The Minnesota Timberwolves had to make a bold decision this offseason with Taurean Prince. TP only spent two seasons in Minnesota, but he made his time here memorable. He offered shooting, length, and playing good team defense, helping the team however he could. In two years with Minnesota, Prince averaged 8.1 points on 46/37.8/79.9 splits in 19.3 minutes per game. However, the Wolves had to decide on his remaining non-guaranteed $7.4 million option. They could keep TP around, but it would come with a larger cap number than they may have been comfortable with, given they sought to stay below the tax.
After deciding to decline Prince’s deal, they searched for replacements. They looked long and hard at Donte DiVincenzo, who signed with the New York Knicks. Instead of settling for one Prince replacement, they brought in two: Shake Milton and Troy Brown Jr.
Brown announced his arrival on Tuesday. He scored 17 points and led the Wolves to a 106-103 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Anthony Edwards’ absence.
The beginning of TBJ’s career has been tumultuous. He’s in his sixth season and has played for four teams after stints with the Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls, and Los Angeles Lakers. The Wolves thought they could find an under-the-radar rotational wing in TBJ, bringing him in on a two-year, $8 million contract with a team option for next season.
TBJ is more of a jack of all trades, master of none. Still, the Wolves believed he had the tools to be a more cap-friendly, younger Prince replacement. Prince, 29, is five years older than TBJ, 24, but he only has two more years of NBA experience. TBJ entered the league as a one-and-done prospect at age 19, being drafted by the Washington Wizards in 2018; Prince played four seasons at Baylor, and the Atlanta Hawks drafted him at age 22 in 2016. The Wolves found a sneaky way to get a younger, more affordable player who still has viable experience in the league. The move has also paid its early dividends as Taurean is shooting a career-low 29.6% from three to begin the season for the Lakers.
Immediately, it looked like he was going to offer rotational help, as you would assume, given he was filling TP’s role. However, TBJ had a slow start to the season. Brown ended up on the outside looking in when Milton received more minutes operating in the off-ball shooter/scorer role. However, Shake was unreliable from beyond the arc, turned the ball over frequently, and did not offer else in terms of scoring and defense.
Brown made the most of his time when he saw the floor in non-blowout minutes through his aggression on rebounds, overall hustle, and selflessness. Brown often launched himself into the paint to gang-rebound with smaller lineups or diving on the floor to get loose 50/50 balls. The Wolves have struggled to corral long rebounds this season, and Troy’s impact is shown by his ability to help his teammates out. Regardless of what he was doing, he always had a noticeable effort.
But the downside of his play was that most of his non-boxscore plays stood out because of his shaky jumper in his 151 minutes played this season, an admittedly small sample size. Brown has been an average shooter, converting at a 35% clip from three-point range. However, he was coming off a career season with the Lakers.
- 38% from beyond the arc
- 37% (59/160) above the break
- 40% (47/117) from the corner
- 39% (97/249) on catch-and-shoot attempts.
That offered the Wolves a glimpse of what Brown is capable of doing. We all saw it peak on Tuesday. Brown showed how important he can be when his shot is falling. He scored a season-high 17 points to hold off the Thunder, scoring 12 of those in the fourth quarter filling in for the injured Edwards.
Brown drilled timely threes against Oklahoma City, totaling three on the night. It became a focal point because the Wolves had a role player off the bench, effectively stretching the floor to better help the more prominent players around him. However, he made a similar impact in the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies games.
The Kings beat the Timberwolves 124-111, and Minnesota was down by double digits most of the game. And the Wolves blew Memphis out, 119-97. Troy looked like a better fit in the rotation than Milton in both games. Minnesota’s lineups flowed together more easily with Brown. Anyone on the floor with Kyle Anderson, a non-shooter, must keep the defense honest as a perimeter threat.
Nickeil-Alexander Walker has shown the ability to operate as an initiator, Anderson can do the same, and Naz Reid adds a scoring punch. These abilities are Milton’s strengths that other players can cover up if Milton plays fewer minutes. If the Wolves want to continue to unlock more lineups and the bench unit more effectively on the offensive side of the ball, they need to give Brown more minutes.