Anthony Brown has all but disappeared since the season began but if this season is really about developing the Lakers youth, there’s no reason for him not to be playing.
Anthony Brown made very brief fourth quarter appearances in two blow-out losses, but otherwise, he has not played at all through nine games. Depriving Brown of playing time is an enormous mistake that needs to be corrected.
As Lakers fans know by now, Brown played four years of college basketball at Stanford, where he consistently made better than 44 percent of his 3-point shots, led his team in rebounding, and was second in assists. Brown is also considered an excellent wing defender, which is one of the Lakers’ biggest weaknesses.
When the preseason began, no one knew if Brown would be in the rotation at all. He barely played in early preseason games, but when Kobe Bryant was injured, Brown suddenly found himself in the starting line-up for the last five preseason games. His confidence grew with each improved performance.
In the final preseason game against the Golden State Warriors, he was the lone bright spot for the Lakers, scoring 14 points, making five of six shots overall, three for three from behind the arc. Ordinarily, in the final preseason game, teams go with the rotation they intend to use at the start of the season, so there was every reason to believe Brown would see plenty of action in the regular season, even after Bryant returned.
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With that in mind, it hasn’t happened. For all intents and purposes, he has not played at all.
When the season began, the starting small forward was Bryant, his back up, Nick Young. When Bryant was injured, Metta World Peace got the call. World Peace is 35 years old, has been out of the NBA for nearly two years, and was not even expected to make the team. Surprisingly, he is doing well, which presumably means he has solidified his position not only on the squad, but in the rotation, even after Bryant returns.
Brown has the misfortune of playing this same position, which means he is behind Bryant, Young, and World Peace on the depth chart. Bryant is Bryant, which means when healthy he is going to play no matter what. If World Peace has been playing well, so, too, has Young, at least to the limits of his one dimensional game. Still, does this mean they should all play ahead of Brown and that he shouldn’t play at all?
There is confusion right now about what the Lakers’ primary goal is this year. Is it to win as many games as possible, or is it to fully develop the younger players to plan for the future? If it is the latter, there is no excuse for keeping Brown languishing on the bench. Since the owner and general manager are not talking, that leaves Scott to explain the goal to the media and the fans, but one week he says one thing while the next he says something else.
The Lakers have a record of 1-8 to start the season. They are going nowhere in the standings. They have virtually no chance of making the playoffs. So far, playing veterans like Lou Williams, Brandon Bass, Young, World Peace, and Bryant, has not translated into wins, nor will it if they keep playing.
So what is the point of playing World Peace and Young all the time, even if right now they are better than Brown? This is the same reason D’Angelo Russell should play ahead of Williams and Marcelo Huertas, including in the fourth quarter, even if right now Williams and Huertas are better and more experienced players. The Lakers must focus on the future, and none of the small forwards ahead of Brown at the moment will mean anything in the future.
When the season began Larry Nance Jr. was not playing at all. He, too, was listed fourth on the depth chart at power forward behind Julius Randle, Brandon Bass, and Ryan Kelly. He was not even dressing for games, which is Brown’s situation right now.
When the front court combination of Bass and Kelly was a bust, Scott turned to Nance Jr. and World Peace out of desperation. Nance Jr. has delivered, is now playing regularly, and looks like he can become an important part of the Lakers’ future. The team never would have discovered this fact if they stuck with Bass and Kelly backing up Randle.
The same can be said of Brown. How will LA know if he is part of a more promising Lakers’ future if he doesn’t get a chance to play? There is no logical reason to continue to have him sit. Even if they continue to play to the very best of their ability, the contributions of World Peace and Young will be modest in the big picture — it will not translate into to more victories this year or in the future.
If the Lakers make the young players the priority this year, they will perhaps win 22 games. If they stick with the broken-down Bryant and the mediocre veterans on the current squad, they may win 25 games. This year, does it really matter if they win 25 games rather than 22?
The answer is no. The only thing which matters is that the Lakers fully explore the potential of the young core this year. That core includes Brown. The Lakers are in desperate need of consistent outside shooting. Perhaps Brown can be that guy. The team is also desperate for lock-down defenders on the wing. Brown was voted by his rookie peers as one of the top defensive players coming out of college this year.
The Lakers have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by giving Brown a chance. Bryant should probably not be playing at all, but that is another story. World Peace and Young are the squad’s media darlings because of their personalities. They are playing to their maximum potential right now, but so what?
Regardless of their ultimate record, if this year is to have any meaning, all of the young men on the squad, including Brown, must play a lot of minutes. Otherwise, the team will waste another full season like the last two, which it can ill afford to do.
What do you think the Lakers should do with rookie forward Anthony Brown? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter!