’s definition of shots at the rim, Brown converted just 46% of his 59 attempts in that zone on the season. That puts him in just the 5th percentile among wings. Basketball Reference (0-3 feet of the basket) has him at just 52.7%. For a burly man like Brown, that’s showing an impressive inability to finish when he’s finally at the tin. He seemed to flash a few craftier finishes at Summer League, but that’s also against inferior athletes with substandard length in games that mean zilch.
Still, his growth in that area will be reliant on improvement from essentially the ground up. However, as stated earlier, he has stellar instincts in terms of where his shots should come from. Which is why it may behoove Sterling to siphon some of the 13.7% of his shots in the 3-10 feet range and transfer them closer to the basket. Even with his dreadful finishing in his rookie season, it’s still superior to the NBA equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle. Brown converted just 25% from this haunted space. Even if that comes with a small sample size theater alert, the more important takeaway is Brown not falling prey to what often befalls guards who shy away from contact. Think Rashad Vaughn or Brandon Jennings runners. Neither guy felt comfortable bullying up to big men underneath, but Brown has the bulked up bod to handle the pounding.
That, plus the fact he hit on 87.5% of his free throw attempts, means opting for shots that encourage foul calls by the ref could behoove Brown’s already competent efficiency. He was only fouled on 5.2% of his shots last season, ranking in just the 26th percentile for wings, but you’ll never expect that figure to leap too high given he’s primarily an outside sniper. Even if he gets to the 50th percentile among wings, garnering a few more fouls beneath the bucket, Brown has a chance to trim some of the offensive hedges that obscured what could’ve potentially been a top-five offense last season.