With Myles Turner, 23, set to enter his fifth season as the team’s only returning playoff starter from 2018-19, as well as the longest tenured player on the roster, the Pacers are about to look a whole lot different than they did just a few short months ago when they got swept at the hands of the Boston Celtics, especially until Victor Oladipo returns. In fact, according to NBA.com’s John Schuhmann, Indiana is one of only five teams in the league bringing back less than 45 percent of last season’s minutes. As such, in an effort to get a better handle on the team’s quietly dramatic offseason, we’re bringing back our annual offseason Q&A series to delve deeper into what each of the new Pacers brings to the table.
The Bucks could’ve matched an offer sheet for Brogdon rather than going the sign-and-trade route. Do you view the fact that they opted for the draft picks as a product of them viewing Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez as more essential to winning and wanting to dodge the luxury tax while filling out the rest of the roster, or do you think they just didn’t value Brogdon at a four-year, $85 million price point?
As with most things in life, the answer is “somewhere in between.” Yes, the Bucks absolutely prioritized Khris Middleton (an ideal 3&D running mate alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo) and Brook Lopez (the perfect center for Mike Budenholzer’s zone-drop defense and 5-out/let-it-fly offense) over Brogdon. Yes, Milwaukee wanted to avoid the luxury tax. And no, 4/$85 might have been just above the Bucks’ internal evaluation of Malcolm’s ideal price.
In a vacuum, Malcolm earned every penny of his contract from the Pacers. However, the Bucks had a number of other considerations to make, both short- and long-term. In the short term, Brogdon’s role was the easiest to readily replace with who was available on the market (combination of George Hill, Wes Matthews, and Kyle Korver). This isn’t to say that Brogdon can be replaced by a triumvirate of guards, but the path they chose allows for the closest facsimile to his major contributions on offense…for a much lower price. And in the long term, with Milwaukee projecting to be in the luxury tax for every year of Giannis’ supermax contract, avoiding the dreaded repeater tax is certainly worth prioritizing. Lastly, the draft capital (future 1st and two future 2nds) that Indiana surrendered is a major relief to Milwaukee’s future roster-building efforts, having traded away nearly all available future picks in transactions involving George Hill, Eric Bledsoe, Nikola Mirotic, and offloading Tony Snell.
In a nutshell, I don’t think anybody wanted Brogdon to leave…but the reasons for letting him go were just slightly more compelling than those clamoring for him to stay.
At his introductory presser, Brogdon said he believed his best position was point guard. He obviously didn’t have much opportunity as a primary ball-handler in Milwaukee alongside Eric Bledsoe and Giannis Antetokounmpo, but what would you say is his ideal role?
Brogdon might fancy himself a point guard, and I won’t pretend to know his game better than he does. However, with his size and versatility, I think that Malcolm would be better served to play as a jack-of-all-trades wing, splitting time between the 2 and the 3 positions. Brogdon has the requisite skills to be a decent point guard (ball-handling, passing, shooting, driving, etc.) but his skills shine brighter under other conditions. He’s stronger than most 1s and a better playmaker than most 3s, so I feel like his ideal role would allow him to leverage as many of his competitive advantages as possible; I don’t think that’s the case as a full-time point guard.
Defensively, Oladipo thrives roaming the entire floor and buzzing around for steals. According to Krishna Narsu’s data, Eric Bledsoe spent over 60 percent of his defensive possessions against ones. Brogdon defended Kawhi Leonard as well as anyone in the playoffs (16-of-45, 36 percent shooting), but is he someone the Pacers should want chasing around smaller guards on a full-time basis?
Against Milwaukee? Yes, definitely. Against the rest of the league? Absolutely not!
Brogdon is a smart player, a strong defender, and a disciplined teammate. He communicates well, doesn’t take risky gambles, and has demonstrated strong fundamental skills. As a primary defender against point guards, though, he’s miscast. Brogdon is a bulky guard (6’5”, 230 lbs) who, despite his excellent measurables at the combine, does not excel against the league’s quickest players. He won’t get his ankles broken by the likes of Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker, but he has not demonstrated an ability to effectively get through a screen and keep up with the NBA’s lightning-quick point guards. Brogdon performed well against Kawhi in the playoffs; partially because Kawhi was injured, but also because Brogdon is smart and strong and fast…but he’s just not as quick.
But seriously, if you want Brogdon to check Eric Bledsoe, I’m all for it.
Brogdon became just the eighth player in history to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 90 percent from the free throw line, but he also shot 29 percent on off-the-dribble jumpers, and 31 percent on threes with less than 6+ feet of space. Granted, his ability to drive closeouts allows him to limit his volume of higher difficulty jump shots, but is there reason to be worried about his efficiency holding up in the absence of Antetokounmpo’s gravity?
I think that these concerns are fair. Malcolm will continue to be an elite-level shooter in terms of accuracy, but he is unlikely to ever reach those heights in terms of volume. That by itself will hold him back from taking a huge step forward on this end of the court.
A big part of the reason why Brogdon’s percentages plummet when he’s not alone on an island behind the arc is his release: Malcolm might be one of the slowest three-point shooters in the league. He knows how to hit shots and will consistently hit them, even in crunch time, but he simply takes so long to wind up that the defense has more time to deploy someone to contest the attempt. To your point, he shines when he can drive into a closeout, especially as a second-side attacker. He’s savvy enough to know when to shoot and when to dribble, but it’s difficult to project similar (or improved) performance on offense when he has less space to operate within.
Alright, last question: Fondly referred to as “The President,” how important was Brogdon to Milwaukee as a culture-setter, both on and off the floor?
Malcolm Brogdon is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive humans to have spent significant time in Milwaukee. As a player, especially a younger one, he was a steadying presence in the locker room. He was consistent and effective, he held others accountable to the same standards he held himself, and maintained his professionalism even during (and after) the ill-fated Jason Kidd Era. His social consciousness, charitable endeavors, and demonstrable commitment to his ideals make him an even more impactful human. Milwaukee will miss him, and Indiana will adore him.