As an undrafted rookie, Wesley Matthews not only worked his way into a starting spot, but earned the task of defending Los Angeles Lakers guard, and future Hall of Famer, Kobe Bryant, during the 2010 Western Conference Semifinals.
Fast forward nearly 10 years and Matthews is still starting, now for the Milwaukee Bucks, and still playing the role of hard-nosed defender. However, nowadays, veteran and mentor are words used to describe his mannerisms and role on the team.
Matthews, meet Sterling Brown.
Brown was a late second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in 2017, and traded on draft night to Milwaukee for cash.
Now in his third season, Brown doesn’t regularly put up numbers that will make headlines or look glamorous on your fantasy basketball team. But he has consistently played his role, hitting shots when called upon, and defending and rebounding with relentless drive.
“One of the first words that comes out of my mouth when we talk about Sterling is his toughness,” head coach Mike Budenholzer said after Brown snatched 10 rebounds in a win over the Detroit Pistons. “Doesn’t matter if he is guarding a big guy, who it is, he just has a toughness, plays with a toughness. We put him on (Andre) Drummond for a stretch tonight.
“We want our team to kind of embody that, play like that. He has just been great.”
Last year when the Bucks played Detroit during the first round of the playoffs, Brown set his career high for rebounds at 13.
Matthews said after the game that he told Brown “a couple of days ago” that he reminded him of a younger version of himself.
“(Brown) is one of those guys that just competes,” Matthews added. “He battles. He’s going to do all of the dirty stuff that doesn’t necessarily show in the box scores, and he’s going to do stuff that does show up in the box score.
“He’s one of those guys that every team needs.”
Since Khris Middleton went down with a thigh injury, Brown is averaging 22 minutes per game. Although he still comes off-of-the-bench, he has meshed well with the starters when he subs in early in games. Against the Pistons on Saturday he posted a +23 in 22 minutes of action.
After joking that Brown probably hadn’t grabbed 10 rebounds since high school, Giannis Antetokounmpo approved, and appreciates, his teammate’s effort.
“Having a guy like Sterling rebound the ball, it’s big,” Antetokounmpo said. “We definitely need guys who can come back and help me and Brook (Lopez). Especially Donte (DiVincenzo) and Sterling, great job with that. Definitely they got to keep it going. We definitely need them to keep it going.
“We need guys like that, that are going to try to dive for the ball and try to go get it.”
Listed at 6-foot-5, Brown is averaging nearly six boards per game this season. His season high is 11, recorded at Orlando in the second game of the year.
“He goes and gobbles up boards,” Budenholzer added. “When it’s in the air he goes and gets it, he has a knack for it. He’s a unique kind of tool to have in your tool box.”