Troy Brown Jr. is entering his fifth year in the NBA, and we can sum his career up with one word: inconsistency. In 2018, the Washington Wizards drafted Brown 15th overall. Despite being a lottery pick, he would last only two-and-a-half seasons in Washington before the team traded him to the Chicago Bulls in 2021. Two seasons later, the then 23-year-old got a new and somewhat unfamiliar opportunity with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Sometimes it’s tough because I feel like I’m always the guy that has to adjust because I can do so many things on the court,” Brown told The Athletic in March of this year. “But I feel like that’s the same thing that keeps me in the NBA.”
Brown was primarily a point guard growing up. He developed excellent on-ball skills before entering the NBA, which was a big reason why Washington selected him so early in the draft. However, as his career progressed, so did his role. That’s nothing new, of course. Players who were great at one thing in high school and college can get to the NBA and drastically change their style of play. For example, Austin Rivers and Patrick Beverley were drafted because of their offensive skill sets. But due to various reasons, they had to quickly find different ways to impact winning basketball to keep their spots in the league.
TBJ started 45 games with the Lakers last season. Often, he shared the floor with LeBron James or Anthony Davis – two players who need the ball in their hands to be the most effective. That meant Brown had to change his role according to what his team required again. Brown had to take on more off-ball duties. Los Angeles’ head coach Darvin Ham described him as a “Swiss Army Knife” last year because of his ability to produce with any given position or role.
But Brown’s versatility is going to be instrumental to Minnesota’s success this season.
Taurean Prince signed a one-year deal with the Lakers, so it felt like the Wolves traded Prince for Brown this summer. Both players had a similar role with their respective teams last season. I don’t want to say their playstyles are identical because of how many different hats TBJ has worn throughout his career. However, through Minnesota’s first couple of preseason games, it’s evident that Brown will somewhat fill the void that TP left behind, at least for now.
“His game is simple, man,” Darvin Ham said when asked about Brown’s versatility. “He’s definitely a 3-and-D guy, but he’s a guy you can fit and put on the court with a variety of different players. He doesn’t necessarily need the ball in his hands.”
Brown shot 38% from three on 3.7 attempts per game last season. Most of his shots came from the corners. He attempted 117 shots from there, connecting on 47 of them. Most of the time, the Lakers needed someone who could fit seamlessly next to their star-studded core. Brown did just that with his ability to space the floor on offense while providing above-average defense.
During Minnesota’s media day, Britt Robson asked Brown if he would be capable of being a more traditional point guard off the bench this season.
I played point guard my whole life until I got to college, so I’m definitely used to playing point guard and having the ball in my hands. I like being more of a triple-double threat. Just based on how the league has progressed and what teams have needed, I feel like I’ve had to adjust my game to be 3-and-D. But passing the ball, being able to rebound and push it, while still being able to play defense and shoot threes allows me to feel like I have more control over it. My confidence is sky-high.
Brown rarely had the ball in his hands during Minnesota’s first two preseason games in Abu Dhabi. Occasionally, he would take it up the floor off a turnover or defensive rebound. But for the most part, he was playing station to station from either side of the court. However, having the capability to see the entire floor and make the right read is always a positive.
But it’s going to be complicated to find a consistent role for TBJ. Last season, Chris Finch ran a tight nine-player rotation. He did this to keep the chemistry high in his nightly rotation. However, with player fewer players comes a higher likelihood of injuries, especially with the starters, who are then forced to take on a more significant load.
There has been speculation that Finch will loosen up his rotation to maybe 10 guys. In doing so, that would most likely confirm that Brown will be a part of it. However, nothing is confirmed. However, when a reporter asked about the competition for playing time this season, TBJ’s response was interesting.
I think that’s what can make us really good this year is our depth. We have a lot of guys with a lot of talent and versatility. Being able to make sure that we’re on top of our games because somebody else behind us could take our minutes is something that keeps teams honest and keeps everybody working hard. I don’t mind it. If anything, it’s going to make us really good this year.
Brown has been a part of the rotation so far in the preseason. But he seems aware that if he doesn’t produce, the Wolves could reduce or take away his minutes. For most players, that could cause them to feel pressure. However, Brown seems to have a level-headed, veteran approach heading into his fifth NBA campaign. If the 6’6” forward can continue to play his position-less brand of basketball, there should be no reason that he won’t be a permanent fixture in his new team’s rotation.