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2019-20 Three B’s - Sterling Brown

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The third year forward fell into the backdrop on the court this past year

2020 NBA Restart -Milwaukee Bucks Statement Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Welcome to the Brew Hoop’s entirely subjective and emotionally-driven 2019-20 Milwaukee Bucks season player evaluations! Similar to last year’s series, we’ll take a look at each current Buck and ask three questions: what do they do that helps (Boon), what do they do that hurts (Bane), and whether they ought to be on this team (Belonging).

While it was a relatively lost season on the court for Sterling Brown, he remained a vocal proponent and clear leader when the Milwaukee Bucks made their most lasting legacy of the season, striking before Game 5 against Orlando. As any Bucks fan knows though, Brown’s been a leading voice on social justice for years. Unfortunately, his development under Mike Budenholzer’s staff stunted this past season after a relatively promising uptick in play near the conclusion of last season.

Sterling’s Boon: Corner 3-point shooting

For all his troubles this past year, including a dip to 36% as a 3-point shooter overall, Brown remained a dead eye shooter from the corner, hitting 43% of his attempts from there. It’s not quite to the level of his lethal 49% last year, but he had the third best percentage on the team from that area, behind just George Hill and Khris Middleton. Bud’s strategy doesn’t lead to the highest percentage of corner hunters in the league, but at 12th overall, that’s a healthy enough shot diet that Brown could’ve theoretically had a larger role.

Brown’s defense remains an obvious other boon. His bulk, defensive savvy and active hands make him a pest for both bigger wings, forwards and guards. He lacks the fleetness of foot to tussle with the speediest of guards, but he’s proven himself as versatile enough to guard both up and down a position. The Bucks defended .8 points per 100 possessions better (per Cleaning The Glass) with him on the court than their already elite stingy average as well.

Sterling’s Bane: Trying to do too much

We’ve seen it for years in Summer League, but primary ball handler Sterling seems like it is best living forever only in those Vegas gyms. Late last year, even against the Pistons in the first round series, Brown looked like he was showing a little bit more feel as a passer and ball handler in the halfcourt. This year, he looked lost. Even with a turnover percentage that was better than average among wings (per Cleaning The Glass), every drive felt like it wasn’t within the flow of the offense and would inevitably end in a turnover, mishandled pass or errant attempts at the rim. He shot just 50% at the rim (albeit on just 60 attempts), but it was a distressing stepback for a player who seemed poised for a leap after going from 46% (puke emoji) at the rim as a rookie to 59% as a sophomore on larger volume. Instead, like most on-court happenings with Sterling, it was a stepback.

Does Sterling Belong?

It’s complicated. Given he’ll be a restricted free agent, Milwaukee can effectively decide whether he’ll be returning this offseason since they can match any outside offers. With so much uncertainty surrounding potential dire financial straits for the league, I doubt any team will feel incredibly inclined to give some godfather offer for a second round pick who seemed to plateau and subsequently decline in his contract year. Still, I think some teams will look at his defensive tenacity, elite marks from the corner, and squint enough to say there’s a capable 3-and-D bench player in there somewhere. With Brown’s size, Houston. seems like an ideal fit on paper.

Even with his frustrations offensively, I’m curious if the Bucks would be more inclined to bring him back on a one-year prove-it deal than committing to more Pat Connaughton. Pat was undeniably the better player this past season, but became unplayable when the Playoffs hit. Pat will likely also cost more than Brown. I could see a world where Horst wants to run back Sterling, have Bud give him a little more run as a backup wing and see if they can leverage his 3-point shooting more given the Bucks incorporated the corners a bit more in the postseason. I wonder if there is any tension between the coaching staff and Horst in regards to their evaluation of Brown?