The LA Clippers' win against the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night was only made close by one defensive play to start the second quarter.
The Clippers had a comfortable 11-point lead going into the second quarter. They were up 43-32, knocking down 79% of their shots in the first quarter. All it took, however, was a boneheaded play from rookie Kobe Brown to pull the Blazers back into the game.
As the Missouri product was slow to close out Anfernee Simons from the top of the key, Simons would hit the 26-foot three-pointer. In the process, a foul was called on Brown, eventually amounting to a four-point play.
To make matters worse, Brown's play was deemed to be a reckless closeout (flagrant one foul), handing the ball straight back to the visiting team. A Duop Reath shot inside the paint then cut the lead down to just five.
Kobe Brown made a crucial mistake against Portland
With Brown's foul, the Clippers gave away six points in just one possession. This is a clear example of why the 38-year-old veteran forward P.J. Tucker should be getting minutes over Brown.
The Clippers have been in a win-now mentality for the last five years, and there's no time to waste on developing young talent — especially if the rookie seems to be nothing more than a liability on both ends of the floor.
Brown has played in each of the Clippers' last five games, logging as many as 17 minutes against the Denver Nuggets. In those five games, he has made just one of ten field-goal attempts while committing nine personal fouls. And aside from the win against Denver, his plus/minus values have all been negative.
As the statistics demonstrate, the 23-year-old forward is not much of an offensive threat. Teams can opt to leave him wide open and put more pressure on real outside threats like James Harden, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. On the defensive side, his lack of experience shows. Though he has tools that can make him an above-average defender, he commits unnecessary fouls that allow opponents to go live on the foul line.
Most importantly, there is no cut-out role for Brown on this Clippers team. That is, he hasn't shown one particular reason why he deserves to be on the floor.
P.J. Tucker's experience is reason enough to play him
Norman Powell is a clutch scorer who can make shots; Russell Westbrook plays with palpable energy and pushes the pace; Terance Mann is an elite perimeter defender and can make plays inside the paint. So forth and so on.
As with Brown, he isn't quite the long-range threat Powell is. Nor is he an elite rim protector like Ivica Zubac. And it's hard to say he can create shots off the dribble like Bones Hyland.
For these reasons, there is no rush to be playing Kobe Brown 10 minutes a game. Instead, Tyronn Lue should turn to the end of the bench for veteran presence. Tucker is a solidified role player, whose defensive hustle and prowess have earned him playoff minutes on contending teams.
Sure he may be 38 and not at the peak of his powers, but he still is the gritty, tough-defending forward who won a championship in 2021. The Raleigh, N.C. native will take charges, deflect the ball and always make the right defensive plays. And though his three-point percentages have taken a dip, he is still more of an outside threat than Brown is — Tucker knocked down 39.3% from deep last season.
It is precisely these skills and characteristics that role players need to earn minutes on a star-stacked team like the Clippers. So, it's hard to see why Tucker is still stashed on the sidelines, when an inexperienced rookie like Brown is consistently getting minutes.