Malcolm Brogdon missed the end of the regular season and the start of the post-season for the Milwaukee Bucks with a plantar fascia issue, but the 26 year old guard returned to action in the final game of Milwaukee’s sweep of the Boston Celtics, and has seamlessly fit back in as an important contributor for the Bucks in the Conference Finals series against the Toronto Raptors.
With the Dallas Mavericks in desperate need of shooting to surround playmaker and faciliator Luka Doncic, might the restricted free agent to be factor in to the team’s off-season plans this summer? Let’s take a closer look.
Barely making the cut of the top 100 recruits out of high school in Atlanta, Georgia, Malcolm Brogdon had a superb college career at Virginia (alma mater of Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, as well as Dallas’ 2015 first round pick Justin Anderson, who was a teammate of Brogdon for three years), winning ACC Player of the Year and ACC Defensive Player of the Year as a Senior. He was also an All-American and a finalist for the Naismith Award.
Despite all those accolades, Brogdon was not selected in the first round of the 2016 NBA Draft, instead being selected 36th by the Milwaukee Bucks. With injuries to Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker cutting into the Bucks’ depth, Brogdon got a chance to earn a regular rotation spot as a rookie and ran with it, averaging 10 points and 4 assists per game while shooting over 40% from three. In what was a historically weak class, Brogdon went on to win Rookie of the Year honors (don’t mention this to Philadelphia fans), becoming the first player drafted in the second round to win the award in 50 years.
Though it was a not-unpopular take at the time to believe that Brogdon would go on to the join the ranks of RotY winners who became afterthoughts (Michael Carter-Williams, Andrew Wiggins and Tyreke Evans being major recent examples), Brogdon instead built on that success and has since become an increasingly valuable member of an ascendant team who appear poised to make a very real challenge to the Warriors dynasty and possibly become NBA champs. Brogdon’s third season was his best yet, as he joined the illustrious 50-40-90 club along with former Mavs (too soon, sorry) Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash.
In a word, shooting. Malcolm Brogdon was a good but perhaps under-appreciated shooter at Virginia, where he made “only” 36 percent of his college threes. He was a phenomenal free throw shooter, however (just under 88 percent for his career, and barely missed hitting 90 percent as a senior), which should have made it clear he had serious potential at the next level.
He is fairly selective in his attempts, given his skill level, but he’s made over 40 percent now in three seasons with 600 attempts (over 3 a game in 28 minutes per). The Bucks under coach Mike Budenholzer play a gorgeous spread offense focused around Giannis Antetokounmpo’s unprecedented dribble drive game, and Brogdon is undoubtedly the beneficiary of championship-level spacing. It comes as no surprise then that Malcolm made over 47 percent of his catch and shoot threes, one of the best marks in the league.
It would be wrong to suggest that Brogdon is purely a spot up player, however. While he is not a traditional lead guard, he has enough ball-handling skill to make plays off the dribble, and did well running the pick and roll. He’s a low-mistake player who knows his role and plays within himself, which is ideal for a complimentary piece. Defensively, Brogdon is not quite the impact guy he was at Virginia, but his size (6’5, 229) allows him to switch and not be overpowered in strength matchups. He’s heady and competes, and the Bucks defended better with him on the floor, on what was the top defensive squad in the NBA this past season.
Brogdon fell in the draft for reasons that typically dog otherwise productive upperclassmen. For one, he was considered a sub-par athlete, who won with size and smarts rather than speed or explosion. He was also old for a draft prospect, having already turned 23, and didn’t appear to offer much in the way of upside. Lastly, part of the reason he was older was that he redshirted his sophomore season after suffering a major foot injury, giving teams pause over his future health.
At least two of those concerns still exist, to some degree. Brogdon won’t overwhelm you with athleticism; he gets to his spots but he can look slow on the court at times, and that issue may become more pronounced with age. He’s also dealt with further injuries as a pro. They may not be related — the injury that forced him to redshirt in college was apparently on his left foot, while the plantar fascia he’s dealt with this season is on his right, and he missed time in 2017-18 with a banged up right quad — but the collective wear and tear may affect his availability going forward, and his next contract will likely take him to age 30.
Also, as rosy as his shooting profile might seem, he doesn’t have the quickest release you’ll see from such a good shooter, which may mean his effectiveness with reduced spacing will decline. One wouldn’t want to overreact to that, but keep in mind to have any chance of luring him away you’re going to pay ace shooter type money, and you’re essentially locking him into position as your third option on offense. Just how much can Brogdon give you with that kind of role?
Fit with the Mavericks
There’s always going to be concerns with most any free agent, outside of perhaps the ones Dallas has no shot at like Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant. Still, based on age, projected price, and skillset, there may not be a better fitting player available for the Mavs. His size offers position flex to accommodate Rick Carlisle’s beloved three-guard lineups, and Brogdon is exactly the type of off-ball player Dallas should be looking to acquire. He won’t be asked to be the primary initiator in Dallas — that’s Luka’s job now and hopefully for a very, very long time — but he can be more than capable as a secondary playmaker to give defenses different looks and take pressure of the young Slovenian.
Defensively, you’re going to want to put someone with serious chops in between Doncic and Brogdon, but Brogdon can hold his own and has already demonstrated he can be a part of a top-level defense. Like Luka, Brogdon has sneaky girth, and is capable of playing up in the lineup when Dallas wants to go small. Also like Luka, Brogdon does his part on the glass, which will be important since the projected Mavs starting front court as of this writing is Kristaps Porzingis and Dwight Powell.
As a side note, Brogdon is by most accounts a great teammate and a selfless person on and off the court. His charity efforts to provide clean water to East Africa and Tanzania were recently featured in the news after Charles Barkley donated to the cause. Brogdon was recently quoted as saying that his true passion isn’t basketball, but helping people. Any team would surely want a guy like that, and the Mavs are no exception.
I like Brogdon a good bit, and at one point I thought he might perhaps get lost in the shuffle given Milwaukee has several free agents this summer (they already re-signed Eric Bledsoe, and will have decisions to make on Middleton and Brook Lopez, as well).
Unfortunately, with the team marching toward a possible Finals appearance, the chances of Milwaukee’s front office letting a key rotation piece go don’t seem terribly likely. As mentioned above, Brogdon is a restricted free agent, meaning the Bucks will have the opportunity to match any offer. To even have a prayer of stealing him might require a major overpay, and the way the Chandler Parsons’ situation played out may make Dallas hesitant to give another huge contract to an RFA with some injury question marks. The stylistic fit is there for sure, but the stars may not be aligned on this one.