Don’t look now but Moses Brown has arrived for the Thunder

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Bryan Kalbrosky
·6 min read
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The Oklahoma City Thunder seem to have struck gold with Moses Brown, who has been absolutely dominant over the last couple of weeks.

Oklahoma City opted to move five-time All-Star and veteran big Al Horford out of the rotation, leaning on the young talent within the franchise. Brown, who is 7-foot-2, is one of the players to earn an opportunity for increased playing time.

He has played well in the first unit and even helped the Thunder trot out the youngest starting lineup to ever win an NBA game.

The 21-year-old caught headlines when he notched 21 points on just 10 field-goal attempts while also notching 23 rebounds against the Boston Celtics on March 27. He had 17 points and 19 rebounds at the half, recording the second-fastest double-double in franchise history.

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That is especially impressive when you consider that this is an organization that has bragged constant double-double threats including the likes of Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Steven Adams.

Since getting called up from the Oklahoma City Blue, the center has been a revelation for the Thunder. He has played nine games this month and pulled down 12 or more rebounds in six of those appearances. Brown has also notched at least 12 or more points in five games as well.

As our own Yossi Gozlan predicted, based on his recent performances, the organization made the decision to sign Brown to a multi-year contract just like they did with Lu Dort last season.

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Finding that kind of value without using any draft picks or trade capital is how a rebuilding franchise is able to get itself out of the gutter faster than anyone will expect. But how did they end up with such a talented young player and what can he do with the team moving forward?

Brown, a former five-star recruit who was the top-rated player coming out of New York in 2018, played just one season at UCLA, which was a relatively underwhelming campaign.

He went undrafted in 2019 and was then signed to a two-way deal with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2019-20, though he received minimal playing time at the NBA level.

While these last few games have shown arguably the most productive version of Brown that we have seen since he was in high school, his emergence was the logical next step after the series of improvements that he has shown.

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Most recently, during the 2021 season, the big man led the G League with 13.9 rebounds per game. He kept his team alive for additional scoring opportunities by averaging a league-high 6.0 offensive rebounds.

For comparison, no other player was able to record more than 5.0 offensive rebounds per game and only two players notched more than 4.0 offensive rebounds per game.

Even though he misses his putbacks more often than one would hope, his ability to give his team another opportunity to score with second-chance opportunities is invaluable.

He has continued to play well off the boards now that he is in the NBA. His offensive rebound percentage ranks in the 98th percentile while his defensive rebound percentage has him in the 93rd percentile among players at his position, per Cleaning the Glass.

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As a scorer, he is a solid interior threat, considering only two players averaged more field goals at the rim (10.1 per 100 possessions) while playing in the G League bubble. He led all players in the bubble for total shots made (83) at the basket as well.

Nearly half of these attempts (47.0 percent) were unassisted, which shows he is capable of creating his own offense. But fortunately, despite his 7-foot-2 frame, he does not depend on post-ups as one of the primary sources of his scoring.

Even when he was matched up against smaller defenders more often in the G League, according to Synergy, post-ups composed just 10.7 percent of his total possessions. Now, during NBA tenure in 2020-21, post-ups have composed just 3.3 percent of his finishes.

This is encouraging because it suggests that he is able to integrate more into the flow of a pro offense rather than trying to take on his man one-on-one.

Most notably, he has developed fantastic chemistry on his two-man game with 7-foot teammate Aleksej Pokusevski. The two have consistently defied the common science of basketball. This frontcourt pairing completed seven big-big pick-and-roll possessions during their time in the G League and then four more while playing at the NBA level.

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If this is something that can continue, a duo of 7-footers running the pick-and-roll will be something incredibly hard for opponents to gameplan against.

Another positive takeaway is that Brown has used his height to throw opponents out of their typical rhythm as they struggled to slow him down without making too much contact. Brown drew 8.2 fouls per 100 possessions in the G League, including a league-high mark (5.6 per 100) for shooting fouls on 2-pointers.

He is giving defenders fits in the NBA, too, as he has been fouled on 22.4 percent of his total shot attempts. That ranks in the 93rd percentile among all bigs, via Cleaning the Glass.

During his time in the NBA this season, Brown is averaging 1.1 points per possession during his current campaign with the Thunder. That ranks in the 84th percentile among all NBA players, according to Synergy.

As the Thunder march towards a rebuild, it looks like they have a formidable center with a long-term future in Brown.

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