Starting with the hiring of head coach Jeff Capel at the end of March, there’s been a wave of excitement around the Pittsburgh Panthers Men’s Basketball team. Not only has Capel been able to land some quality players for this upcoming season, but there are currently eight, top-100 players considering Pitt for the 2019-2020 season according to ESPN. But in order to keep that momentum going, the Panthers will have to take more than a few steps forward this season, and the incumbent players are going to play a large role in determining how many steps the team takes.
Rather than do a traditional writeup on some players and discuss certain aspects of their game that hopefully improved over the summer, I am going to compare them to a past and/or present NBA player and how that particular Pitt player can follow a similar path in their development. First up, we have sophomore forward Terrell Brown.
Brown is a raw talent with pogo stick athleticism, so that gives him a high ceiling, theoretically. However, his feel for the game isn’t quite on par with his physical gifts, which leads to him floating in and out of games and it’s one of the reasons we only saw quick flashes of his potential last season. That combination along with a lack of a true post game, right now, reminds me a lot of Brandan Wright during his lone year as a UNC Tarheel.
Now before I get into the comparison, I am not saying that Brown has the same ceiling as a guy who was a lottery pick over a decade ago, nor do I think he’ll reach the same point that Wright did in his development, but the path to reach his potential is similar.
For starters, Brown doesn’t have terrible touch around the basket (59.7% at the rim - that’s still not very good), but he lacks confidence in a decent right-handed hook and is a little indecisive at times. Wright was projected to become a multifaceted forward, which he has become in someways, but early in his collegiate career he pretty much stuck to a reliable hook shot over either shoulder. If Brown can work on getting his hook shot off on various positions on the block, as opposed to trying to avoid contact or shy away from potential help defense, I think he’ll have far more success this season.
Neither was, or in Brown’s case is, a great rebounder. While I think Brown appeared to have more muscle on his frame during his freshman season, neither possessed the kind of physicality that would have allowed them to inhale rebounds through contact. Given their long and athletic builds, they should be able to rebound outside their area, particularly on the offensive end. The Panthers jacked up three-pointers on 47.5% of their attempts from the floor and only converted on 32.4%, so there was plenty of long rebound possibilities for Brown when he was on the floor.
Rebounding can often come down to desire, especially when you’re not battling for position but rather just trying run down caroms that bounce hard off the rim. A little more confidence would go a long way for Brown.
Brown’s outside jumper is going to take time to become a reliable option, like Wright. A majority of Brown’s field goal attempts came from outside the paint (53.7%), and he was a shade below 30% on his two-point jumpers (29.6%) while shooting just 16.7% from three-point distance. That’s just way too many attempts for someone that isn’t converting at even an average rate.
Scouts look at a players FT% as a loose indicator as to how effective they’ll be when they step away from the basket, but Wright was even worse than Brown in this department. So, there’s definitely hope that Brown will develop in this area. Mechanically, his shot isn’t broken it’s just really, well, mechanical. You can tell he goes through all the steps on an outside jumper in his head, while he’s shooting. On free throw attempts, Brown establishes a base with his feet shoulder width apart, on his three-pointers his feet are almost together sometimes. That’s definitely a sign of a guy that is working on his jumper, but it’s not game ready. Wright is by no means a marksman, but he has found a comfort zone in pick-and-pop situations and just knows how to hunt for his comfort zones. That’s certainly within Brown’s reach.
In terms of how Brown sets, flares, slips, and rolls out of screens I’d give it an incomplete. It wasn’t a huge part of Pitt’s offense and their success, or lack thereof, can be attributed to the guards as much as the screen setters. This really comes back to feel and understanding of the game. Brown is always a step slow on these, but that will get better with time and experience, hopefully. Of course it would need to be a bigger part of what the team is trying to do this season.
The physical comparisons, and to a lesser extent, their per minute stat lines make the on-paper comparison. With that said, I think Brown can follow Wright’s path to success, although I doubt that will conclude with him in the NBA. Once the game slows down for Brown, he’ll need to develop a reliable move or two, and he’ll be able to expand further away from the basket. He’ll never be a dominant rebounder, but he is more than capable of keeping balls alive and staying active on the boards.
- Stats courtesy of Hoop-Math.