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Tale of the tape: What transfer Chaundee Brown brings to Michigan

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A versatile, solid pickup for the Wolverines.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 29 Notre Dame at Wake Forest

If you were exposed to more than one game of Wake Forest basketball last season, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

On the plus side, you got to watch one of the more unique players in college basketball.

That player, Chaundee Brown, committed to Michigan on Tuesday, bringing the Wolverines’ bizarre offseason one step closer to stability. After three seasons in Winston-Salem, Brown entered the transfer portal, ultimately choosing Michigan over Gonzaga and Illinois.

Coming out of high school in Orlando, Brown was ranked No. 36 per 247Sports’ composite rankings, and more or less lived up to expectations in his Demon Deacon career. He’s been a starter since his freshman season, apart from an injury this winter that caused him to miss eight games. He was productive when on the court, averaging 12.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Brown couldn’t do much to lift Wake Forest out of the bottom of the ACC — the Demon Deacons went 33-58 in his three years there, which ended with the firing of head coach Danny Manning last month. But in Ann Arbor, he’ll have a chance to showcase his abilities on a contender (whether that’s next season or 2021-22, depending on him getting a waiver).

But what are those abilities?

I pulled up a handful of Wake’s games from last season and kept an eye on Brown. It’s actually not too hard to find full ACC games on YouTube, so I could actually curate a balanced sample. I didn’t want to just catch Brown on a good or bad day, so I went through his game log and went off his stat lines, picking out three games which seemed like they would showcase a reasonably broad spectrum of his impact against different qualities of opposition.

  • Feb. 11 vs. North Carolina: 11 points, 4-of-8 shooting, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 2 blocks
  • Feb. 25 vs. Duke: 24 points, 8-of-12 shooting, 7-of-8 free throws, 9 rebounds
  • Feb. 29 vs. Notre Dame: 15 points, 4-of-10 shooting, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block

Here’s what I found:

Offense

Juwan Howard wants to play an NBA-style, positionless brand of basketball. That suits Brown, because he doesn’t really have a position.

At 6-foot-5, he’s got the height of a shooting guard. That’s where he’s listed on Wake’s website. But he’s just as at home as a 3 or even a small-ball 4, thanks to his 220-pound frame which is mostly muscle.

Brown’s at his best when he’s playing downhill. He’s the basketball equivalent of a Mack truck when he takes a pass from the perimeter and lowers his shoulder to the rim. He relishes contact and makes it pay off — his free-throw rate of 36.0 would have ranked third on the Wolverines, and he hits them at an 83.1 percent clip. That’s how you record a totally solid offensive rating of 108.9 on a terrible team.

He often trails behind the play in transition, like a running back accelerating before hitting the line of scrimmage.

Wake utilized this ability in the half-court, too. In this frequently-used set, Brown dishes off to a guard and reaches full speed just after his defender is slowed by an off-ball screen. The finish is inevitable.

This is called having a nose for the ball.

On the flip side, Brown is decidedly not a *play-maker* — he averaged just 1.4 assists per game, and I counted maybe one occasion where Brown was asked to handle the ball in a screen-and-roll situation. In fact, Brown can be rendered invisible — he plays mostly off-the-ball and doesn’t move much without it, simply perching himself outside the arc to provide spacing.

This works because Brown is a 32.8 percent 3-point shooter for his career on 3.2 attempts per game. His shot’s far from broken: his mechanics are good and he shoots without thinking twice. But he rarely does so outside of his sweet spots — namely, the corners.

Michigan would be thrilled if Brown boosted his percentages by about four or five points, but he does just what’s needed of him and forces defenders to worry. He has the ability to draw hard closeouts and subsequently attack them.

The key to slowing Brown is by keeping him out of the paint and rendering him a jump-shooter. If he’s allowed to build a head of steam, it’s over, but he’ll settle if his defender stays in front of him. He can hit shots from anywhere inside the arc, but you’d rather not rely on him as more than a third option.

That all being said, Brown is a smart offensive player who knows his limits and makes good decisions with the ball, especially if he decides to take it to the rack. He’ll get ambitious sometimes, but never to the point of hurting his team.

Defense

Brown isn’t as good a defender as Nojel Eastern, the other transfer Michigan’s added in the last week. But he fits into somewhat the same mold: a big, strong wing with the lateral movement, length and versatility to guard every position. His defensive rating of 104.8 ranked a very respectable fourth out of Wake Forest’s rotation players.

Here he is staying in front of potential lottery pick Cole Anthony...

and here he is fighting through a screen to contest a shot from Leaky Black...

and here he is tipping a pass and turning it into an unguarded layup.

Brown was asked to play in the post on defense, where he used his strength and low-to-the-ground style to establish position and deny opposing big men the ball. When he guarded big men, he gave up a few inches but made up for it with his strength and high motor. It didn’t hurt the Demon Deacons had 7-footer Olivier Sarr playing alongside him either.

Brown’s defensive stats don’t jump off the page at all: he averaged 0.5 steals and 0.1 blocks per game for the season. Ultimately, that doesn’t mean all that much — those stats are more evident of a wiry, quick frame and a willingness to freelance. Brown’s a pretty conventional defender who will body up his man and try to make him beat him physically.

It’s not at all like he can’t steal or block shots, though. Brown knows how to read the play and react on the weak side.

The nose for the ball Brown displays on the offensive end translates just as well on defense. Brown’s defensive rebounding rate ranked seventh in the ACC last year, and he was 20th in the ACC in total rebounding last season, and just three players 6-foot-5 or shorter ranked ahead of him.

What separates Brown as a rebounder is he can also get out and run while he’s at it.

Brown’s not immune to communication miscues or other errors when the other team has the ball, and he isn’t a quarterback on that end. But he can absolutely be a defensive plus in any team’s system.

There’s not a team in America that wouldn’t be made better by inserting Brown into its rotation. He has three years of power conference experience, can play three positions well, is elite in at least one area (rebounding) and has a malleable game that doesn’t demand X number of touches per contest to make an impact.

The only question is if Michigan will reap those benefits next year or the year after. And that question is a reminder that even those the Wolverines have filled their last remaining scholarship, their offseason is still far from over.