PHOENIX — Seven years ago, Alec Brown thought he was a small forward or, at best, a prep version of a power forward at his Minnesota high school. Three years ago, he just began thinking that his “crazy goal” of being an NBA player might be a reality. And two weeks ago, he was pleasantly surprised those dreams came true.
“I knew it was a toss-up,” said the Phoenix Suns’ 50th pick in the 2014 draft. “I knew I had a good workout here. I knew that they liked me and there was a chance but I really didn’t know for sure. When I did get drafted I was excited.”
When the 7-foot stretch big man takes the next step in his career, playing in an NBA game, remains difficult to predict. Brown, who played at Wisconsin Green Bay, isn’t ruling his first NBA appearance coming sooner than later.
Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said on draft night there had been discussions about Brown being a draft-and-stash option, but suddenly there could be a razor-thin chance he could make the roster.
Channing Frye signing a four-year, $32 million deal — read the Orlando Sentinel’s details on how it actually decreases year-to-year — opened up one more roster spot that was expected to be taken. But because Brown causes the same gravity-changing reactions by opposing defenses, there just might be a place for him on the Suns’ roster.
“We’ll see how things pan out after summer league,” Brown said. “Couple things: how I’m playing, if I’m ready to play at the next level, the NBA level yet, how the roster pans out. All that stuff goes into it. If they need me here, I’ll be ready to play here, and if not, if they want me to go overseas for a year, I’ll do that too.
“Not set in stone to go over there yet.”
The Summer League will show off Brown’s shooting ability a bit. He was a 44.6 percent three-point shooter in college and had one of the best shooting performances in the NBA Draft Combine. Brown hit 18-of-25 spot-up NBA threes, which tied Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim for the best performance in that regard.
Summer League coach Mike Longabardi will likely use a number of rotations that go big and small, but Brown sees himself as a stretch 4, which is why he likes the fit in Phoenix so much.
“That’s my main thought right when they pick me is, ‘that’s perfect for me,’” Brown said. “How they play, running the court, spacing the floor, utilizing the corners, pick-and-pops, I was excited.”
Brown has kept some of his fluid guard skills since sprouting five or six inches from his freshman year in high school to become 6-foot-10 entering his junior year. He measured 7-foot-0.25 at the combine and 231 pounds — he’s hoping he continues adding weight.
What earns Brown less attention than his well-below-average rebounding numbers is his defense, which will certainly be a bigger liability. He blocked 2.8 shots per game in his senior year at Green Bay but that might not translate to the league considering his lack of interior strength. For now, Brown might have to bank on defending more perimeter-oriented forwards like himself.
“Some of the time I got to keep working on my lateral movement, staying with them on the drive,” he said.
For now, Phoenix will mull its free agent options and see how Brown does in Las Vegas.
That leaves little time for Brown to shake off the excitement of being drafted.
“Honestly I didn’t really know until probably after my freshman year in college that I had a chance to make it some day,” he said. “You know, until then it was always kind of a dream, a crazy goal I could possibly get to.”
Brown has a Spanish club lined up in case he goes the European route, but for now he’ll be playing alongside a starter NBA center in Miles Plumlee, two deadly slashers in Archie Goodwin and T.J. Warren, and a savvy pick-and-roll point guard in Tyler Ennis.
The scene is set for Brown to open eyes over the next week or so.