In a recent Reddit “Ask Me Anything” held by the NBA during rookie downtime on their photo day, Nets’ rookie Markel Brown hopped on and answered a few questions. One being, “Who is the funniest veteran you’ve talked to so far and why?”
Brown’s response: “Probably Tony Allen. I’ve been around him a bit and he’s just a good dude.”
That’s right: Brown has hung out with Allen, another former Oklahoma State alumnus and a product of Lionel Hollins’s coaching. Maybe we’re reading the tea leaves a bit, but there may be something of an Allen-esque role Brown can carve out in the NBA. (After all, they’ve got a colloquial relationship, so it’s a lock.)
Whether Hollins asked Allen, who is still with the Memphis Grizzlies, to have a talk with his new student, or that’s just the custom between Oklahoma State NBA alumni, Brown is potentially talking to his future-self, a creation under the defensive guru that is Lionel Hollins.
Brown wants to play like Russell Westbrook, but that comparison falls short outside of the undeniable athleticism; that said, Brown is certainly more athletic than Tony Allen, and has the physical tools to emulate Allen’s game with the right tutelage.
Allen is one of the league’s top perimeter defenders, a dogged one-on-one master that earns praise around the league for typifying Hollins’s “grit-n-grind” style.
Both Allen and Brown emphasize defense, and their college numbers reflect defensive mindsets. Brown’s defensive rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions) in his senior season was 100.4, a solid number.
Allen averaged 16.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in 31.6 minutes per game in his final season, with a 50.4 field goal percentage, 29.7 three point percentage, and 67.5 free throw percentage. Brown averaged 17.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists in 35.3 minutes per game, with 47.3-37.9-76.8 percentage splits.
Allen was more a prolific thief: he averaged 2.1 steals per game in his final year, compared to just 1.1 for Brown. But there’s more to defense than pure steals: Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford called Brown “one of the premier players in the country” when questioned about his well-rounded game that starts on the defensive end.
Even Brown’s former teammate at Oklahoma, Leyton Hammonds described his defensive leadership as “playing as hard as he [could], trying to get a ‘W’ for us… And that’s what you learn from guys like that. I learned a lot from him. … He wants to win so bad.”
Brown told HoopsHabit he wants to provide the Nets with “hard-nosed defense,” adding that he’s “someone who’s going to come out there and be a pest on defense.” That has to be music to Hollins’ ears.
Once he faces real NBA competition, Brown’s game will show. Hopefully, with Hollins’s mentoring, Brown can realize the Tony Allen epiphany.