The NBA draft has come and gone for the summer of 2019, and I am happy to announce that a few A-10 players made their way into the Association. Javon Bess was signed by the New Orleans Pelicans, while Charlie Brown Jr signed with the Atlanta Hawks. An interesting question was posed on twitter by the A10 talk account which got me thinking. Which of these two players would have a more successful professional career? Now as an SJU graduate myself, I understand that there is speculation for a little bias toward Brown on my part. But this was a question that I needed to dive into. While some may argue it is just too early to project out their careers, I would have to disagree. Looking back at the statistics from the 2019-2020 season it was clear that Charlie Brown is the player with the best upside.
The NBA is a league that is solely focused on spacing the floor. Center, Power Forwards, and Small forwards are expected to shoot from outside the perimeter frequently. This brings us to our first why Brown will succeed. Charlie’s shooting form need minimal to no work. Free throws are often a good indication of effective shooting form since players use mainly pure mechanics during the attempt. Brown shot 84.5% on five attempts per game. Compare this to Bess’s 79.0% on 4.9 attempts per game. Charlie outperformed Bess from the three-point line as well. Brown averaged 35.6%, to Bess’s 32.5%, in 2019-2020. Let us not forget that Charlie Brown scored an easy 28 points against Bess and SLU this season. A game that showed off all of Brown’s scoring abilities. Another fact is that strength of schedule did favor SLU this past season. Because of this, there is some lenience with stats for Bess since he played against better competition. The SLU star also had a better average offensive rating for the entire season. But I would still argue that even with these facts, the stats still show that Brown is a better shooter thanks to his superior form — a skillset that is a must in the Association.
There is no doubt that Small Forwards are called on to carry a lot of the offensive weight for NBA teams. In an age where Point Guards are so highly coveted, few remember that it is the wing position which usually pulls team from mediocrity to dynasty. Lebron, Durant, Kawhi have been a part of eight of the last nine NBA finals teams. Well guess what? Charlie Brown has the body of a prototypical Small Forward. Brown stands at 6-7” and 195lbs. While the weight is not favorable, gaining some won’t be very hard for him. Compare this to Bess who is 6-6” guard/forward hybrid. While Bess is a much heavier 220lbs, his height might not be favorable for him. 6-6” is not tall enough to play the small forward position in the NBA. His shooting stats also do not favor his potential at the shooting guard position at the next level. Bess will have to rework or retool his shot if he wants to play at the SG. Brown will play at Small Forward and the only thing that needs true improvement is his weight. Make no mistake, gaining weight and muscle is much easier than retooling a shot.
One thing that does favor Bess is his defensive ability. Voted A-10 defensive player of the year, there is no doubt that Bess was a better overall defender for the Billikens. Charlie Brown on the other hand could be considered average on the defensive end. Brown has the quickness and length to defend but no the size. Once again, I stand by my statement that weight is easy to gain in the NBA. If Brown gains weight, his defensive abilities will surely improve. He ability to defend post ups will improve as he gains more muscle and weight. Brown already has shown the quickness needed to defend a player face up. The unfortunate thing is you can’t teach hustle. It is very easy to say all of this potential defensive improvement, but defense is all about hustle. You could gain all the correct weight you need, but without hustle it’s all for nothing on defense. That aspect will be solely based on the heart of Brown and his desire to improve. Bess has proved all season long he has the motor. I am unsure if Brown has shown it yet.
While Bess’s numbers are nothing to snub at, Brown clearly has the better upside going forward. Bess has shown to be the better defender than anyone in the A-10, but, Charlie Brown’s offensive skill set is extremely solid. I believe it will take Charlie less time to improve his defensive ability than it will take Bess to sure up his offensive prowess. Brown’s offensive stats have consistently outperformed Bess, and usually on more attempts. Brown’s free throw rate is a testament to his great mechanics. An attribute that will help him elevate himself from the G league to the NBA in no time. Do not get me wrong, I wish both of these players all the best at the next level. I will root for anyone that comes from the A-10 and makes it into the NBA. But if I had to put money down on a prediction on who will have a better NBA career, I will pick Brown any day of the week.