Analysis

Is Moses Brown a diamond in the rough? Here’s a deep look at what he is and isn’t good at.

The newest Celtic rates highly in some statistical categories.

Moses Brown goes up for a dunk as a member of the Thunder this season. AP

Moses Brown is intriguing. As Khari Thompson pointed out on Friday, Brown has gone from unlikely high school star to McDonald’s All-American, to blue chip recruit at UCLA, to undrafted free agent, to averaging nearly a double-double in the season’s second half.

We don’t know how much the 7-foot-2-inch, 245-pound Brown will play with the Celtics. His NBA career didn’t really take shape until OKC really started tanking in the second half. The Celtics roster also has multiple remaining questions. Specifically, will Al Horford be used as the starting power forward, or the backup center, and will Tristan Thompson and Grant Williams remain on the roster? We probably won’t find out any time soon. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help do a little digging into Brown’s stats, and there are some intriguing nuggets of info there.

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Brown barely played in his first season and a half – he only played 33 minutes across nine games in his rookie season in Portland, and then only 31 minutes across seven games in the first half of this season with OKC. After the All-Star break however, Brown played in every game, averaging 9.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in 24.7 minutes of action. For the season, he averaged 8.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in 21.4 minutes of action, playing a total of 43 games. Let’s start there.

This season, per NBA.com, there were 219 players who played in 40 or more games and averaged 20 or more minutes per game. Here are the season’s rebounding leaders among those 219 players:

Brown ranks 20th, just below Kristaps Porzingis and just above Steven Adams. He really excelled on the offensive glass, as he averaged 3.6 offensive rebounds per game, which ranked seventh in this sample behind only Clint Capela, Jonas Valanciunas, Enes Kanter, Adams and Andre Drummond – all known forces on the offensive glass. Were these all easy rebounds though? Again, OKC was tanking. Fortunately, the NBA and their partner Second Spectrum track rebounds a couple of other ways. One is Contested Rebounds, the definition of which is “a rebound where an opponent is within 3.5 feet of the rebounder.” Again using this 219-player sample, we see:

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Only three other players collected a higher percentage of their rebounds in traffic than did Brown. For context, Thompson, who grabbed several rebounds in traffic that brought Celtics fans to their feet during the season, ranked 20th.

Here’s one more for you. Looking at players who have played more than 500 minutes in a season, but fewer than 1,000 minutes in a season, Brown put up some really impressive rebounding numbers:

The point here isn’t to paint Brown as the best rebounder of all-time, it’s simply to point out that he really made the most out of his minutes. The table furthest to the right is the easiest one to put into context. Robert Williams III seemingly gobbled up every rebound in his path this season, and Brown grabbed more rebounds than him in fewer minutes played.

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Brown’s defensive stats are a mixed bag. His Defensive Rating for the season was 116.4, which is well below average. In fact, using our 219-player sample, it was sixth-worst in the NBA. But defense is not played in a vacuum, and again, he was on a terrible team that was tanking. Let’s go back to the Second Spectrum stats.

Field goals defended at the rim percentage, or DFG%, is also exactly what it sounds like – the percentage of field goal attempts the opponent makes while the player (or team) was defending the rim. Here’s how Brown stacks up:

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As you can see, it’s hard to defend at the rim. Only three players in our sample stopped more than half of the attempts against them. But Brown grades out well once again. He was also one of 42 players in the league to block more than one shot per game.

Offensively, he’s either very limited or a player who knows his role, depending on your perspective. He took zero three pointers, and more than 77% of his shots came from right at the rim (zero to three feet away). Most of the rest of that 23% came from three to 10 feet away – and his .267 FG% on those shots mark him as a player with limited offensive skills. Not great, but he’s still just 21 years old.

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Holistically, Brown’s stat line is a mixed bag as well. His -18.3 Net Rating (Offensive Rating minus Defensive Rating) was the worst in the NBA among our 219 player sample. But his 18.8 PER (or Player Efficiency Rating, a measure of per-minute production standardized so that 15 is average) ranked 52nd, better than fellow big men like Mason Plumlee, Cody Zeller, Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson.

In summary, there are some very positive indicators among this half season of results, and some absolutely horrifying indicators, so it’s hard to make definitive evaluations. Not to keep beating a dead horse, but most of his playing time came for a bad team that was tanking, and some of the teams he played against were also tanking. His 24-point, 18-rebound, 7-block performance against the Los Angeles Clippers sounds incredible until you note that Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Marcus Morris Sr., Rajon Rondo and Nicolas Batum didn’t play in that game. And yet, it was still an NBA game, and it’s hard to put up those numbers no matter the competition.

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Such will be the intrigue surrounding Moses Brown (who by the way, is just the second Moses in NBA history after Hall of Famer Moses Malone). Do the C’s have a diamond in the rough at a bargain basement price? Or do they have a guy who will jockey for playing time with Tacko Fall? Only time will tell, but if nothing else, Brown has shown to be a proficient rebounder, and for a Celtics team that was middling on the glass last season, that’s welcome news.

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