Phoenix Suns 2011-12 Player Evaluation: Downtown Shannon Brown

He's a hard worker and all-around good guy. But is he worth a big, new contract?

Here at Bright Side of the Sun we take the words TOTAL COVERAGE pretty dang seriously.

While our beloved Suns are off taking nice vacations, we are still slaving away, attempting to provide you all with first class Suns coverage.

So friends, without further adieu, we present you with the Phoenix Suns Season in Review, 2011-12.

Up for discussion today is Shannon Brown.

Last offseason, the Phoenix Suns looked for a shooting guard who would accept a one-year deal to compete for a starting job. The "one-year-deal" part limited the Suns' chances at real star power. The 2011-12 season was a "bridge" year - a year to tide the team and fans over until enough contracts expired to allow the Suns to start over. One-year deals were the only deals being offered.

The Suns set their sights lower, and positioned the opportunity as a perfect one for a player who wanted to step out of someone else's shadow and prove himself worthy of a bigger role in future seasons, and a bigger contract to go with it.

Enter Shannon Brown.

As Brown said to Paul Coro, beat writer for the Arizona Republic and azcentral.com: "I know one of the things about me they were saying this (past) summer, 'Aw, he can't play out of the (Lakers') triangle. The triangle made him. He can't play out of the triangle.'"

Brown wanted to prove he could do more than dunk in transition and carry Kobe Bryant's water bottle. He is young and freakishly athletic, but hadn't proven to the league's evaluators that he could do more than exhibit a little flash and dash for 10 minutes a game when Kobe rested.

Brown's first season as a Phoenix Sun had its peaks and valleys, but overall had to be categorized as a success for both Brown and the Suns. Shannon Brown is not a savior or a future all-star, but in 19 starts he did average nearly 16 points a game on 43% 3-point shooting. And in stark contrast to the rest of the Suns' roster, Brown created 41% of his points all on his own, without the benefit of an assist from Steve Nash.

We all remember Shannon Brown took a while to get comfortable in the Suns' system. Without the benefit of an offseason program or voluntary workouts with the guys or even a full training camp, Brown was plopped into a 20+ minutes/night shot-creating role next to a struggling point guard.

In the season's first half, his favorite play was the dribble-dance-fallaway-jumpshot in which he somehow managed to close the gap between him and the defender rather than expand it. He was simply trying too hard, and in his moments of confusion he fell back onto the game of his "big brother" Kobe Bryant.

Late in the first half of the season he lost his job to Michael Redd before getting it back by default thanks to Redd's inability to seize it.

But as the season progressed, so did Shannon Brown. After the all-star break, he dribble-danced less and drove to the basket more. He realized the value of catch-and-shoot. He became a smarter player, and stepped up his game even more when Grant Hill got injured.

Brown started the Suns' last 17 games during the toughest stretch of the season. He managed to score 16 points a game, and sunk 43% of his 3-point shot attempts while playing between Steve Nash and Jared Dudley. He did not contribute much in other areas though, with a 1:1 ratio of turnovers to assists, few rebounds and average defensive ability despite his athleticism.

"I came out and showed people that I can play the game of basketball," Brown said. "I'm just tying to continue to get better as a basketball player and I think I'm going to do that each summer."

Brown says he wants to return to Phoenix next season, but this time he wants a better contract. To give him that longer, richer contract though will require the Suns to project Brown even further than he showed last season.

Without projecting any more improvement, you're looking at a guy who can be a spot-starter that will contribute 16 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. He is a streaky shooter with average basketball IQ and average defense. He won't lose a game for you, but likely won't win one for you either. That's not a rich, multi-year contract player if you ask me.

For his part, Brown wants to be back in Phoenix even while hedging his bets because the Suns have likely not given him any kind of promises.

"I like it here," Brown said of Phoenix. "I like everything about it. I like the team. I like the facilities. I like the city. The fans. I like everything about it. I don't mind being here again. At the same time, I've got to keep that balance in my mind. It's a business. My plans might not fit other people's plans so I have to prepare for anything."

He is basically Plan C. Or D. Not a real starter or savior, but definitely a backup plan among second-tier guard options. He knows the Suns system, and has proven his ability to produce no matter who surrounds him.

But the Suns are no longer in the business of handing out long contracts like candy. They are going to be smart and conservative going forward.

Is Brown a better option than Eric Gordon? Heck no.

Is Brown better than OJ Mayo? No.

Is Brown better than, say, Alonzo Gee? Probably, maybe. Gee is taller, plays better defense and his teammates love him, but he can't score or shoot the 3-ball.

Is Brown better than Jamal Crawford? Yes, a thousand times yes. While Crawford tends to lose the faith of his teammates, coaches and front office personnel (I mean seriously, saying you "need" to be in Phoenix while standing among your current Portland teammates?!?!), Shannon Brown has been a model citizen.

I happen to know someone who knows someone who works with Suns players, and that person swears Brown is one of the nicest guys on the team.

It's all about expectations. It's not a bad thing to bring Shannon Brown back. It's only bad if you give him a lot of money and/or expect him to earn a regular starting role on a contender. But his two championship rings prove he can earn a regular backup role on a contender.

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