The Atlanta Hawks’ front office can learn a lot from watching this year’s NBA Playoffs.
One thing that has been made very clear this postseason is the power of depth. Both the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat, the two participants in this year’s NBA Finals, have an abundance of it, and one player that the Hawks should look into pursuing this offseason just so happens to come off the Denver bench.
Nuggets guard Bruce Brown has had quite a unique NBA career. Brown, 26, was drafted in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons following two seasons spent as a Miami Hurricane.
Hawks fans got their first introduction to Brown when Trae Young put him in dance class as part of one of the highlight plays of the 2019 NBA season.
However, although that may not have been the most flattering of plays for Hawks fans to get their first look at the versatile forward, Brown has shown steady improvement over the course of his career, to the point now where he has worked his way into the upper echelon of free agents this year (he has a player option with Denver that he will almost assuredly decline).
After two years spent in Detroit, Brown took his talents to New York City and joined the Brooklyn Nets, where he was one of the lone bright spots in their embarrassing first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics a year ago.
Denver was able to snag Brown for an ultra-team-friendly deal this past summer, and he has made an immediate impact both throughout the regular season and in these playoffs.
With springy athleticism and quickness, Brown provides a huge lift just with his speed alone when he gets up off of the Denver bench. But he’s a lot more than just an energizer bunny.
In these playoffs, Brown is averaging 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 26.2 minutes a night, including a bump to 29 minutes a game in this series against Miami. He’s also shooting 52.7 percent from the field and 32 percent from three in the postseason, in addition to being an extremely versatile defender that can make other teams’ stars work very hard to get to their spots.
Although he stands at 6’4″, Brown’s 6’9″ wingspan allows him to get into passing lanes and wreak havoc on defense, as well as grab offensive rebounds that most players his size wouldn’t even go for.
Why Bruce Brown makes sense for the Atlanta Hawks
If Atlanta has taken anything away from these playoffs, it should be that the most successful teams have a ton of players who can shoot and defend at a high level. The Hawks were firsthand witnesses to Boston’s devastating rotation of two-way wings, and even they couldn’t hold up to Miami’s cornucopia of 3-and-D players.
While Atlanta has some players who can shoot and some players who can, at least in theory, defend, they don’t have many who can do both.
When your best player is Young, potential success hinges on assembling as many of these players as possible. Though, in fairness, Young did show some noticeable improvement on defense under head coach Quin Snyder. He is still most likely going to be among the league’s worst in that department for the duration of his career.
Of course, this isn’t a novel idea. Atlanta was following this philosophy to a tee when they drafted De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft. But Reddish is gone and Hunter, for as good as he looks on paper, has proven that he can’t be relied upon with any sort of consistency.
For Atlanta to truly reach their ceiling, it needs to invest in some players it can count on, even if they might not be the splashiest names on the market.
And yes, it will take considerable pocket-emptying in order to bring in Brown, who will surely have other suiters, including Denver.
Sooner or later, Atlanta needs to decide how serious they are about bringing the most out of this core foundation. At some point, that’s going to require a level-up.