The Toronto Raptors have signed Lorenzo Brown to a two-way contract, the team announced Tuesday.
This is an interesting move on several fronts, most notably because Brown, at age 26 and with three years of NBA experience, will almost surely be one of the most seasoned players to earn a two-way deal. Adding a more experienced player may be a signal that the Raptors plan to use at least this two-way slot to supplement the NBA roster, which currently stands at 14. Were the Raptors to add a 15th player as currently constructed, they’d push into the luxury tax – using Brown and Malcolm Miller (once healthy) as additional depth could be a smart way to effectively fill out the roster without crossing that tax line. By rule of the two-way deal, Brown can spend up to 45 days on the NBA roster, plus any time before G-League camp opens and after the G-League regular season ends.
In Brown, the Raptors land another point guard with size, one who measures fairly similar to Delon Wright at 6-foot-5 and 189 pounds and with a 6-foot-7 wingspan. The Raptors have long loved using two-point guard lineups, and Brown gives them another option when he’s on the roster without sacrificing size. Between the shooting of Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet and the length of Wright and Brown, head coach Dwane Casey will have some options if and when he wants to downsize some.
Brown should be a familiar name, too. A second-round pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2013 after three years at NC State, Brown has spent time in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Wolves, and the Phoenix Suns. Around those stints, he’s played for the Delaware 87ers and Grand Rapids Drive of the G-League and with the Zhejiang Golden Bulls in China. While Brown hasn’t been able to maintain traction in the NBA, he’s a two-time G-League All-Star and has long seemed to be a consistent jumper away from getting over that hump.
That consistency may be coming. While he only shot 30 percent on threes in China last year and is a woeful 10-of-66 in his NBA career (15.2 percent), he’s consistently knocked down threes in Summer League action (38.6 percent over five years and 44 attempts) and, more notably, he’s a 36.2-percent career 3-point shooter over 75 G-League games. Last year, he shot 18-of-51 with Grand Rapids in 11 games, the highest volume he’s shot them at, a good indicator of his growing confidence in that area. He’ll need to continue to show that improved range to be an effective NBA player, and considering he’s a very strong free-throw shooter, there’s reason for optimism there.
Outside of his shooting, Brown brings a ton of rebounding from the position, having averaged 5.5 rebounds in his G-League career and 7.5 in China last year. He’s also a capable ball-handler and a decent distributor, averaging 2.3 assists in 13.2 minutes in his NBA career and 5.2 assists over his four G-League seasons. He’s grown into a higher-usage style on offense thanks to improved finishing, but there’s no reason he can’t slide back into being a facilitator with a change in role, assuming the usual turnover issues of youth are behind him. Defensively, he can be a pest in passing lanes, with a 2.7-percent steal rate in the G-League that was nearly the same in his brief NBA stints. He uses his quickness really well and is a strong on-ball defender at the point as a result.
On the fringe of the NBA for the last few years, Brown is a nice get as a two-way player as far as contributing at the NBA level is concerned. He won’t have the upside of some of the other two-way pieces teams will add, but the Raptors are already stocked with youth and upside, and Brown provides some depth and insurance at the guard spots in the immediate-term with some modest upside if he can hit his threes consistently and comfortably play off the ball some. From a Raptors 905 perspective, the team’s young players will benefit greatly from having a lead guard as smart and tested as Brown around, an area that’s been a bit of a weakness for them in recent years when a point guard hasn’t been on assignment. For Brown, it’s a foot back in the door and a chance to potentially see actual NBA minutes for a quality team on which he’d seam to be a pretty good fit, which explains why he’s willing to be sort of the first “veteran two-way” outside of maybe Anthony Brown.
The move means both of the Raptors’ two-way slots are now filled, taking a two-way for Axel Toupane or a conversion of Kennedy Meeks’ Exhibit 10 to a two-way out off of the table. The roster for training camp now stands at 17.