Can Markel Brown Fill Shaun Livingston's Shoes for Brooklyn Nets?

Thomas Duffy@@TJDhoopsFeatured ColumnistJuly 5, 2014

Oklahoma State wing Markel Brown (22) celebrates with fans during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Robert Morris in Stillwater, Okla., Monday, Dec. 30, 2013. Oklahoma State won 92-66. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Watching Shaun Livingston slip away this offseason was a real kick in the teeth for the Brooklyn Nets.

Seeing former coach Jason Kidd slither his way to the Milwaukee Bucks after a power-crazed list of demands got shot down? That wasn't so bad—Brooklyn came away with a better coach in Lionel Hollins along with two future second-round draft picks from the Bucks.

Livingston's departure was much different than Kidd's, though. That one hurt.

However, Markel Brown may be able to ease the pain.

Taken by the Nets after the team purchased the 44th overall pick in the 2014 draft, Brown's athleticism and scoring ability will allow him to comfortably step into the backup point guard/starting 2-guard role that Livingston thrived in last year.


Who is Markel Brown?

Livingston was Never rattled and always poised, the 28-year-old journeyman PG rarely displayed feats of athleticism but always seemed to step up when the Nets needed him most.

He'll have a similar role with the Golden State Warriors next year as he backs up Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Brown, on the other hand, leaps out of the gym. Per ESPN New York, his 43.5-inch vertical at the combine tied for the best in the 2014 draft class, and even at 6'3", he's a solid one-on-one defender.

Denis Poroy/Associated Press

In his senior year at Oklahoma State, Brown put up 17.2 points and 2.9 assists while shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 37.9 percent from beyond the arc.

And when his backcourt mate, star guard Marcus Smart, was suspended for three games in February, Brown rose to the occasion. The senior dropped 23.3 points per game over that span and shot nearly 45 percent from the field.

Brown likens his game to one of the most explosive players in the NBA: Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Per ESPN's Mike Mazzeo:

I've never worked out with [Westbrook], but I've had the opportunity to see him a couple times, and he's someone who's given me a lot of advice.

He's someone who pretty much had the same role as me at college, he played with Darren Collison and Kevin Love [at UCLA] and he didn't really stand out as much playing with those guys, but he's someone who transitioned in the NBA and became a superstar.

Had Brown not been somewhat overshadowed by Smart, who was taken with the sixth overall pick by the Boston Celtics, his draft stock might have been more substantial.

Instead, the Nets purchased his draft rights for $1.1 million—which was no sweat off of owner Mikhail Prokhorov's back—and made out like bandits by nabbing Brown in the second round.

The Nets are still old and greatly lack athleticism. But the addition of Brown will give Brooklyn some hope in transition as well as a guy who can jump-start energy in the often lifeless Barclays Center.


What Brown brings to the Nets

Make no mistake about it: Markel Brown is not Shaun Livingston. The two don't share a whole lot of similarities, save for the fact that Brown will play the same positions that Livingston did with the Nets.

Brown is not going to be a calming force for Brooklyn. Quite the contrary, actually—Brown will be there to get the people going.

Last season, the Nets had one truly athletic player in rookie Mason Plumlee. But if you've watched even just one of Plumlee's strong performances, you might as well have seen them all.

Putbacks, two-handed dunks, perhaps a spin move if you're lucky—athleticism doesn't equate to highlights.

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19:  Mason Plumlee #1 of the Brooklyn Nets warms up prior to play against the Toronto Raptors in Game One of the NBA Eastern Conference play-off at the Air Canada Centre on April 19, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Nets defeated
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Brooklyn was old in 2013-14 and, barring a monumental blockbuster trade this summer, will be old next season, too.

Far too often, it seemed as if the team was simply going through the motions last year, almost lulling itself to sleep. That won't be the case with Brown running the floor next season.

A bland, mechanically correct elbow jumper and a windmill dunk are both two points—that's understood.

But there's something to be said for a posterizing slam, one that would make Ronny Turiaf leap from the bench and inexplicably hold his teammates back when in reality, none of them would actually run onto the court.

The Barclays Center could use some buzz in it, too. When Brooklyn faced off against the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the 2014 postseason, the Nets' official Twitter account gave a wake-up call to fans of the team, who were significantly less enthused than those north of the border.

Brown won't have the place rocking like a college stadium, but when the 22-year-old gets out on a fast break, you better believe that there will be some energy in the Barclays.


More than a dunker

Brown is a well-rounded basketball player, one who has the ability to score from all areas of the floor despite his height disadvantage.

He's more than just an aerial show. However, there are areas that Brown needs to focus on if he wants to get regular playing time under Hollins.

First off is defense. Brown is capable of sticking someone man-to-man on the perimeter, but he'll need to adjust to the fast-paced NBA game and learn how to play team D.

Keep in mind that Hollins, who spent seven years with the lockdown Memphis Grizzlies, won't put up with poor effort on either end.

The second is composure. Sometimes, rookies or younger players go out of their way to try and make that highlight play, only to end up throwing the ball out of bounds or smashing it off the back iron.

Brown averaged just 1.6 turnovers per game during his senior year, which is a solid number given the amount of time he was making decisions with the ball in his hands. Last season, Livingston coughed it up just 1.4 times on average.

The nine-year vet also gave Brooklyn a modest 8.3 points, 3.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game last season, which proves that Brown won't need to drop 25 points a night in order to make a serious impact.

Losing Livingston will still be tough to swallow, but Nets fans should sleep better at night knowing that they'll have Markel Brown next year.


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