Nets’ Bruce Brown is in line for a pay raise after a strong second half

Bruce Brown uses every possible little thing – even imaginary ones – as fuel for his fire.

Reached the second draft round. The defense sagged from him. He was underpaid and settled on a contract that was half what he expected.

He could be about to lose the last chip off his shoulder.

Despite the Nets’ first-round win in the playoffs, Brown’s breakout performance — particularly a stellar second half of the season — should earn him a big raise this summer. And he hopes it stays in Brooklyn.

“Yeah, hopefully,” Brown said after Monday’s Game 4 loss. “If there’s a chance to stay, we’ll talk about it. But we will see.”

Oh there should be a chance. It only costs the Nets and owner Joe Tsai.

Brown was one of only three players in the NBA to average 14 points, five assists and three rebounds on 50/40 shooting splits after the All-Star break. The others? Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum, whose fame the Nets can vouch for.

Bruce Brown
Bruce Brown

After snagging Brown at a bargain price, Brooklyn deserves a raise. And the Nets’ cap situation leaves them few good options for replacing him if they let him escape.

After coach Steve Nash found creative ways last season to maximize Brown’s strengths and mask his weaknesses — using him as a 6ft 4 roleplayer to capitalize on his physicality and hide his lack of shooting — many in the league expected Brown to land a deal in the $8 million to $10 million range.

But Brown was forced to settle for Brooklyn’s $4.7 million qualifying offer, something he used as motivation all season.

“Oh yeah sure,” Brown admitted. “I mean, I had a pretty good season last year. But it is what it is. move on. I am here and have another good year.”

It was something of a breakout year.

A summer spent with Net’s assistant Royal Ivey – refining his floater, fielding 3s, etc. – has paid off. Brown averaged nine points, 4.8 boards, scored 50.6 percent overall and a career-high 40.4 out of 3. The latter is what might raise eyebrows — and his pay grade.

Brown shot just 28.8 percent from deep last season. But proving reliable at Turn 3 – something he’ll see a lot with Durant and Kyrie Irving – makes him valuable when paired with his wing defence. He trailed only Durant in Win Shares (4.8) and connected for Defensive Win Shares (2.0).

“We all love how Bruce plays,” Durant said. “At that point, I expect him to come out of there and play well. And as a player, as soon as you set expectations for yourself, you start to keep evolving. You build that trust in your teammate, so I’m sure he’ll have more opportunities to do that.”

Bruce Brown lays up during the Nets' 4-0 loss to the Celtics.
Bruce Brown lays up during the Nets’ 4-0 loss to the Celtics.

Brown said that Durant and Irving’s faith boosted his confidence.

“It’s huge for me,” Brown said. “I’m a young player in this league trying to learn from two of the best players of all time, so yeah.”

After shooting just 31.7 percent from 3 in the first half of the season, Brown hit 47.2 after the break. With DeAndre’ Bembry gone, Brown took on a steady role, thriving and punishing defenses that sagged from him.

“I still find it disrespectful. I still have that chip on my shoulder. I’m a second round pick [No.] 42. I shouldn’t be in this position,” Brown said, adding, “I’m super excited to be here.”

The Nets have Brown’s full Bird rights, so they can keep him despite exceeding the salary cap. ESPN has priced its market at $12 million to $14 million, with a source telling The Post that it can command at the higher end of that.

And although Brown admits teams still disregard his jumper by hanging him down, franchises have taken notice of his improvement.

“Oh sure,” Brown said. “[I was shooting] 30 percent or 29 percent for 3. Now I’m shooting about 40. So I’m sure you can see the confidence I’m playing out there with.”

The Nets-Celtics series has averaged 4.8 million viewers on ABC, ESPN and TNT, the most-watched first-round series since 2016 (Warriors-Rockets) and the most-watched first-round series in the Eastern Conference since 2012 (Heat-Knicks). Nets’ Bruce Brown is in line for a pay raise after a strong second half


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