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Grizzlies Free Agency Profiles: Sterling Brown

Sterling Brown has flashed two-way chops over his brief NBA career, but flagrant shooting woes marred his 2019-20 campaign.

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Memphis Grizzlies Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sterling Brown- Forward, Southern Methodist University

25 years old, 6’5”, 228 pounds, 6’9” wingspan

Draft- Chosen 46th overall in 2017 by the Philadelphia 76ers. Brown’s rights were expeditiously traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for cash considerations.

Experience- Three seasons, all with Milwaukee

Career Stats- 164 games played, 12 starts, 15.7 minutes per game, 5.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks, 0.7 turnovers, 41.7% field goal percentage (34.5% from three), 77.4% free throw shooting, 9.9 PER, 0.73 win shares per 48 minutes.


When at the top of his game, Sterling Brown fits the mold of a 3-and-D uber-versatile wing, which are hot commodities in the NBA. It’s no secret that players who can both fire away from deep and adequately defend multiple positions are paramount to achieving team success in this modern era of hoops.

After an unspectacular maiden season for Sterling (4.0 points on 40% shooting in 14.4 minutes per game), he began to make a name for himself in year two after receiving an uptick in minutes. Firstly, Brown established himself to be an irritant and flat out nuisance for opposing ones, twos, and threes out on the perimeter. Sterling embraces getting his hands dirty on defense, whether it be to secure a loose ball or come up with a steal. While he’s a stout on-ball defender, he might be even better off-ball. Brown is wonderful at timing when to use his reach to break up intended passes.

Also, the Illinois native knocked down a respectable 36.1% of his threes in 2018-19, and he was practically automatic from the corners; A staggering 49% of his corner treys found the bottom of the net (89th percentile according to Cleaning the Glass). Additionally, Brown’s adeptness as a rebounder shone through as a second-year pro, as his standout leaping ability allowed him to corral boards among the trees.

With all that being said, Sterling’s breakout sophomore stint unfortunately didn’t translate to the 2019-20 season. His efficiency from the field (37.1%) as well as from deep (32.4%) plummeted compared to the year prior and are career-lows for Brown. Simply put, scoring the ball was a difficult endeavor for the 25-year-old wing all season long, and he just wasn’t a consistent threat on offense. His defense and rebounding this past year were rock-solid as expected (Brown even set a personal best with 3.5 rebounds per game), but they didn’t save Sterling from a disappointing season in totality.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Numbers that make Brown

17- Sterling’s board snatching prowess this season was nearly unrivaled at his position. His defensive rebounding percentage of 17.0% ranked in the 98th percentile among all wings, per Cleaning the Glass. Should restricted free agent D’Anthony Melton depart this offseason, Brown’s presence on the glass can soften the blow of losing an awesome rebounding guard like Melton.

2.4- Brown’s foul percentage this season was just 2.4% (86th percentile), meaning he refrained from being over-aggressive on defense. Considering Dillon Brooks’ notorious propensity to commit fouls, Sterling’s ability to defend without fouling at the guard spot would serve as a breath of fresh air. The Grizzlies as a unit foul too frequently (21.3 per game in 2019-20), and the acquisition of Brown would be a step in the right direction towards nullifying this issue.

43- While Brown did in fact struggle to convert on his shots from the field this season, he was a marksman from the corners. A remarkable 43% of his corner threes found nylon according to Cleaning the Glass. He’s shot 37% or better from the corners every year since he joined the Bucks, which points to the high possibility that he’d continue to light it up from this proximity in Memphis.

Numbers that may make the Grizzlies pass on Brown

8.1- Brown’s assist percentage of 8.1% this season (30th percentile) indicates that he’s a below-average playmaker at best. There are a fair amount of players at his position who can serve as floor generals when need be. Brown is not one of them; He lacks the vision, instincts, and ball handling skills to be relied upon to make those around him better. The only reserve off the pine for Memphis who proved to be a reliable orchestrator was Tyus Jones.

And as that became apparent in the Bubble, the deep and talented Grizzlies bench unit went through problematic stretches offensively without their floor general. A secondary playmaker would do wonders for Memphis’ already elite bench scoring, but they won’t find one in Brown.

0.8- Sterling rarely earned his way to the charity stripe in 2019-20. He shot 80% from the line, but only attempted a measly 0.8 free throws per contest. The Grizzlies, who finished with the seventh-least free throws attempted on average (21.8), clearly lack individuals who can create off the bounce and get to the line consistently. All in all, Brown’s presence likely won’t prove to be the remedy for Memphis’ free throw shortage.

Pulse of Grizz Nation

The folks of Grizz Nation have spoken. In total, 113 people voted, and 56.6% of them came to the conclusion that the Grizzlies shouldn’t pursue Sterling Brown. I expected this outcome, and I wholeheartedly agree with those who believe Brown wouldn’t be a wonderful fit in Memphis. Besides astute perimeter defense and rebounding (which other Grizzly wings already provide), I’m not sure what he could contribute to the Grizzlies on a nightly basis - meaning perhaps Memphis would be better off probing the market for a wing who wasn’t an abysmally inefficient shot-maker.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Milwaukee Bucks Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Final Offer

Brown is going to get signed somewhere, but that somewhere won’t be Memphis. Squads lacking significant depth at the guard spots should take a flier on him. Sterling can surely be bought at a dirt-cheap price considering he’s coming off a down-year, and he’s proven at the very least that he can make an impact in the NBA with his defensive intensity.

In conclusion, expect Brown to be snatched up either by a contender seeking an on-ball pest, or by a rebuilding squad opting to gamble on what little upside he has remaining. Chances are he’ll sign a short-term deal worth around the minimum salary.

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