Although Kwame Brown will always go down in the debate as one of the worst number one overall picks of all time, he is coming off his most productive season in the league since the 05-06 season. For Kwame, the bottom line is that in Charlotte he is the starting center and will be a player that is looked to for a lot of production. Kwame is with a coach, Paul Silas, who has a reputation of being a player’s coach and an Owner, Michael Jordan, who still hangs on to the faith he has in his former number one pick while in Washington. The stars are far from aligned for Kwame at this point in his career, but his unexpected incline in performance last season give reason for some hope in his future.
Kwame averaged 7.9 PPG and 6.8 RPG last season, which was his highest in those two categories since the 06-07 season. The difference is that Kwame played 66 games last season, compared to 41 in 06-07, so last year’s sample size is much more valid.
Kwame averaged 1.4 turnovers/36 minutes played last season, which was the lowest turnover rate in a season for Kwame in his entire career. This has to be one of the most encouraging stats considering Kwame was notorious for giving the ball away seemingly every time he got it in the post early in his career.
Kwame FT% was 59% last season, the highest percentage for him since the 03-04 season. More amazingly, Kwame 59% from the stripe last season was a 25% increase on average from the season before, when he was a dismal 34%. Kwame made a clear adjustment last season, attempting to get his shooting elbow closer to his chest, allowing him to line up his shot easier. Kwame still seemed to have an extremely mechanical motion that needs to become more fluent in order to produce more consistent results, but the step for him was huge and that’s the most important aspect in his improvement.
Defensively, Kwame has always been fairly productive and continued that trend last season. The thing that sticks out the most when you watch him play defense is how effectively he is able to switch his defending (ball) hand, depending on which way the offensive player decides to attack the basket with their back to the basket. Kwame has always struggled a bit defending post players who can face the basket and attack, but let’s face it, Kwame was never a laterally quick guy with fantastic footwork. Bottom line, quicker 4’s and 5’s can pull him away from the basket and go around him. Kwame only average 0.8 BLK/36 minutes last season, which is average for him in his career, but watching him play defense last season suggested that he was being coached to get better at contesting shots rather than worrying much about getting blocks.
Assistant coach Charles Oakley was an extremely positive mentor for Kwame last season, and probably on the offensive end of the court the most. Kwame had a FG% of 51.7% /36 minutes last season and 7.9 FGA/36 minutes. This was his highest amount of FG% and FGA since his 04-05 season when he had FG% of 46%. Last season’s 51.7% FG/36 minutes was the highest of his career when attempting at least 7.2 FG/game. Oakley clearly made a difference in Kwame’s confidence with the ball in his hands on the block. It is unsure if Oakley will return to be an assistant for next season in Charlotte, but for Kwame, rookie Biyombo and the Bobcats post play, we can only hope so.
Does the statistical analysis of Kwame’s improvement last season suggest that he has matured as a professional, learning how to put in the hard work to become better? Should more of the credit be given to Oakley and his superb job in coaching up Kwame? Did Kwame simply luck out from being on a team that had no answer at the center position, and we’re just reading into all this too much? All of these questions loom large in the minds of the Charlotte front office and fans, but the hope and optimism for Kwame to keep getting better is there.