The Bruce Brown puzzle starts with trying to pin down his position.
Basketball Reference lists Brown as a point guard, shooting guard and small forward. The BBall Index labels him as a small forward on offense, a point guard on defense, and a big for his advanced position. The NBA plays it safe by calling him a guard-forward. Cleaning the Glass has described him as a forward, wing and combo guard. Steve Nash has been quoted considering Brown possibly as a center.
While the merits of position labels are a separate conversation, the point is: If you want to find a truly "positionless" NBA player, you won't do much better than Brown.
The 25-year-old shifts fluidly between roles on a Brooklyn Nets team that has struggled dealing with change this season. Now, as the squad appears to be heating up, Brown is clicking as the textbook glue guy that any playoff contender would love to have. Since the All-Star break, he's averaging 14.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.5 steals per game, shooting 40.7% from three-point range with a 58.3% overall True Shooting percentage.
Brown is breaking out the full bag as an initiator and connective passer, a multi-faceted off-ball player and a primary defender. But a peek at the numbers also opens up more questions.
For example: Brown's at-rim scoring pressure is among the best from any non-big in the entire league. Over 45% of his shots have come within four feet of the basket in each of his four seasons and he's generally a solid finisher. His 65% clip at the rim this season is average among forwards.
So when I mosied on over to the Synergy playtype stats on the NBA's site, I was stunned to find that Brown has been by far one of the least efficient cutting scorers in the league this year. He's hit just 40.6% of his shot attempts off of halfcourt cuts; that's the worst among 105 players with at least 50 cutting possessions logged, and the closest player to him is Andre Drummond at 55.6%.
This does not mean Brown is a bad cutter.
I would argue after some cursory film study that he's generally excellent at timing his 45-cuts and weaving his way into space. Brown likes this right-hand jump floater but he doesn't always have the natural touch. According to InStat, he's made just 36.0% of his 114 floater attempts this season. Here's a reel with four great cuts and mixed floater results, plus two bonus cuts at the end:
Synergy playtype data is generally considered to be some of the more accurate out there, but it's still vulnerable to subjectivity and tracking noise. More importantly, the possessions included here (from my understanding) are only plays that end in a shot, turnover or foul. That removes some of Brown's best work as a connector.
Since the All-Star break, Brown has a 15.0% assist rate (80th percentile among forwards) and 6.6% turnover rate (81st percentile). He returned to the starting lineup on Feb. 12 and has committed multiple turnovers in a game just once during that span. Brown's combination of decisiveness and patience means defenders don't have a moment to spare when he gets the ball.
If help comes to ward off a drive, Brown knows who gets open. He's also capable of making the right reads and applying just enough pressure with the ball in his hands. Brown stays patient on these baseline drives and makes two great reads:
Brown is averaging 1.43 points per possession in transition and finishing 74% of his transition shot attempts, both among the best marks in the league. It's easier for him to get all the way to the rim in this context. Splitting hairs creates an interesting contrast: Brown is shooting 64.4% in the restricted area (not bad!) but 37.3% in the NBA's "In the Paint-Non-RA" zone (very bad!). Unsurprisingly, that's also the zone where he takes a lot of those hook-floater-type shots.
Being a 6-foot-5, 200-pound jack-of-all-trades means Brown can make the quick bursts we like to see and play with strength against smaller matchups. It also means he's going to have a tougher time finishing short touch shots associated with bigs because he's not a blow-by driver and, well, not exactly big.