Why Anthony Brown Can Help Fill Los Angeles Lakers Glaring Need at Small Forward

David Murphy@@davem234Featured ColumnistJuly 3, 2015

EL SEGUNDO, CA - JUNE 29:  Anthony Brown #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers poses for a photo with Jeanie Buss, part-owner and president, before they attend a press conference at Toyota Sports Center on June 29, 2015 in El Segundo California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE  (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

As the Los Angeles Lakers continue their so-far fruitless free-agent quest, they may already have an answer at the small forward position—Anthony Brown.

The Stanford graduate was selected by L.A. as their No. 34 pick on June 25. He has all the earmarks of a modern three-and-D guy—great length, defensive acumen and an efficient outside stroke.

Brown shot 44 percent from beyond the arc this season and 45 percent the year prior. His career mark over five seasons, including a true junior redshirt season in which he played just five games due to a hip injury, was 40 percent. 

Mike Trudell @LakersReporter

The Lakers select Anthony Brown out of Stanford. A 6-8 SF, he’s a 3 and D guy. Jay Bilas: “Has NBA range, he can really shoot it."

The lanky swingman is part of a basketball movement that has picked up considerable steam in recent years, driven by analytics and an emphasis on spreading the floor offensively while defending that same principle on the other end of the court.

“Being able to spread the floor for Kobe (Bryant) and those guys is key,” Brown said, per Lakers.com. “The three-and-D is definitely an evolving position. I’m just trying to be the best player I can.”

It was an ambitious statement from a rookie who has yet to play a single game in the NBA. But Brown’s quiet assurance and maturity speaks volumes. During his introductory press conference with fellow draftees D’Angelo Russell and Larry Nance Jr., the 22-year-old was asked about the benefit of his full college experience:

“I definitely feel that I’m a lot more mature than a lot of the younger guys,” Brown answered, per Lakers.com. “I have the ability to pick up concepts really quick, and that will definitely benefit me.”

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This is a guy who’s ready to contribute right away.

The Lakers have been searching for solutions at the wing in recent years, and Wesley Johnson’s disappearing act wasn’t it. The former No. 4 draft pick has been the poster child for unrealized potential ever since he entered the league with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2010.

Brown grew up in Belflower, California, an L.A. suburb not far from the Lakers’ Inglewood headquarters and practice facility. There’s no sham or pretense when he talks about being a purple and gold fan and watching games as a kid on KCAL9.

J.A. Adande @jadande

Lakers draft pick Anthony Brown says he grew up watching the Lakers "on KCAL 9." Local knowledge. (KHJ for the real old heads)

For casual fans or those who may not remember, Channel 9 was the longtime broadcast home of the Lakers until the team entered into a new partnership with Time Warner Cable in 2012. That a neophyte rookie can pay homage to the past while pinpointing a strategic need for the future is, at the least, refreshing.

Below, Serena Winters of Lakers Nation speaks with the rookie, who will wear No. 3, about fandom, draft day and expectations:

But there’s more here than nostalgia and rookie hopefulness. Downtown Anthony Brown can flat-out shoot the ball—a very necessary skill for a team that averaged just 98.5 points per game during an historically bad 21-61 season.

Josh Riddell of Draft Express summed up the most tangible skill of the 6’8” wing with the 6’11” wingspan:

Brown will need to make his living at the next level as a shooter, especially in catch and shoot situations, where he shot 45.1% in all such situations according to Synergy Sports Technology. His 1.31 points per possession with his feet set is the second best mark in this draft, and is a valuable skill when paired with his size, which allows him to get his shot off effectively against other players his height. He's also effective shooting off screens, as he prepares himself nicely for jumpers, gathering himself, catching and firing away in one smooth and fluid motion.

And then there's the defensive capabilities. Brown, who averaged 14.8 points per game during his senior season, also pulled down an impressive 6.9 rebounds—more than any other player on the Cardinal roster. He also had the team’s highest defensive win share at 1.7 and was the second-highest assists man at 2.5 per game. 

Having a solid wing defender and a lights-out shooter rolled into one is a good first step. But there’s also the question of where he might fit in the rotation. That will remain unanswered for now, with training camp still months away.

In the interim, the young baller who grew up on a KCAL Lakers diet will be part of the team’s summer league roster starting July 10 in Las Vegas.

Mike Bresnahan @Mike_Bresnahan

Lakers announce summer-league team. Notables: Randle, Russell, Clarkson, Tarik Black, Jabari Brown, Nance Jr., Anthony Brown, Buycks, Upshaw

It’s easy to envision Brown in a young and highly mobile young lineup, alongside No. 2 draft choice Russell at the point, Jordan Clarkson at shooting guard and Julius Randall at the 4. But that doesn’t take into consideration Bryant, who could easily spend time on the wing this season, or Nick Young, for that matter—though he could still be traded.

There also remains every possibility that the Lakers pick up a free-agent small forward over the summer.

But Brown was a smart, solid choice for L.A. in the draft—he has excellent footwork and balance and doesn’t need the ball in his hands in order to make an impact, qualities that will be a benefit in Byron Scott’s screen-heavy system.

It’s just the beginning of a new generation of purple and gold basketball.

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference unless otherwise noted.

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