PHOENIX — Shannon Brown signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Phoenix Suns last winter in large part to earn a bigger, long-term deal this offseason.
The thinking for Brown, 26, was that he could really show off his skills playing next to Steve Nash in the Suns’ open offense after putting himself on the NBA map with two and a half years in Phil Jackson’s triangle.
After an up and down personal season that Brown said mirrored the inconsistency of his team, the question is whether an NBA team saw enough to offer Shannon the kind of long-term deal he will now seek on the open market.
“I really don’t like going one year, you know what I mean?” Brown said. “Anything could happen with a one year, like at the beginning of the season where I wasn’t playing much, missed five straight games. If I don’t play the rest of the season, that could be my career.
“Knowing that I can play this game of basketball that would be tough, but it came back around. I don’t like doing one year. I’ve been doing one years for a while, so hopefully I get some years behind me.”
So what did Brown prove in his 66-game audition?
There’s no question he can score the ball. Brown averaged a career-high 11.0 points per game, including a 15.8 scoring average in 19 games as a starter that would have led the team if he had produced that prolifically all season.
Time and time again Brown ignited the Suns with a double-digit scoring quarter when he replaced Grant Hill in the starting lineup down the stretch. In this time he exploded for games of 32, 28 and 24 while finishing in single figures only three times in 17 games as he showed off his shooting stroke and ability to drive to the rim.
Playing in the starting lineup with Nash seemed to get his game under control as Brown proved to be a solid shooter with his feet set. Unfortunately all too often – especially early in the season — he also seemed to lead the Suns in bad shots that rarely connected, which is why he shot just 42.0 percent for the year.
“I think I came out and showed people that I could play the game of basketball,” Brown said. “One of the things about me they were saying this summer, ‘Oh, he can’t play out of the triangle, the triangle made him.’ I think I proved that wrong. I’m just trying to continue to get better as a basketball player, and I think I’m going to do that this summer.”
Despite his scoring prowess, Brown did not make the Suns better when he was on the floor.
According to the NBA’s stats tool, the Suns were 3.1 points per 100 possessions better when Brown sat (they had a -2.0 net rating when he played), and Basketball Value has Brown at a -5.10 adjusted plus/minus. According to Nerd Numbers, the Michigan State product produced a below average 0.035 WP48 for the season that improved to only 0.113 during those final 17 contests.
The lineup data paints Brown as a weak link as well. As you learned in last week’s Childress story, the Suns’ bench lineup of Bassy-Redd-Morris-Lopez improved by a whopping 46.7 points per 100 possessions over the course of the second half when Chilly replaced Brown after Shannon became a starter.
Brown similarly made the starters worse when he replaced Hill as the Nash-Dudley-Frye-Gortat starting lineup that dominated to the tune of a 12.5 net rating in 747 minutes over 45 games dropped to a 2.2 net rating in 353 minutes over 32 games with Brown in the lineup instead of Hill.
When you consider Brown’s desire for a long-term deal along with the fact that he did not exactly make the Suns better this season despite his scoring exploits, I would tell him thanks but no thanks when the free agency period begins in July.
Signing Brown to a long-term deal around the mid-level exception typifies the exact kind of deal they can’t make — and have promised they won’t.
This is especially true if the Suns re-sign Michael Redd as we have learned they do not work well in tandem according to the lineup data (-11.2 net rating in 259 minutes) and they both would be better off as the lone go-to guy in the second unit. Redd did a better job of meshing with that lineup and could perhaps be had for another one-year deal if the Suns go into powder-saving mode.
Nothing is as overvalued on the free agent market as scoring and because Brown is the kind of player who can get you 15 a game if you give him the requisite shots and minutes, somebody will pay him more money than they should.
“I would like to come back,” Brown said. “I understand it’s a business at the same time so whatever happens happens, but I’ve expressed my interest. … My plans might not fit other people’s plans, so I’ve just got to be prepared for anything.”
In other words, he’d be happy to come back if the Suns open the vault, but he’s not interested in signing the kind of deal that brought him to Phoenix.
Aside from the early February stretch when Brown fell out of the rotation for five games, both Brown and the Suns should be pleased with this winter’s signing.
The Suns received the kind of scoring punch their roster largely lacked and Brown got an opportunity to showcase his skills to set him up for the kind of payday he hopes he’s in for this summer.
Now the Suns must resist the temptation of keeping his scoring punch in the lineup, especially on a long-term deal.
Brown ranked ninth in the league on scoring off cuts, according to mySynergySports, averaging 1.48 points per play (with 44 in all) and shooting 80.6 percent. However, Brown scored just 0.74 ppp and shot 32.6 percent in isolations and tallied 0.77 ppp on 35.5 percent shooting as a pick-and-roll ball handler.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.
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