Thunder

Has OKC Found Yet Another Jewel in Brown?

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Entering the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs, no one expected Luguentz Dort to be the name that dominated headlines.

No one expected him to score more points in a Game 7 under the age of 22 than LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, either.

But it happened and now Dort is a starter and potential franchise cornerstone piece of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s future.

It’s rare that an undrafted player has a story quite like Dort’s. Well… it’s rare on any team that isn’t the Thunder for an undrafted player to have a story like Dort’s. It seems Oklahoma City is now a breeding ground for overachievement. The franchise manages to find a diamond in every stone they crack open. The most recent jewel they’ve discovered?

Moses Brown.

Entering the 2021 NBA season, no one expected Moses Brown to break records.

No one expected him to nearly post a 20-20 game in one half of NBA basketball. No one expected him to have one of the most dominant big-man performances against the Boston Celtics in the last 20 years.

An undrafted prospect isn’t supposed to put up 21 points and 23 rebounds in only their fifth career start. A player who averaged about four and a half minutes per game in his career until March of 2021 isn’t supposed to become a double-double machine.

But Brown did and is still doing it.

Who is Moses Brown and how did he end up in OKC?

High School

He has an eerily similar origin story to Lu Dort. They were both among the top 100 in the 2018 high-school recruiting class. Holding the 24th spot, Brown was a higher-rated recruit than the likes of Coby White, Tyler Herro and Kevin Porter Jr. Moses was also a McDonald’s All-American.

College

Brown and Dort both attended PAC-12 schools. Dort went to Arizona State. Brown chose to attend UCLA alongside star point guard, Jaylen Hands.

In his only season for the Bruins, Brown was good, but not great. He averaged 9.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in about 23 minutes per game and led the PAC-12 in offensive rebound percentage. It was enough to place him on the PAC-12 Conference All-Freshman team, along with Lu Dort.

UCLA went 16-14 in the regular season– not good enough to earn a NCAA tournament bid. Your average basketball fan might actually recognize Moses from this video that went viral during UCLA’s overtime win against Oregon during the middle of conference play. (Moses on the left, Jaylen Hands on the right)

The only way UCLA could make the NCAA tournament would be to win the PAC-12 Conference Tournament, but they lost in the second round to Dort’s Arizona State.

NBA Draft

Despite the lack of success, Brown’s individual performance was good enough to garner NBA attention. In most mocks prior to the 2019 NBA Draft, Brown was around the tail end of the second round, with concerns regarding his foot speed and free-throw shooting hurting his draft stock.

You can teach shooting mechanics. You can’t teach height. His 7’2″ frame kept him in the conversation.

Unfortunately for Brown, like Dort, he went undrafted.

Early NBA

After performing well during the pre-season for the Portland Trail Blazers, Moses was signed to a two-way contract in his rookie season with Portland. But that was the start of an awkward situation.

He was hardly used during his one-year tenure with the Blazers, playing just nine games and averaging only 3.7 minutes when he did step on the court. Under a two-way contract, Brown is supposed to also get run with the franchise’s G-League affiliate. The Blazers are one of two NBA teams who don’t actually have a G-League team. So when he wasn’t suiting up for Portland, Brown was playing for the Texas Legends, the Dallas Mavericks’ G-League affiliate.

Seeing as the Legends are meant to be a developmental team for the Mavericks, they saw no reason to give Moses significant minutes. He only saw a little over 19 minutes per game, but Brown made the most of those minutes. In 30 games with the Legends, Brown averaged 14.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Translated to per-36 minutes, Moses was averaging an absurd 26.8 points, 14.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.

This helped Brown last with the Blazers through the 2020 playoffs — suiting up twice in the Orlando bubble — though he didn’t see any court time. The Blazers opted not to re-sign him at the end of the year.

Enter OKC

G-League

Oklahoma City noticed what Moses did in his limited minutes for the Texas Legends and signed him to a two-way contract in December. Early on in the 2021 NBA season, Moses was getting similar run to the kind of minutes he was getting on the Blazers.

Then he was sent down to play with the Oklahoma City Blue in the G-League Bubble. That’s where he exploded.

In 14 games with the Blue, Moses averaged 18.5 points, 13.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in about 26 minutes per game. Even more impressive, of the 13.9 rebounds, on average six of them were offensive.

Thunder

That was enough to convince Oklahoma City to give Moses a a shot at significant minutes with the big-boy team.

Nine games and five starts later, Moses put up the sixth-most rebounds against the Celtics in the past 20 years. Now, in the 17 games since his first start in mid-March, Moses is averaging 11.6 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in a little over 27 minutes per game.

It seems inevitable that he will continue to improve. There are still holes in his game and flaws that he needs to correct.

Regardless, he’s flashed brilliance. So did Dort in the 2020 NBA Playoff Bubble. Shortly thereafter, Dort quickly became one of the league’s best defenders.

No one knows what Moses’ ceiling is, but he’s already defied initial expectations. Oklahoma City just signed Moses Brown to a multi-year deal to find out what that ceiling is.

The rest of this season could be telling to what kind of NBA player Moses Brown turns out to be.

Follow us on Twitter @ThunderLead for the latest Thunder news and insight. 

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About Adrian Walker

Graduate from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Been covering sports since I was 14 years old. I have an Emmy nomination to my name and have helped produce two documentaries. I Co-Host a podcast called the Flight School Podcast which can be found on Spotify and iTunes. My mind is basically a storage base for every known fact about Russell Westbrook.

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