Home Syracuse forward Maliq Brown hits the portal: Is he a good fit for Virginia?

Syracuse forward Maliq Brown hits the portal: Is he a good fit for Virginia?

Chris Graham
maliq brown
Photo: ACC

Virginia reportedly has interest in Syracuse forward Maliq Brown, a Culpeper native who played at Blue Ridge School in Greene County, just a 33-minute drive up from JPJ.

Brown had good counting numbers in 2023-2024 at ‘Cuse – 9.5 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, 2.2 steals per game, 0.9 blocks per game, 69.8 percent shooting from the field, 36.8 percent shooting from three, though on low volume there (7-of-19 on the season).

He’s a good shooter at the free-throw line – 72.1 percent, 44-of-61.

The deep dive, courtesy Synergy Sports, suggests that Brown is a poor man’s Ryan Dunn.

Brown’s offense is almost entirely at the rim: 88.5 percent of his shot attempts were layups, dunks or tips.

For comparison, 64.1 percent of Dunn’s shot attempts were at the rim in 2023-2024.

Brown attempted just 20 jumpers all season – the aforementioned 19 threes and one midrange jumper.

Deeper dive, a lot of his offense came off pick-and-roll man situations (32-of-50 FG, 64.0% FG, 1.136 points per possession in 2023-2024), which is something that Tony Bennett’s offense doesn’t use an awful lot of – just 4.4 percent of Virginia’s possessions led to shots for the screener out of pick-and-rolls.

Bennett did try to use high screens at times (edit.: not nearly damn enough) to initiate some offense with Reece Beekman and usually a center, either Jordan Minor or Blake Buchanan, but the bulk of those resulted in shots for Beekman (who had 117 field-goal attempts in pick-and-roll ball-handler uses), or passes from Beekman to a cutter or to the perimeter to restart the offense.

With Beekman almost certainly gone – he has his COVID redshirt year remaining, but seemed to indicate in the Colorado State postgame presser that he is done – we don’t even know who the primary point guard is going to be next year.

The effectiveness of a pick-and-roll is dependent on both guys in the action being considered threats, forcing the defense to decide.

It’s one thing if it’s Beekman or Judah Mintz as the ballhandler, and quite another if it’s Dante Harris, Andrew Rohde or Christian Bliss.

Back to Brown’s offense, then, the rest of his game is very much a Ryan Dunn thing, with similar numbers for the two in lane cuts, offensive rebounds and transition.

The difference between the two, and it’s noticeable, is on the defensive end.

Dunn held opponents to 28.1 percent shooting and 0.697 points per possession in 2023-2024; this is the basis of why a guy with his limited offensive game would be a late-first- or early-second-round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft.

Brown’s opponents shot 52.8 percent and scored 0.924 points per possession overall, and in man defense, the numbers were somehow worse – 56.4 percent shooting, and 0.984 points per possession.

His athleticism, as reflected in the counting numbers with steals and blocks, suggests that Brown could improve on the defensive end with good coaching, and by being a part of a defense-first system in Bennett’s Pack Line.

Brown’s offense doesn’t seem to add a lot, other than another Dunn – basically, another guy on the floor who can’t create his own shot and isn’t a threat on the perimeter.

My final analysis here is that Brown only makes sense as an option for Bennett if Dunn is set on declaring for and remaining in the NBA Draft class for the 2024 cycle.

I can’t imagine Bennett going for long stretches with a frontcourt with those two guys at the four and five, or with a lineup that has them at the three and four, Buchanan at the five, and two guards – not unless he can convince the refs to turn off the shot clock.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].