When players are drafted in the second round of the NBA draft, there is considerably less job security. They don’t have the guaranteed contracts nor the salary of first-rounders. But every season, second round picks emerge as key contributors often outplaying guys drafted much higher than them.
One second round player who has proved his worth to a playoff team this season is Sterling Brown. Brown was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 46th overall pick last summer. He started the season as you might expect for a second-round rookie on a playoff contender: a bunch of DNP’s and the rare garbage time minutes.
But in mid-January, he began to see increased playing time. After Jason Kidd was fired by the Bucks on Jan. 22, he remained in the rotation, especially after the injury to Malcolm Brogdon. As he continues to adjust to the NBA grind, he’s been enjoying every bit of being a rookie.
“It’s fun, I’ve learned a lot so far and enjoyed the time I’ve had so far,” Brown told Basketball Insiders. “I’ve been working hard. I’m going to continue to do that and prepare for this playoff run we got coming up.”
While Brown has come off the bench for the majority of the season, there were a few games where he was put into the starting lineup. On Jan. 20 in his first career start against the Philadelphia 76ers, he put up one of his best games of the season, with 14 points on 5-9 shooting, including 4-7 from the three-point line.
He’s emerged as one of the better long-range shooters on the team, connecting on 35.2 percent of his three-point attempts. He’s shown the ability to play multiple positions from shooting guard to small forward. He’s also shown flashes of great defensive potential on the perimeter.
While Brown is making a somewhat seamless transition to the NBA, he knows that there is still more he can do. His high motor and energy is something that’s seemingly caught the eye of the Bucks coaching staff.
“I’m still adjusting, but I feel like my physical nature and my IQ, my feel for the game, that’s what I do,” Brown told Basketball Insiders. “I play basketball, I love the game, I know the game. I’ve definitely got a lot to learn though. But I come in, I give my all, I go hard and that’s what got me on the floor.”
A big part of adjusting to the NBA is having older guys on the team to learn from. The Bucks have no shortage of veteran players who have years of experience on their resumes. Brown has definitely taken advantage of those resources and noted how several of the guys have taken him under their wing.
“Eric Bledsoe, Jason Terry, Delly is always in my ear,” Brown told Basketball Insiders. “I mean everybody, I get bits and pieces from everybody. But those guys helped me out the most, and Jabari [Parker] definitely.”
Another reason for why Brown believes he’s seen initial success in the NBA is because of the time he’s spent in the G-League. The NBA’s development league has been steadily receiving more and more interest and coverage as a training ground of sorts for players on the cusp of the NBA. With the increased attention, NBA hopefuls have better chances at appearing on teams radars.
For rookies like Brown, it can be a place to stay sharp and refine skills when minutes aren’t readily available with their NBA team. He only played in three games with the Bucks affiliate Wisconsin Herd, but his performance was impressive. In those three games, he put up 21.7 points per game, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 steals.
“It was good for me because I was able to get up and down. I was able to get shots up, I was able to get in a rhythm again,” Brown told Basketball Insiders. “When I came back up I got some time so that carried over. As far as guys coming out the league, it would be good because scouts are watching them and whatnot. But they just got to work. They got to work, fall into a good situation, get an opportunity and take advantage of it. That’s what it’s really all about.”
As the NBA playoffs arrive and rotations tend to get shorter, it’s unclear what role Brown will have on the team. What he does know is that his work ethic and determination is what will sustain him and help him solidify his place in the league.
“I just got to keep building in all aspects of the game,” Brown told Basketball Insiders. “It’s been a learning experience and I’ve definitely gotten better from the beginning until now.”
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