Bruce Brown defies easy definition.
A shooting guard who doesn’t really shoot? A 6-foot-4 … center?
More and more, the Nets are calling Brown indispensable. On a team with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, his glue-guy play has been irreplaceable.
“Bruce is remarkable,” coach Steve Nash said after Brown led the Nets to a 127-118 win over the Kings on Tuesday. “The guy mostly played point guard last year, and he’s playing — what do you want to call him? Our center? He’s picking and rolling and finishing with two bigs in the lane. His willingness and ability to do that is remarkable.
“He made some 3s, but for me, it’s all the other stuff. It’s the activity, the defense, the deflections, all those other things. You add it all up, and you had a big impact on the game before you even get to the points.”
Brown had a career-high 29 points on 11-for-13 shooting for a plus-20. He had eight points in the decisive 14-1 fourth-quarter run, capping it with consecutive 3-pointers. For a player hitting 23.1 percent from 3-point range, it was unexpected but confidence-building.
“Kyrie comes to me all the time. He sees me working on my shot and I know I can shoot, it’s just confidence right now,” Brown said. “So he tells me ‘one a game’ before every game, and then I gave him one. If you saw us, he looked at me and said one, and I gave him two, so it was pretty cool.”
But it isn’t just Brown’s shooting that has helped the Nets rise to within a half-game of the Eastern Conference lead, it’s his, well, everything.
The Pistons dealt Brown, 24, in November due to his limited offense, but the Nets wanted his defense and grit. And his insertion into the lineup Feb. 10 coincided with their NBA-best seven-game win streak coming into Thursday’s game versus the Magic.
“He does a little of everything. He’s a guy that goes out there and competes his butt off every single night, and great things happen for him,” Harden said. “He sets screens and rolls to the basket, he’s an unbelievable cutter, and he showed he’s capable of knocking down the 3-ball.
“He does it all. He works his butt off, and when you work your tail off and keep grinding and pushing, good things happen. I’m happy for him and proud of him.”
The Nets are 18-6 when Brown logs at least 13 minutes, but just 3-6 when he doesn’t.
“He’s always in the right position defensively, active, makes things tough on that end,” Joe Harris said. “He does the little stuff people don’t realize.”
Brown often guards opponents’ best backcourt threat, and Nash has found ways to mask his offensive flaws while accentuating his strengths. Though guards are almost exclusively ball-handlers in the pick-and-roll, Brown has excelled as the roll man.
“Bruce makes it look easy. It’s not easy to be a 6-3 guard and be picking, rolling, catching the ball, finishing,” Nash said. “Bruce is special. It’s not a normal thing to ask a 6-3 guard to be the roller, so his ability to do that and finish and have the timing — and willingness, right? A lot of guards would laugh you out of the gym if you asked them to pick-and-roll.”
As the roll man, Brown’s 71.4 percent shooting is 14th in the NBA, and his 1.39 points per possession is seventh, better than Rudy Gobert and Bam Adebayo. Of the six men ahead of him, Hornets power forward Miles Bridges is the only one under 6-foot-11.
“I think I played 1-5 in AAU, that’s about it. Maybe in college I played the 4 at some point, but never [center],” Brown said. “I’m doing pretty well. I love the role, and I’m just trying to do whatever it [takes] for us to win. I have to do this, then I’ll do it.”
Is it sustainable? Maybe. Is it fun? Certainly.
“He plays hard, and that skill is uncanny,” said Nash, finally finding a way to describe Brown. “He’s a winner.”