The Othyus Jeffers era has come to an end. The Spurs have released him and signed Shannon Brown to a 10-day contract. Brown was traded to the Wizards in the Marcin Gortat trade and immediately waived by Washington. The trade came after a year in which Brown complained about his disappearing role playing on a franchise that had its eyes set on rebuilding. It's was a precipitous fall for a player who was once a rotation fixture on a two-time championship team before deciding to leave in pursuit of a bigger role.
After his release and some reported flirtations with the Lakers, Brown surprisingly remained unsigned throughout the season until the Spurs scooped him up. So let's break down the signing:
Good guards are easier to find than good forwards
I'm sure the first reaction from many fans was to question the Spurs' decision to bring in yet another guard despite having many already on the roster. The answer is simple: because it's easier to find guards with skill than it is to find a 6-8 guy that can shoot and defend. Those usually get scooped up quickly and are given guaranteed contracts whereas a combo guard like Brown can slip through the cracks thanks to the overabundance of this type of player.
While I would have loved for the Spurs to take a look at a bigger wing, Brown is likely one of the better prospects out there. And with the Spurs guards not exactly performing at a high level, Brown can definitely come in handy.
Brief scouting report
Brown is a known commodity at this point. He is slightly undersized for his natural position of shooting guard but he makes up for it with his elite athleticism and wingspan. He can slide to the point in a pinch but he doesn't have the court vision and decision making required of a primary playmaker. His ideal role seems to be as a spot-up player that can either hit the outside shot or attack rotating defenses by using his quickness and strength to get to the rim and finish.
On defense, Brown has the tools to be really disruptive and puts them to good use by playing the passing lanes well. He is tenacious but the inches he gives up to shooting guards combined with his mediocre defensive awareness and BBIQ keep him from truly being a plus on that end.
Brown is a rotation caliber player in the NBA thanks to his ability to score in transition and attack the rim combined with his solid if unspectacular shooting and defense.
How does he fit with the Spurs?
Brown had his best years playing a reduced role on an elite team, which bodes well for his chances with the Spurs. He won't likely be asked to create for others and will be only counted on to defend and turn open looks into points. That small role would ideally hide his weaknesses and highlight his strengths.
Brown might prove to be a good alternative to De Colo and Joseph at the two, and he could potentially slide to the three in small lineups. He really doesn't have the build to guard the bigger small forwards but neither do the other available guards. If Brown buys in and can get acclimated with the team's defensive schemes quickly enough, he could probably be the best perimeter defender of the bunch, thanks to his athletic ability.
On offense, his ability to finish at the rim would be a very welcomed addition. The rest of the Spurs guards simply don't have the hops or the strength to finish in traffic but Brown definitely does. He is a streaky three-point shooter that struggles hitting wing threes, so he should probably be stationed in the corners and be used as a secondary ball handler. As long as the Spurs don't ask Brown to be a creator, he should fit in well with the team.
My biggest concern with Brown is that he has always been a mediocre rebounder for his position and without Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs will need their wings to help on the boards. Brown has the tools to be a good rebounder but he is more used to leaking out than putting a body on someone or skying for boards. Since he is on a 10-day contract, however, he could potentially hustle harder than when he thought of himself as an elite bench player.
Unlike Jeffers, I think Brown clearly belongs in an NBA roster. He is by no means a sixth man on a good team, but as a fourth or fifth guard, he could be very useful to squads looking for a scoring punch and some decent defense. With the Spurs already having a glut of natural point guards, Brown could flourish as he won't be asked to be something he is not. That should allow him to focus on his assignment on D and on attacking the rim, where he excels.
This is only a 10-day contract, which shows that the Spurs want to keep their options open and are simply looking for stop gaps. I wouldn't be surprised if Brown plays limited minutes and is released after the first contract runs out. But I think he has a chance to earn a permanent spot by providing the type of athleticism that the Spurs sorely lack at the wing. It all depends on how he applies it, as the Spurs prefer good fundamentals and awareness rather than going for steals or on reckless drives to the hoop.
Unlike other moves the Spurs have done, this signing seems to be predicated on potential. Brown is not the long wing defender and rebounder the Spurs need right now, but he is a good player and the Spurs are doing their due diligence by having a look to see if he has developed a better understanding of the game as he has matured. If he has, he could become the latest on a long list of players that have revived their careers in San Antonio.