As he returns to Dallas after a five-year journey to assorted NBA ports of call, Sterling Brown can be thankful for many things, but one in particular.
He’s on the same side as Luka Dončić now.
No longer will the 6-5 Brown have to concern himself with trying to guard the superstar who is now his teammate.
“I look forward,” Brown said recently, “to going to battle with him now.”
During the last few seasons, Brown has been charged with guarding Dončić on more than a few occasions. He’s had about the same success as everybody else, which is to say, not much.
But after three seasons with Milwaukee and one in Houston, Brown now is with the Mavericks. They signed him to a free-agent deal last month and he is expected to add depth to the wing positions as a solid defender. He’s also a strong 3-point shooter.
And, he’s thrilled to be back in Dallas.
Brown was part of a really good SMU team five years ago. The Mustangs went 30-5 in 2016-17, losing by a point to USC in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
After that senior season, Brown left SMU and was drafted in the second round, 46th overall, by Philadelphia.
He never played for the Sixers, as Milwaukee bought the 46th pick and Brown played three seasons for the Bucks before signing last year with Houston, for whom he had his most productive season (8.2 points, 4.4 rebounds per game).
And while his defense is one of his selling points, his shooting is his primary calling card. His .374 career percentage from 3-point range was bolstered by his .423 accuracy last season with the Rockets.
Of the 30 second-round draftees in 2017, only Denver’s Monte Morris has a better 3-point percentage (minimum 20 games played).
“It was good to show what I could do more consistently,” Brown said of his season with Houston. “I feel like I got better from last year to now. That’s always the focus. But last year was a great opportunity for me.”
It caught the Mavericks’ attention, for sure. Brown fits the mold of versatile players that Jason Kidd can never get enough of.
When Kidd was discussing Brown and the other new Mavericks recently, he said: “Yes, shooting is important. But also, we got to play a little defense. And they can do that too. As much as we talk about offense, to win championships, you got to play defense and these guys can check that box.”
And the offense? Late in his second season with the Bucks, he had 27 points and a go-ahead layup with 1.1 seconds left against Atlanta. He will make a defense pay if they start giving too much attention to Dončić.
And, of course, being back in Dallas doesn’t hurt. Never underestimate the value of being comfortable.
Brown’s time at SMU allowed him to become familiar with the Metroplex after growing up near Chicago.
“It’s good to be back in Dallas,” he said. “It contributed a lot (to signing with the Mavericks). I know the city well. And I got a lot of family aound. Really a no-brainer.”
Having Dončić with the Mavericks wasn’t a bad selling point, either. Brown played with another superstar in Milwaukee in Giannis Antetokounmpo.
He knows how much easier that can make his basketball life.
“He definitely compliments my game,” Brown said. “I know he’s going to find me.”