Pourover: Kobe Brown and the fit with the Los Angeles Clippers

If you had told me four years ago that we would see Kobe Brown get his name called as a first round NBA Draft pick, well, I’ll just say I would have been skeptical.

At the time, Brown, a 6’7 220 hybrid forward, was the lowest rated of the three freshmen for the 2019 class behind Mario McKinney, Jr. and Tray Jackson. He was ranked No. 239 in the country after being ranked in the top 100 a few years earlier. But Brown and his family have always been practical about his skills and development. Entering Missouri, he was more advanced with his ball handling and Basketball IQ than any of his freshman teammates. That readiness for the collegiate game led to him becoming the early favorite to start, something he did 118 times in 123 college games.

What Brown was good at, however, was taking advantage of mismatches and attacking the rim. As a freshman, Brown excelled at the rim, but a high turnover rate and poor outside shooting held his overall effectiveness down. As a sophomore, he improved (though not from the outside) by being even stronger at the rim and trimming his turnovers. On the court, however, he was exposed to players like Dru Smith, Jeremiah Tilmon, Xavier Pinson and Mark Smith. As a junior, he was given the keys. Granted, the team was bad, but Brown certainly wasn’t, and he earned All-SEC honors.

The poor year led Mizzou to part ways with Cuonzo Martin, the man who recruited Brown and made him the centerpiece his final season. When Mizzou hired Dennis Gates, there was some speculation that Brown would enter the transfer portal. But he stayed.

Being turned into a smart decision for Brown. His fit with Gates turned into a very good one, as Gates was able to unlock the one area of ​​the Browns’ offensive game that was still lagging behind.

As a junior, Brown averaged 0.58 ppg. possession on jump shot. That number went to 1.32 in the past season. Basically, Brown shot himself into the NBA discussion and into the 1st round.

Once you get past the elite players at the top of the draft, all you need is a team that falls in love with you to get a good draft slot. And the Clippers obviously fell in love with Brown enough to spend their 1st round pick on him. The Clippers weren’t worried about the Browns’ advanced age either, as they also took Miami hybrid forward Jordan Miller. Miller and Brown were the two oldest players drafted this season. And they were two of the five players aged 23.

So why were the Clippers so enamored? It’s easy to see the state of their roster, especially their two stars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. With Leonard and George, the Clippers are a formidable title contender, and they were the 5th seed in the West this year.

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Leonard is 31 years old and in the third year of a four-year contract. He has played in just 104 games the last three years due to an ACL injury. But he still posted some of the best shooting numbers of his career.

Meanwhile, Paul George is 34 and entering the final year of his contract (he has a player option year in 2024-25). Due to various injuries, George missed 26 games to go with the 30 games that Leonard missed. Together, the two stars played just 38 games last season.

Missing their two stars made the Clippers okay a lot of the time. They ranked 17th in both offensive and defensive efficiency. But they were 21st in offensive rebounding. Virtually every statistical category shows a team that really needs its two stars to be healthy and play. When Kawhi and George are on the floor, they are probably two of the fifteen best players in the league. If the Clippers are going to compete for a championship this coming season, no player in the middle of the draft will put them over the top. But healthy stars can get them there.

What the Clippers were looking for were complementary pieces to make life easier for Leonard and Paul. There were probably more talented 19-year-olds with higher upsides, but the Clippers aren’t looking for the learning curve. They’re struggling with salary cap issues, so they’re finding a way to have reliable young players on low-cost contracts who can contribute right away.

Clippers Head Coach and Missouri native Ty Lue is not known for his reliance on younger players. He has shown a fondness for vets. But with Brown (and Miller both), they get a rookie who has played more basketball and can be a more capable contributor. He’s going to have to defend well, he’s going to have to rebound. And he needs to be consistent about catching and shooting. Do those things and Lue, George and Leonard will find him opportunities.

Now it’s just up to Kobe to seize the moment.

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