With confirmation bias in full effect, I watched Lorenzo Brown’s last two games with great interest. A summary of our previous findings:
-fluid ball handler who can score from anywhere on the floor
-makes his defender play at his pace, not having to speed up his game
-seems a capable passer, but takes undue risks leading to many turnovers
-drifts on defence to inefficient help spots, leading to his man getting open looks or easy blow-by’s on poor closeouts.
November 12 @ Westchester Knicks
This game would be a great test for Brown, as he was primarily matched up against Ron Baker, who played 52 games with the New York Knicks last season. As we gleaned from the home opener, Brown was not going to be intimidated.
Brown tortured Baker in the first quarter with a lovely variety of moves. He started with a soft teardrop in the lane, then blew by him on a baseline drive and kicked to an open shooter in the corner. Most impressive was a screen and roll, where he got Baker on his hip a la Chris Paul, before driving and kicking to another open shooter. Brown uses savvy over speed and athleticism to get to his spots, but that doesn’t mean he’s short on those last two characteristics.
The rest of the game wasn’t as kind to Brown. The Knicks adjusted their coverage on the screen-and-roll, gapping Brown before converging on him in the paint. Brown continued to drive, but rushed a number of passes that were deflected, or stolen. The box score had Brown with three turnovers. but I counted five to go with two other errant passes that should have been stolen, but weren’t.
Defensively, just like the home opener, Brown was burned by offering poor weak-side help on multiple occasions. I don’t want to say it’s an effort issue, but Brown’s basketball IQ on offence is so high; I’m not sure why he’s so often out of position on defence.
Brown finished the game 5-for-17, but saved his best for last. The video below gets in a bit late, but before you press play, notice that Brown has gotten a switch onto a big man as a result of a screen, and immediately takes advantage. So often at the end of games you’ll see a screen create a mismatch, then the ball handler takes extra dribbles to survey the scene, giving the defence time to plan how it’s going to help on penetration. Here, Brown is decisive, gets inside, and delivers a perfect pass to Davion Berry for the go-ahead three.
— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) November 12, 2017
November 14 vs Westchester Knicks
The 11am start did not limit Brown on the back end of a home and home with the Knicks. Brown was relentless on offence, mixing in drives, step-backs, and a pair of three-balls, finishing with 27 points. Ron Baker wasn’t playing, but Trey Burke – who’s played 267 games over four seasons with the Jazz – was. Burke went for 24 points, but Brown showed over this home and home that he can go toe to toe with the best the G-League has to offer.
Here’s his silkiest highlight, as Brown shows off the shades of Hakeem, or Rondo, if you prefer:
— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) November 14, 2017
Brown also added 7 assists, but that was paired with 6 turnovers, and it could have been way more. Brown completed a number of tight bounce passes while toeing the baseline that somehow found its target without getting intercepted.
Going back to the big picture – ie – how Brown is going to crack the Raptors roster – he still doesn’t look steady. Not to throw shade on his array of bullet passes to open shooters, but I find myself holding my breath when Brown gets into the lane and the help arrives on time. Often his decisions seem impulsive, but his handle is so good that it’s not necessary. He could just pull it back out and reset rather than go for the proverbial home run ball so often.
Defensively Brown needs to work on his closeouts. He constantly closes too hard, his man beats him, and the whole defence is compromised. This seems easily correctable, but thru five games the adjustment has yet to be made.
Good news for Brown – Delon Wright dislocated his shoulder on Wednesday against the Pelicans, with no timetable set for his return as yet. But Fred Vanvleet, next on the depth chart, has not only been averaging 13.1 minutes, but Coach Casey has trusted him enough to play alongside Kyle Lowry in some crunch time situations.
Despite Vanvleet’s increased roll, the Raptors could always use some offensive punch off the bench, and who better than Brown to provide it – he leads the team in points (19.8 PPG), assists (6.0 APG), along with steals (3.0 STL), and minutes (37.8 MPG).
Maybe Brown’s next trip to the NBA is imminent. In the meantime, I’ll be in Mississauga on Saturday to provide a final up-close look at Brown (if he’s still there). If all goes well technically, you’ll get a vlog to go with a blog by weekend’s end.
After Saturday I’ll shift my focus to another Raptors 905 prospect. Who, you ask? Find out in my next post.