All four teams still standing in the NBA Playoffs have at least one 3-and-D player on their roster. These specialists are essential for a potent bench that can boost a team deep into the postseason. The Boston Celtics brought in six players in their first pre-draft workout on Wednesday, which featured Anthony Brown, a wing prospect that fits the 3-and-D mold.
"I think I fit in pretty well as a 3-and-D guy," Brown, a graduate of Stanford University, told SB Nation at the NBA Combine. "You see a lot of 3-and-D guys today that are pretty successful, whether it's Danny Green or Khris Middleton. That's something I'm definitely hoping to start off on and be right away."
Brown is expected to go in the second round, which is where Green and Middleton were both selected. Many of the league's great 3-and-D players seem to slip through the cracks into the second round -- Kyle Korver and Trevor Ariza -- or go undrafted -- Bruce Bowen and Wesley Matthews.
Brown shot 44.1 percent from downtown as a senior at Stanford, with the majority of his attempts coming off the catch. He features a quick gather and a high release that make his shot difficult to block.
At 22-years-old, Brown is older than the average prospect, but with that comes a maturity and understanding of the game that may allow him to play immediately. He is excellent at finding empty spaces and relocating to produce easy passing lanes for the ball handler. Not many players come to the NBA with such a high basketball IQ.
But Brown wants to make sure that he isn't pigeonholed as a one-dimensional spot up shooter that just hovers behind the arc, so he's doing work off the dribble and as a pick-and-roll ball handler.
Brown explained: "As a spot up shooter they're going to close you off the line and you'll have to pull up. These dudes are way more athletic and way faster [than most college players], so you have to be ready for all that."
Though he wasn't a standout off the dribble, because he needs to quicken his release, Brown did show progression as an upperclassman. He is solid at balancing his body mid-air after a one or two dribble pull up, which is key at the next level. The play above shows him taking a side dribble and then seamlessly transitioning into his jumper, with no unnecessary movement.
Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins rarely called plays that featured off screens or dribble handoffs, so the volume of opportunity also wasn't there for Brown to prove himself as a threat on the move.
But in limited opportunities he did showcase savvy instincts and footwork, especially coming off screens to his right where he could turn into his shot.
Here, Brown accelerates through a double down screen and turns into his jumper for a high, smooth rainbow release. His natural touch is evident, regardless of whether or not he's coming off screens or spotting up, and he needs only more experience to become a competent shooter off one or two dribbles.
Despite the lack of varied play types in the offense, it's encouraging for Brown that he will be able to put all of his time and attention into basketball. He was a communications major working towards a master's degree in media studies, which is no easy task for any student, never mind a student-athlete and Pac-12 All-Academic honoree.
"It definitely is relieving to know that now it's only basketball," Brown said. "At the same time, when it is school and basketball, you do have to give something else up, whether that's your social life or how much you go out and stuff like that. It's definitely exciting to only have to focus on basketball now. Instead of after practice having to do some homework, you can go get your body right and get some treatment."
In what may go overlooked in the pre-draft process, Brown has already shown what he can do for his game when he can put the bulk of his focus into honing his skills. As a junior he battled adversity when he was diagnosed with a congenital hip condition that required surgery. This forced him to sit out and apply for a medical redshirt.
After working hard that entire year with fewer responsibilities, he came back as a redshirt-junior with a new-and-improved game. He shot 10 percent better from behind the arc and 16 percent better from the line, and looked to be in better shape than he was pre-surgery. Brown was displaying the talent that made him a heavily recruited player out of high school, which resulted in the player that excelled as a fifth-year senior.
"I got to spend an entire summer, an entire year of just getting better. No games, no team workouts, it was just about getting better," Brown said. "It helped me a lot. I was kind of only doing basketball, because I only had so much time to do schoolwork anyway."
Considering how much he blossomed in one year without a full plate of responsibilities, it makes one wonder what he could do when basketball is his full-time job.
Brown's fate in the NBA will likely come down to whether he can defend at an average-or-higher level, because he undoubtedly can shoot the lights out. Brown has only average lateral quickness, but he knows who he is as a player and where he must progress.
When the Pelicans interviewed Brown, he said they asked him how he'd stop Stephen Curry, and he replied: "There's not much you can do, you just have to hope he misses." Brown said he understands that great shooters are going to score no matter what, it's just about making them uncomfortable and putting them into spots they don't want to be.
"I'm not going to press up on guys that I know are quicker than me, and I'm not going to back off guys that I know are shooters. I just try to make guys go to their weaknesses. Make them go to Plan B. If Plan B is working that night for them, that's something I have to live with," Brown told SFGate.com in January. "I understand I'm not the quickest guy on the floor, but I do have an asset and that's length."
Where Brown has a distinct advantage is with his size. At 6'5" with a 6'11" wingspan, he is about one-inch taller and three-inches longer than the average drafted shooting guard, per DraftExpress' measurement database.
Brown may not develop into a lockdown defender, but his length will allow him to engulf a number of shooting guards, and he's big enough to defend some small forwards. What's crucial for him is to get stronger so he can battle through screens and improve on his technique when closing out on shooters.
The Celtics have the 33rd and 45th picks in the second-round. While they will likely use one or both of those choices as trade chips, there's always a chance they stay put or trade back into the second-round. Considering Brown's tools, and the fact he was interviewed and worked out, he seems like a reasonable target for them.
"I do feel very comfortable with Boston and what they need. They feel comfortable with me and I definitely love to bring a 3-and-D mentality," said Brown. "They're obviously already a good team, and Brad Stevens is one of the best coaches, not only in college, but at the NBA level, so now it's about finding the right pieces and continuing to build."
The Celtics were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league, hitting only 32.7 percent of their attempts. Clearly, shooting will be a priority this offseason as they look to build on a successful end of the 2015 season.
"Boston's run in the second half of the season showed a lot to me. It showed me through all the trades and everything that happened to them this year that they stuck with it," Brown said of the Celtics' finish. "A lot of people were playing well, and yet they lost arguably their two best players. That definitely showed me: one, that Brad Stevens knows what he's doing, and two, they have better players than people might think."
The Boston Celtics are a lot closer to being contenders than people think, and maybe a 3-and-D specialist like Anthony Brown could come in and play a role for them off the bench in the future. But no matter where he's drafted, he's going to make one lucky organization happy with his blend of shooting, defense, and intelligence.