When the NBA permitted teams to sign players to two-way contracts with the NBA G-League this season no one really knew what to expect. What types of players would general managers sign? Who would be valuable as a potential 16th or 17th addition to the traditional 15 man NBA roster?
Players in the old D-League were often overlooked prospects teams hoped might develop into something and then teams had to hope they’d have an open spot on their NBA roster before they lost the player for nothing to another team. A player on a two-way contract is different. First, teams can pay them enough to keep some better players from going overseas and second, teams control players on two-way contracts.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri made an interesting choice in 27-year-old point guard Lorenzo Brown who had 63 games worth of NBA experience on three different NBA teams, 75 games in the D-League and played last season in China. Brown has become the perfect compliment for a team up against the luxury tax threshold and finding itself in need of a (hopefully) short term injury replacement.
Brown had previously put up big-time numbers in the D-League, so he was also a welcome addition to Raptors 905 head coach Jerry Stackhouse’s roster.
“The point guard play is very important for us,” Stackhouse said. “Being able to get us into our sets, not only (Brown’s) savvy on the court, it’s his talent. He’s a talent. It’s big to have him. Take 20 points and 6 assists out of any lineup, that’s tough to replace and that’s what he’s been doing for us so far.”
However, even with injuries in Toronto, Brown’s role with the big club has been very different than with the 905. The Raptors still have plenty of scoring. They just need Brown to hold down the fort for a few minutes in order to give the regulars a rest or maintain the lead in a blow out and it’s a role he’s looked very good in.
“It was a great experience,” Brown described playing with the Raptors to Pro Bball Report. “Just playing my role and trying to fit in with the guys.
“My role right now is just to defend and make the right reads on offense. Try to make as few mistakes as possible.”
Brown has played a total of 46 minutes in 4 games with the Raptors where he’s contributed a total of just 2 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 0 turnovers, however, the most important stat for this injury reserve is his team is a +39 points with him on the court. He’s made few mistakes and has fit in seamlessly as a big guard that can defend multiple positions.
The injured Delon Wright has nothing to worry about when he gets back, but Brown has helped fill some of the void created by his absence.
“Playing as many games as I’ve had down here (in the G-League) gets me ready for the big game up top,” Brown explained. “(It) gets me a little more physical and ready.”
“It’s good for him (to play up),” Stackhouse said. “He’s learning a lot.
“He’s been a talent so far. Now he’s trying to grow into more of a time-and-score possession point guard and he’s well on his way.”
In his four games with the Raptors Brown has shown the discipline to accept and fill a role. He’s been the perfect two-way G-League player for the Raptors.
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.