Nets’ Bruce Brown in line for pay bump after strong second half

Bruce Brown uses every possible slight—even imagined ones—as fuel for his fire.

Sliding into the second round of the draft. Defenses sagging off him. Being underpaid, settling for a contract half of what he was expected to get.

He may be on the verge of losing that last chip off his shoulder.

Despite the Nets’ first-round sweep in the playoffs, Brown’s breakout performance — especially a stellar second half of the season — should get him a huge raise this summer. And he’s hoping it’s to stay 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’ll see.”

Oh, there should be a chance. It’ll just cost the Nets and owner Joe Tsai.

Brown was one of just 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 stardom the Nets can vouch for.

Bruce Brown
corey sipkin

After Brooklyn got Brown at a bargain, he’s earned a raise. And the Nets’ cap situation leaves them few good ways to replace him if they let him get away.

After coach Steve Nash found creative ways to maximize Brown’s strengths last season and mask his weaknesses — deploying him as a 6-foot-4 role man to use his physicality and hide his lack of shooting — many in the league expected Brown to land a contract in the $8 million-$10 million range.

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

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Brown admitted. “I mean, I had a pretty good season last year. But it is what it is. Move on. I’m here, having another good year.”

It was something of a breakout year.

A summer spent working out with Nets assistant Royal Ivey — honing his floater, putting up 3s, etc. — paid dividends. Brown averaged nine points, 4.8 boards, shot 50.6 percent overall and a career-high 40.4 from 3. The latter is what may raise eyebrows — and his pay grade from him.

Brown shot just 28.8 percent from deep last season. But providing himself reliable on corner 3s — something he’ll see a lot of with Durant and Kyrie Irving — makes him valuable when paired with his wing defense. He trailed only Durant in Win Shares (4.8) and tied him for Defensive Win Shares (2.0).

“We all love how Bruce’s been playing,” Durant said. “At this point I expect him to come out there and play well. And once you build up expectations for yourself as a player, that’s when you start to develop even more and more. You build that trust in your teammates, so I’m sure he’ll have more opportunities to do that.”

Bruce Brown goes up for a layup during the Nets' 4-0 series loss to the Celtics.
Bruce Brown goes up for a layup during the Nets’ 4-0 series loss to the Celtics.
EPA

Brown said that faith from Durant and Irving buoys his confidence.

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

After shooting just 31.7 percent from 3 in the first half of the season, Brown hit 47.2 after the break. Settling into a set role with DeAndre’ Bembry gone, Brown thrived and punished defenses that sagged off him.

“I still take it as disrespect. I still have that chip on my shoulder. I’m a second-round pick, [No.] 42. I’m not supposed to 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 being over the salary cap. ESPN pegged his market at $12 million-$14 million, with a source telling The Post he could command on the upper end of that.

And though Brown admits teams are still disrespecting his jumper by sagging off him, franchises have taken note of his improvement.

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

The Nets-Celtics series averaged 4.8 million viewers across ABC, ESPN and TNT, the most-viewed first-round series since 2016 (Warriors-Rockets) and most-viewed Eastern Conference first-round series since 2012 (Heat-Knicks).

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