The Wizards drafted Troy Brown Jr. in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft because they loved his potential to play a positionless brand of basketball. Ironically, his demise in Washington was because he never found a specific role.
General manager Tommy Sheppard was asked why Brown never lived up to his promise as the 15th overall pick in D.C. and he seemed to lament that part of it on Thursday when discussing the deal that sent Brown to Chicago.
"One thing probably for us is that Troy was so good at so many things that we never really gave it a narrow ‘what is exactly his role,'" Sheppard said on NBC Sports Washington's pregame show.
That, Sheppard, believes was the problem for Brown particularly in his first two seasons in town. This year, the addition of Russell Westbrook left him as an odd-man-out.
"For Russell, when he came to our team, for us to surround him, it’s very important he has shooting out on the floor at all times... to spread the floor is very important for Russell to be successful, to keep the paint wide open," Sheppard said. "It just kind of came down to personnel. It was hard for Troy to get minutes this year."
Parting with Brown was likely difficult for Sheppard, and he suggested as much in several interviews after Thursday's trade which brought Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchison to Washington and also sent Moe Wagner to the Boston Celtics. Sheppard was the assistant GM in 2018 when the Wizards took Brown out of the University of Oregon, and he did a lot of the legwork in researching his character before the draft. Sheppard had a longstanding connection with Brown's AAU coach, Dedan Thomas.
Brown himself made strong connections with many members of the organization. He is good natured, humble and smart and was well-liked by teammates. Still only 21, he was always the young guy in the locker room, still trying to find his niche at the NBA level.
In three seasons with the Wizards, Brown averaged 7.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. He was in and out of the rotation for most of those three years, as his shooting percentages never rose high enough to warrant consistent playing time. He shot 42.6 percent from the field and 33.0 percent from three.
Brown flashed promise as a rebounder, a ball-handler and passer, particularly for his size at 6-foot-7. He was also a reliable three-point shooter from the corners.
Brown's best year was his second season, in 2019-20 when the Wizards were able to play him 25.8 minutes per game. That year was all about player development and guys like Brown were allowed to play through their mistakes. But this season was approached differently with Westbrook now in the fold and with expectations to make the playoffs.
Brown played in only 21 of the Wizards' 42 games before he was shipped out. That included a weeks-long period where he was away from the team in COVID-19 protocol.
Now, he's gone and his former teammates say they will miss him.
"The business aspect of it, it’s always tough. Especially with Troy, who I’ve known since he’s been here," Bradley Beal said.
"It definitely sucks because you develop relationships with guys outside the game. You see people grow as a man, then as a player. One thing I am happy [about] is that Troy gets another opportunity to showcase himself."
"Those are my guys and I’m gonna miss them," Rui Hachimura said of Brown and Wagner. "I hope they will be good and they’re gonna do good with their other teams."
To give up on a first round pick so soon is certainly a disappointing development for the Wizards. They envisioned Brown would be a reliable defender and a secondary play-maker, but he wasn't able to fulfill that potential for them.
The good news is that he's only 21, and still has a chance to do so for another team.