Athletic, young guard.
Sports a bunch of tattoos.
Comes off the bench.
Can leap straight out of the building and right into your heart.
Great three-point shooter.
Has the ability to go on hot streaks.
Lots of potential.
Yes. I mean, no. But close.
If you had given me those descriptions in a game of Taboo two years ago, I would have confidently yelled out ‘J.R. SMITH’ while simultaneously jacking up 10 make-believe three-pointers 50 feet away from your face to further mimic J.R.’s distinct style-of-play (while also probably helping some other group in another universe win their game of NBA Charades). These days however, I’m more inclined to yell out SHANNON BROWN anytime I hear anyone use such adjectives to describe a certain NBA player. Except with Shannon, you’d also have to include the words ‘grounded’ (ironic choice of words, I know) and ‘dedicated’ to his list, while also adding ‘head-case’ and ‘enigmatic’ to J.R.’s.
Oh, how the tides have turned. Just this summer, I recall a few Laker fans trying to devise new and creative ways of packaging Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton alongside some delicious, sweet treats in order to obtain the talented, yet troubled, young guard out of Denver. With the way Shannon has come out of the gate this year shooting and playing like a perennial Sixth-Man-of-the-Year candidate, however, it’s made the thought of ever even desiring J.R. Smith seem down-right insane (fitting word for him, I know).
Although, when you compare the two players now, and how strikingly similar their games have become, you have to wonder if the Lakers have just stumbled upon J.R. Smith’s better-looking, better-shooting, better-playing doppelganger, Shannon ‘UPS’ Brown. Shannon has essentially become what J.R. Smith was for the Nuggets two years ago when he faced the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals – a high-flying, hot-shooting, game-changer off the bench, with added tattoo-action to go along with it all. Except in Shannon’s case, he’s approached the game from a very humble and hungry perspective, willing to wait his time and pick the minds of some of the game’s most astute mentors in Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, and Phil Jackson. And clearly, while the external similarities are certainly there (especially with Shannon’s added three-point range and his Kobe-like ability to get hit), it’s the differences that are the most striking. At least up to this point, Shannon has played very within-himself and done everything the team has asked of him and more. Shannon’s really worked on his three-point shot this summer and it’s obviously paid huge dividends for him and the Lakers. Even though his three point shot looks as it’s just inches away from being blocked and isn’t as aesthetically pleasing or as quick in release as we’d like, he’s nevertheless been hitting nothing but the net this season. Better yet, unlike J.R. Smith, whose more prone to making bone-headed plays out there and throwing up some really ill-advised shots which usually have George Karl beside himself (Coby’s probably shaking his head too), Shannon has, for the most part, learned to pick his spots and wait on the opportunities that Kobe and his other teammates give him. As such, Shannon has given the Lakers exactly what they’ve needed, when they’ve needed it a lot more than J.R. Smith has for his own team this season.
In fact, J.R. Smith is averaging more time than Shannon (20 minutes to Shannon’s 19), but is shooting much less than him from the field and 3 point-land (38% to Shannon’s 51%), and is no doubt getting yanked from fourth quarters and even entire games (two DNP’s on the season) a lot more than Shannon is. It’s really quite simple – George Karl still doesn’t trust J.R. Smith after all his years with the Nuggets, while Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant have given Shannon the green-light to perform consistently in several 4th quarters after only being under the triangle system for 2 years.
In comparing the two right now, I’d give Shannon the edge in defense, dunking, 3-point shooting (who would have thought?), and better decision-making, with J.R. getting the marginal nods in play-making ability, dribbling skills, and a sweeter-looking stroke…and also shooting from really, really far away. Two years ago, I never would have thought there would be a day where I’d start calling Shannon the ‘better J.R. Smith’, but these days, not only is he the ‘better J.R. Smith’, he might be the ‘more athletic’ Jason Richardson as well. When it comes right down to it, while the careers of both Shannon and J.R. may have started out quite similarly (purely being known as athletic freaks of dunking nature), their paths have now seemingly swapped trajectories, with Shannon looking primed and ready to soar right past that glass ceiling which has always capped J.R. Smith’s own potential and talent.
Yes, I know, it’s early, but if you look at how much Shannon has progressed and how much work he’s put into his craft in such a short time, it’s certainly not improbable to see him surpass any of the homer-ish, high sights we may already have set for him – that’s usually where he’s at in terms of rim level anyway.
So after a long off-season of rigorously working on all aspects of his game (inspired and pushed no doubt by the Great Mambitus Negrosus – ‘black mamba’ in some fictional language I just made up), as well as receiving some much-needed healing time for his mangled fingers/hand, Shannon Brown has certainly proven to many teams that looked him over this past Summer of Lebron that the Autumn of Shannon is going to be one hell of a force to be reckoned with. He’s undoubtedly already been a primary source of regret and sorrow for almost every Laker opponent he’s stepped on the court against. Who says Kobe Bryant doesn’t make his teammates better? Chalk Shannon Brown up as yet another successful graduate of Kobe’s ‘Better Working, Better Shooting, Better Consistency’ Academy, which proudly features former pupils Caron Butler and Trevor Ariza. Better yet, chalk Shannon Brown up as yet another humble, hard-working guy who never took the opportunities he had for granted – as someone who truly cares for the game.
Through 15 games, Shannon is leading the Killer B’s off the bench with 11 points a game, shooting a blistering 29-57 (51%) from three-point land, and doing so in only 19 minutes of game-time. In fact, he is the team’s fourth leading scorer, right behind Kobe, Pau, and Lamar, respectively. Not to be cliché, but in this case, it’s almost literal – if Shannon continues to stay dedicated in his craft and not be content with his own successes (like one, J.R. Smith), the sky is truly the limit for him. Knowing Shannon, he’ll most likely take that limit, light it up, take it up higher, push it, and give it more. Thanks Usher. You know you just sang that in your head.
- Jonathan Hernandez