Greg Brown III came off the bench during his summer debut with the Portland Trail Blazers, manning the frontcourt alongside fellow rookie Trendon Watford behind veteran starters Michael Beasley and Kenneth Faried. Portland's second-round pick put up nine points, two rebounds and two blocks on 4-of-8 shooting and 1-of-3 from deep in 18 minutes of play against the Charlotte Hornets, solid if unspectacular numbers for a Blazers squad that relied heavily on journeyman guards Antonio Blakeney and George King offensively.
The film always tells a more accurate story about a player's performance than the box score anyway. Here are the biggest takeaways from Brown's first time suiting up for the Blazers.
Plus Length and Athleticism? Check
It definitely wasn't Brown's raw statistics or advanced numbers during his lone season at the University of Texas that caused Portland to buy a second-round pick to get him. The rare blend of positional length and explosive athleticism that made him a consensus top-10 recruit in the Class of 2020 was pretty much the sole basis of Brown being worth the No. 43 pick, and it was on full display early and often in Sin City.
Brown's first Summer League score came on—what else?—a soaring transition dunk, the result of him jumping a passing lane to deflect Charlotte's rote ball reversal.
Brown turned defense to offense in eye-popping fashion again in the second quarter.
Guarding fellow Longhorn and first-round pick Kai Jones, Brown played for the drive as his former teammate lifted to the perimeter and caught on the wing. He stayed low while twice flipping his hips to account for Jones' dribble, then immediately popped off the floor for a long-armed lefty block when Jones gathered to shoot.
Brown also caught another lob high above the rim for a transition dunk as Portland beat Charlotte's zone press. He further showed off his vertical pop by high-pointing a defensive board in traffic, and clearly has the start, stop and sprint ability needed to make fast, aggressive rotations defensively.
Brown has a long way to go in terms of offensive skill and decision-making on both ends of the floor. But his Blazers debut, even against Summer League competition, confirmed that Brown possesses impactful NBA athleticism right now at 19 years old.
No Counters or Versatility on Offense
Brown was often forced to play out of position at Texas, the presence of Jones and New York Knicks rookie Jericho Sims forcing him to the perimeter. He played power forward exclusively versus the Hornets, mostly operating as a spot-up corner shooter or pick-and-pop option from the arc.
The good news about Brown's performance offensively? His jumper didn't look completely broken. Brown's release appeared a bit faster than it did at the NBA combine in July, and he exhibited clean, quick footwork on this jab-step triple after popping to arc as the first screener in staggered ball-screen action.
You like that Brown caught on the hop, too, affording him an extra head of steam.
But the comfort and nuance he showed with the ball above was mostly absent for Brown in his first taste of pro basketball. Portland made a concerted effort to get him in advantage attack positions on the perimeter, spamming staggered ball screens and brush hand-offs with a ball handler at the top of the floor.
Brown's shaky handle and inability to change direction on the move, though, regularly negated the initial edge he had on defenders. When his first move is stymied and he's forced to improvise on the ball, Brown looks completely out of sync—more like a seven-footer than hyper-athletic forward.
He even almost lost his dribble going vertical through the Hornets' press. Young forwards with even just nascent playmaking chops should do better with a live bounce than this.
Brown committed an obvious charge while catching on the lower box in transition, more evidence of his lagging feel with the ball. He didn't make any value-add passes, either.
Reminder: Brown was a mid-second-round pick, and his complete lack of NBA-ready offensive skill was the main reason why. He'll likely be a net liability on that end of the floor in the G-League for most if not all of his rookie season.
But the truth is that anything Brown is eventually capable of doing with the ball in his hands will be a bonus for Portland. He was born to be a stationary shooter, lob-catcher and floor-runner first, foremost and forever, and certainly showed some promise in those capacities on Sunday.
Awareness Doesn't Match Effort Defensively
Brown's wingspan, just over seven feet, and 39-inch maximum vertical leap are some enviable building blocks for bigger forward defensively. But what really makes Brown's athletic profile special is his 2.99-second shuttle run time, tops out of all players at the combine. He performed notably well in the lane agility drill, too.
Covering ground shouldn't be a problem for Brown on defense, basically, and it wasn't against the Hornets. He was a committed, communicative defender from the opening tip, keeping his head on a swivel and talking through actions with teammates.
Brown, anticipating a Eurostep, even drew a charge in transition.
But good intentions aren't enough in the NBA, and the same penchant for confusion as a help defender that plagued Brown at Texas sometimes got the best of him in Sin City, too.
In the clip below, Brown notices LiAngelo Ball—a crowd favorite, naturally—popping off a screen from Jones, his man, and immediately hops high to switch. But he quickly reverts back to Jones after miscommunicating with King, leaving Ball all the airspace he needs to catch and launch for three.
Brown is in good initial position on this possession, too, cheating towards the nail from one pass away at the elbow. He's a half-beat late rotating on the flight of the ball, though, and compounds the issue with a casual close-out that gives Scottie Lewis a path to the rim.
You take the good with the bad with all rookies, but especially those as raw and with as much room to grow as Brown.
It's encouraging that Brown executed his initial help responsibilities as the low man below, taking away the roller by sliding to the restricted area. The same goes for him playing on his toes and being prepared to move as the ball's in the air.
One problem: With Milton Doyle, his back turned, zoning up the weak elbow, Brown's correct rotation isn't to the corner, but the wing. The ripples of his mistake end with another three from Ball.
Errors of commission are far better than the opposite, and Brown deserves kudos for not giving up on the play after he was forced to change course multiple times.
That's a possession Chauncey Billups and Portland's coaching staff can build on, just like the positive nature of Brown's Summer League debut overall.