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Bruce Brown is a Indiana Pacer

Bruce Brown
(Wilfredo Lee/AP)

During their championship parade in late June, Denver Nuggets Coach Michael Malone asked a sea of fans, “You all tell me, is Brucey B going anywhere?” After a brief pause, Malone answered his own question with an emphatic and drawn-out “H— no.”  What at the time seemed like a pitch that couldn’t be turned down (a parade with the entire team and thousands of cheering fans) ultimately was not accepted by Bruce Brown

 

 

 

In one of the more eye-catching free agency moves, Brown signed a two-year $45,000,0000 contract with the Indiana Pacers. Brown just completed his fifth professional season since leaving the University of Miami. Coming off a career year with the Nuggets that concluded in an NBA title, Brown was an attractive commodity this offseason. 

 

He joins a young and promising Pacers team that needs more experience. For the Nuggets, they are left empty-headed in his departure. Some would argue Brown was the missing piece for the Nuggets last year. He contributed to their success in a number of ways this past season, so replacing him with be no easy feat. 

 

Deal Details

 

Brown’s deal, although lucrative, is a short-term commitment. The two-year deal is structured so that after year one, the Pacers can pick up a team option according to the details on Spotrac. So in a sense, the Pacers value what Brown can be as a player. But by including a team option after just one year, it’s also a trial experiment. Brown must prove he is worthy of a $23,000,000 annual salary, or he will hit the open market again. 

 

By comparison, other high-money free agents were given longer deals, like Jerami Grant, Kyle Kuzma, and Dillon Brooks. Indiana is trying to find a middle ground where they have high money and short-term contracts prioritizing future flexibility. 

 

According to their cap sheet, the Pacers can clear around $40,000,000 in cap space next year with contracts coming off their books. Even more could be cleared if Brown’s team option isn’t picked up. 

 

How Will Bruce Brown Fit?

 

Brown slides into a Pacers lineup as a do-it-all player—the six-foot-four-inch guard averaged a career-high in points and minutes last season. But his passing and rebounding have made him a producer in the NBA. Brown has averaged over four rebounds a game for the previous four seasons.

 

Brown has had no trouble playing with star players, either. For two seasons, he was on the star-crossed Brooklyn Nets, where he fit in with the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. And last season, Brown fit like a glove in the Nikola Jokic-operated offense in Denver.  

 

Brown’s outside shooting is streaky and dipped significantly in the playoffs this year (36% to 32%) from data on Basketball-Reference. According to his shooting numbers on NBA.com, he is most effective (51%) when shooting right-corner threes. His up-and-down shooting is mitigated by Brown’s above-average finishing at the rim.  Brown finishes at a staggering 71% inside the restricted area, according to NBA.com

 

Nuggets Thoughts

 

Replacing Brown is no easy task. Indeed, Brown’s number proved too expensive for a team with three near-max contracts on it. The Nuggets looked like they were going to start the offseason fast. However, the contingency plan has been thin besides drafting two “NBA-ready” players late in the draft.  

 

This also follows a pattern of championship teams losing essential pieces. Last season the Golden State Warriors were unable to keep Gary Payton Jr from leaving for the Portland Trail Blazers. Similarly, the Milwaukee Bucks could not re-sign P.J. Tucker after winning in 2021. The impact of those losses creeps up fast. 

 

These thoughts and concerns for the Nuggets could prove to be moot. After all, they do have the aforementioned Jokic leading their offense. The greatest players tend to elevate whatever talent is around them. Could Jokic do that again? Of course. But if they keep losing too much of what made them good (Bruce Brown and Jeff Green) can drop a title team to a sixth seed, which Denver was just two seasons ago. 

 

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Matt Strout is a contributor to Back Sports Page. Matt studied Journalism and Sociology at Temple University for four years and graduated in May of 2022. While there, Matt wrote for multiple student and professional publications covering sports and the City of Philadelphia. Matt is originally from Maine and now resides in California. He has written content primarily for the NBA and PGA Tour. You can catch Matt frequently as a guest on the “Cut The Nets” podcast featured on the Back Sports Page network. When Matt is not writing, he enjoys cooking and playing golf. Follow Matt’s social media on Twitter @TheRealStrout or Instagram @matt_strout96 

 

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