Sunday, September 14, 2008

Things to look for this season: Ronnie Brewer

For those who don't know, Ronnie Brewer is the son of former NBA Player Ron Brewer (Sr.); and currently is the starting shooting guard for the Utah Jazz. Ronnie is a special type of player who was touted in college to be able to play the 1, 2 and 3 on the pro level. So far -- in my obviously unprofessional assessment -- he's basically an NBA three with limited range. Or at least, that's what he has so far shown as a member of the Jazz. Now, before you all accuse me of suggesting that Brewer is nothing more (or less) than an athletic, young dunker in the mold of David Benoit or Blue Edwards let me finish.

Casual meets classy Throwing it down vs. the Lakers Can your shooting guard shoot 55.8 % like ours does?
The Heir The Air The flair

In the Jazz system he is a finisher on offense who is not called upon to really do to much playmaking (unlike Jeff Hornacek who got his fair share of assists playing the 2 in Utah), and his outside shot is decidedly 'shaky' right now. Ronnie does have three point range, but let's be honest, the other team would rather leave him open at the three point line than suffer a worse fate by allowing Deron to drive into the lane, or leaving Memo open from three.

He is very young and athletic and still learning the NBA game. Right now in the Jazz system he can be masked and be plugged into the shooting guard role; though I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't mind having a bit more distance shooting to compliment Brewer's flat out insane FG% -- last season it was only 55.8%. There are two reasons why his FG% is so high: he doesn't trouble himself with jacking shots out of his comfort zone and he makes the shots that he takes; and secondly, he doesn't shoot it from that far (59 total career three point shots attempted). Really, this is because he has a career three point shooting % of a sub-Harpringian 18.6%.

As far as starting shooting guards go, that's not that great. (Which is probably why I call his play so far in his career as that of a Small Forward in that Josh Howard mold . . . a slasher who is great around the basket and need to work to keep defenses honest from the outside) I'd love for him to become a 30% shooter from downtown, but I do not anticipate that from happening. He's never going to be a bomber from deep like Kyle Korver is. On the flip side, Kover is never going to go out and dunk on people, or you know, challenge shots.

All-Star Josh Howard Korver for three . . . . . . in the key.
Josh Howard is what some draft sites appraised Brewer to be like as a pro. Korver is a great shooter, though he's not great at everything that the Jazz need.

What are the three key things that we have to look out for this season from Ronnie Brewer?

  1. More consistent Outside shot: It really is the 3,000 lb. mastodon in the room . . . in order for Ronnie to really earn more playing time in the fourth quarter he has to be able to maintain the good floor spacing that the Jazz need on offense. Right now Jerry Sloan finishes with Deron, Carlos, Andrei and Memo because they all are pretty diverse -- and he adds in Kyle Korver, who is a dead eye shooter from the line and from three. Brewer is a much better defender than Korver, but the current relative difference between Kyle and Ronnie's defense is smaller than the large gap between their relative offensive abilities. (55.8 fg% notwithstanding) That percentage is highly elevated due to where he gets those shots from -- shots that fail to exist in the 4th quarter for shooting guards.
  2. Has to do more on offense than just dunk the ball: Essentially, for Brewer to get more than his 24 - 27 mpg he is going to have to bring a bit more variety on offense. So far his ball handling has been under-whelming. He was supposed to be a 1/2/3 coming out of college, yet I've only seen him make the most obvious decisions on offense when passing the ball to the open guy for the dunk. Hornacek and Stockton worked so well together because on the fly they could really alternate from passer to scorer. Ronnie appears to be the best passer out of the bunch of C.J., Kyle, Morris and himself, for what it is worth though. Once he gets more familiarity with the starters I'm sure Ronnie will end up getting more assists, but it's something he has to work on. He is supposed to be able to move with the ball, and create for others. So far I've only seen him score around the basket and hit an occasional set shot -- basically scoring in the exact same ways that Adam Keefe used to make baskets. Getting better from the outside will better allow him the space he needs to drive, though, so both problems are related to each other. Right now guys just sag off of him, and dare him to shoot it. Furthermore, he has to score the ball off of more than just dunks and lay-ups -- even if this means his shooting percentage will go down. The utility of this is that other teams have to defend him all over the court, and not just in the paint.
  3. Better man to man defense: He's tall, he has a 6'11 wingspan, and he's fast. He anticipates passing lanes well, and is able to go north-south and east-west very quickly. He has the physical tools, but there's more to playing defense than just being there. (Otherwise Ostertag would have a few rings by now) If he can improve his man-to-man defense then marginal "stars" like Brandon Roy won't go off on the Jazz, and our team will get some more wins. There's nothing that suggests that he can't be a better defender . . . but at the end of last season on key possessions our amazing help defender (Andrei Kirilenko) had to be put on the other teams' best scorer -- which was successful only against guys not named Kobe. If Ronnie can be mentally able to check these guys without fouling, getting his confidence killed, or just being useless then Andrei can remain a free safety on defense getting deflections, double teaming and blocking shots. (Until we have a shot blocking bigman, we're going to need Andrei playing defense like that for us to be any good)

If you look at the huge jump Brewer made from his Rookie season to his 2nd Rookie season (i.e. last season when he finally got some time to play) you can assume that he's not done developing as a player just yet. I have high hopes for him, though I really wonder about where the playing time he needs is going to come from. After all, the Jazz aren't planing on paying C.J. Miles $15 million dollars just to hang out and give people high fives. Ronnie is no fool, though, and he knows that just because he is the incumbent starter does not mean that he's going to just be given that role next season. It's pretty obvious that he has to improve his outside shot, which will open up the other parts of his offensive game, and I'm sure that is something that he has focused on quite a bit this off-season. [For the record, Korver, Almond and C.J. all have picture perfect shooting strokes and have great range.]

Ronnie gets drafted, and people talk about his inability to really be a shooter . . . it's been 2 seasons now, he has to Improve.

That said, Ronnie is a very special player who has a great chance to help our team get to the next level. He's fast, he's athletic -- but we need to see three things from him this season otherwise we may just have to start dedicating a lot of our time towards making C.J. stronger or Morris Almond faster instead of holding our breath for Brewer to start shooting well.