Name: Ronnie Brewer
Weight: 227 pounds
Birth Date: March 20, 1985 (25 years old)
Birth Place: Portland, Oregon
Drafted: 2006, selected 14th overall by the Jazz
Experience: 4 seasons
Previous teams: Utah Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies
Expect: Solid effort on defense
Don’t expect: Shooting
Brewer had a rough 2009-10 season. He was traded from Utah to Memphis, where he (poorly) played only five games due to a hamstring injury. Statistically, it was the worst season of his young career. Injuries will do that to a person. Barring injury, Brewer hopes to get back to form with the Bulls this season.
But that raises the question: What is “back to form” for Ronnie?
When the Bulls signed Brewer this summer, some joker posted the following one-line response on the IGN Boards: “Ronnie Brewer Offensive Scouting Report: Dunks.”
Unfortunately, this is one of those “sometimes the truth hurts” moments. Brewer’s offense is limited. I mean, extremely limited. This is due mostly to the fact that the man cannot shoot the rock…which is a problem for somebody who plays shooting guard.
Although Brewer’s career shooting percentage (.521) is outstanding — especially the .558 mark he set during the 2007-08 season — that stat was established almost entirely in the around-the-basket area. He is a career 23 percent three-point shooter who has converted only 41 treys in 271 games over four seasons. And remember: All but five of those games were with the Jazz, where the greatest majority of his shots were of the wide open variety.
Last season — discounting his five-game stint with the Grizzlies — Brewer hit 65 percent of his shots at the rim but was a brick layer from every other zone. Inside 10 feet: 27 percent. 10-15 feet: 30 percent. 16-23 feet: 35 percent. From downtown: 25 percent.
While perusing his career stats at Hoopdata, the only glimmer of hope I saw was that Brewer connected on 47 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet during the 2007-08 season. However, that seems to be an outlier. His other shooting percentages are terrible from every zone (except around the rim) for every other season.
In other words, there’s no reason to suspect he’ll suddenly develop some heretofore unknown shooting ability. And I haven’t read anything this summer to suggest he’s been working tirelessly on his outside shot. So there you have it.
Moreover, Brewer’s shots are not his own unique creation. According to 82games.com, Brewer’s field goal attempts are assisted 70+ percent of the time from every zone. This is another potential problem. Traditionaly, shooting guards are usually expected to generate their own looks. That’s not going to happen with Ronnie.
That’s not to say Brewer is a complete waste on offense. After all, he has averaged 10.3 PPG over his four seasons (including almost 14 PPG in 2008-09). Brewer has scored these points by working hard and making wise decisions within a smart offense. As ESPN’s John Hollinger put it: “Talk to scouts, analysts and other assorted film junkies, and they’ll tell you Brewer is the best off-ball cutter in the league. He’ll get lost on the weak side in Utah’s motion offense and then make a quick zip to the basket for an easy layup or dunk. He scores nearly all his points this way, rarely needing to attack 1-on-1 for a basket. He’s also a good finisher in transition.”
So in a sense, Brewer is sort of the anti-Korver. Whereas Kyle is almost strictly an outside shooter, Ronnie can’t do much outside of the zero-to-five feet range. Man, I wonder if there’s any way to merge those two guys into one complete player? Yeah, probably not.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is talking up running and getting easy buckets — of course, what NBA coach doesn’t? — and that would play to Brewer’s strengths. And TrueHoop’s Kevin Arnovitz suggested the Bulls adopt a flex offense, which would also make the best possible use of Brewer’s limited offensive capabilities. However, there’s no way to know what the team’s offense is going to be like until we actually see it in action. So Brewer’s actual offensive utility is hard to predict.
In theory, what Brewer lack on offense he makes up on defense. Unfortunately, that theory hasn’t totally held up to this point in Ronnie’s career. Hollinger continues: “Utah employed Brewer as its main defensive ace, but he wasn’t particularly good at the job. Though he has great anticipation for steals off the ball and appears to have the requisite physical skills, he’s proven quite beatable 1-on-1.”
And indeed, Brewer’s career Defensive Rating of 107 — that is, 107 points surrendered per 100 possessions — isn’t exactly the stuff of defensive legend. And his defense didn’t seem to improve when his playing time increased. During the 2008-09 season, when Brewer set career highs games played (81), minutes played (2605), and minutes per game (32.2), his D-Rating was a career-worst 108.
However, as Hollinger pointed out, Brewer has displayed a talent for pilfering the ball. He was in the top 10 in total steals twice (10th in 2007-08 and 6th in 2008-00), once in steals per game (7th in 2008-09), and twice in steal percentage (2nd in 2007-08 and 7th in 2008-09). So, if nothing else, Ronnie has quick hands and good anticipation.
And isn’t it reasonable to suspect a defensive guru like Thibodeau can put those skills to good use? Brewer certainly has the physical capacity to be a stopper. Maybe Thibs can help him reach his supposed potential…or even surpass it.
Let me be frank: When trying to figure out how good the Bulls can actually be this season, Brewer is my biggest concern. Unless management throws in a monkey wrench (like trading for Rudy Fernandez), Ronnie is going to be the team’s starting two guard…and he’ll probably get the majority of the minutes at that position too. (Although Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald reports that the starting two guard spot is up for grabs, it’s very hard for me to imagine a defensive traffic cone like Korver or an ultra-limited guy like Keith Bogans getting the nod over Brewer.)
Last season, the Bulls’ offense was often disrupted because of a lack of shooting on the floor. When you look at the predicted starting lineup — Rose, Brewer, Deng, Boozer, Noah — you don’t see much shooting. Sure, Luol was the team’s best three-point shooter (by percentage) last season, and Derrick has been working on his three-ball all summer. But still: the starting five doesn’t have any proven, high-percentage long-distance shooters.
That could be a problem.
There’s a very good chance that Thibodeau’s crafty defensive schemes can transform Brewer into the defensive stalwart he’s supposed to be. But his limitations on offense will hinder his development as a player, and they could also hinder the Bulls as a team.