LA Clipper Terance Mann has been a star of offseason workouts on social media. The soon-to-be third-year guard has already appeared in photos alongside teammates Paul George and Reggie Jackson, and has since posted an image on his Instagram story of himself alongside Brooklyn Nets guard Bruce Brown.

“Lab,” Mann simply captioned the photo.

It is intriguing that Brown and Mann are working out together in the offseason, given the commonalities between the two players. Beyond being just 64 days apart in age with similar body measurements, the swing-types are alike in playing style as well. While both are labeled as guard/forwards, they often assume the role of pseudo-small-ball center in modern lineups. Mann and Brown are both deceptively strong for their heights (6’5 and 6’4 respectively), and this strength serves them well when battling traditional centers for rebounds and setting hard picks before rim-running.

The surplus of shooters in the current NBA has allowed players like Mann and Brown to flourish. Wing-sized players who lack a consistent three-point shot (though Mann erupted from beyond the arc in the 2021 postseason) but maintain a unique ability to guard nearly any opposing player, set screens and out-rebound mightly for their position can now be utilized because they’re often playing alongside four shooters. Per Basketball Reference, the Clippers’ lineup of Reggie Jackson, Mann, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Nicolas Batum was a +25.8 in the postseason, the third-highest point-differential of any lineup LA ran in the playoffs. Fourth-highest? Swapping out Leonard for Marcus Morris Sr. netted them a +25.6 differential from a much larger sample size.

A postseason lineup featuring Brown netted similar success: Brown alongside Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Joe Harris and Kevin Durant netted Brooklyn a +18.4 net rating. The 6’4 Brown averaged 7.9 rebounds per 36 minutes during the Nets’ playoff run, including three offensive boards. 

Are these lineups successful solely because of these two guards’ versatility? Of course not. They’re playing alongside five superstars between the two of them, and their games were unlocked largely because of those superstars’ own versatility. Leonard, George and Durant are all excellent help-defenders that are able to make up for the lack of traditional rim-protection in these lineups. Credit must also be given to Tyronn Lue and Steve Nash, who saw beyond these players’ limitations and crafted perfect roles for them.

Even so, Mann and Brown are crucial to their respective team’s success. Both teams love to switch everything, and their ability to stay with guards on the perimeter as well as contain bigs on the glass makes them indispensable.

It will be interesting to see if more of this mold of player begins to pop up in the NBA as spacing becomes ever-more prevalent. While it would behoove both of these players to develop more of a long-range jumper (perhaps that’s what the two of them were working on in the “lab”), they’re lucky they came into the league when they did. With switching now an essential aspect of a contending team’s defense, wings with strength have already been a commodity for some time, but a three-point shot is no longer a necessity the way it was even two years ago.

A final similarity between the two? They both could be free agents next summer. Brown will be without a doubt, as he took the qualifying offer from the Nets earlier this month, meaning he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the start of the 2022 offseason. The Clippers can make Mann a restricted free agent that same summer by declining his team option for the final year of his contract. If they elect to pick up that option, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent the following offseason. It would be in LA’s best interest to decline that option and have the ability to match any offer Mann gets, or risk losing one of the more unique players in the NBA. 

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