Prospect Preview: Jaylen Brown


The NBA draft is getting closer, and the Suns are starting to get the elite lottery talent into the “The Stick” (Talking Stick Resort Arena) daily for workouts.

Today’s star freshman is an undersized, but incredibly skilled Power Forward from Cal, Jaylen Brown. Brown is projected in some mock drafts as high as 3rd to the Celtics, but the Suns may be considering him at 4 and 13 depending on whether Brown’s stock rises or falls going into the draft.

A friend who is both a Suns fan and Cal Grad told me going into the season that Jaylen was going to be special and that his body was already NBA ready. He wasn’t alone. Coming out of high school, Brown was about as highly decorated of a recruit as there gets. He was ranked No. 3 on Rivals and No. 4 on ESPN’s rankings for the class of 2015.

Stats: During his Freshman season at Cal, Brown started all 34 games and averaged 14.6PPG and 5.4RPG leading his team to a 23-10 record overall and a birth to the NCAA Tournament.

With the Golden State Warriors reign on top looking like it is going to continue, shooting is at a premium and every player is trying to show off their jump shot. Jaylen’s not afraid to shoot. He took 102 3-pointers last season at Cal, but he made only 29%.

Suns Assistant GM, Pat Connelly, said Brown shot the ball “pretty well from the NBA 3-point line”, and elaborated saying, “He shot a lot better than he did at California… Today, he shot the ball really well from three. We did a lot of shooting and he got through the entire workout without really losing his shot, which can be pretty difficult, especially again, when you’re doing it by yourself and your legs start kind of falling out. But he’s a really strong kid and I think that helps him keep his shot up over the course of the workout.”

(Listen to Suns’ assistant GM, Pat Connelly’s, entire interview here)

Brown actually disagreed with Connelly’s assessment when asked how it went, stating, “… I don’t think I shot it that well today, so that’s good that they said that, but I can shoot it a lot better than people think”.

Off the court, Jaylen impressed during the interview process. This was at least my 10th interview with a prospect, and Brown’s was the first one I found myself discussing with the other writers afterward. At age 19, it stood out that Jaylen was more interesting, thoughtful, and engaging than players who were much older and more experienced. Because a lot of the draft is based on upside, and not college statistics, it’s important to look at what stands out during the interview process.

Brown’s initial impact with the Suns may need to be immediate. However, he says he can handle whatever is thrown at him.

“I think I can come in right away and contribute, it definitely depends on the team, the situation and the role but I can adapt,” Brown said. “The way the NBA is moving is kind of position-less. I feel like my versatility is key. I can play one through four, so I’m looking to get situated right away.”

Jalen Rose always says, “positions in basketball were created so a novice can understand the game.” Never has that been truer than in today’s NBA, where the particular position names really have lost their value. Is Steph Curry a Point or Shooting Guard? Draymond Green plays Point-Center, where he is often handling the ball on offense, and defending opposing centers on defense. Versatility is something that has been mentioned by nearly ever executive and player out there. It’s smart in interviews for Brown to use the craving for “small-ball” lineups to his advantage.

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When asked if his strength and leverage has helped him start defending power forwards, he said, “Size, Strength, Versatility, Quickness, I’m 6’7″, 225-230, that comes in handy with a 6’11” wingspan. That means I can defend people and contest shots, make people uncomfortable. Smaller guys get more leverage than bigger guys when they guard bigger guys, so like Draymond Green, is only 6’6″ but he can really get down low and use his leverage because he is smaller…”

Brown’s fit with the team is something the Suns and himself are hoping to figure out. “That’s what I am here to figure out,” Brown said. “I am here to talk to coach Watson, talk to the GM’s and everything to see where I might fit cuz I have my perspective but I’m sure they have theirs as well. So we just want to find a healthy balance and just figure out how we can make the situation work and if it’s the situation we want to do.”

When it comes to figuring out which team fits him the best, Brown hasn’t ignored the research. “Just seeing where I fit, researching the city, seeing what I like about it. Things like that, see how my personal references fit into the city as well,” said Brown. “Just see how I can get involved into the community things like that… Who’s there, who’s coming in, what positions are they looking to make, what moves they are looking to make, everything from top to bottom.”

When asked about his goals beyond the draft, Brown made it clear, “I’m not concerned with being a Top-5 pick in the draft, I want to be a Top-5 player in the league.”

There was a buzz. He was asked about his being labeled a “renaissance man” and having “other interests” and when it started. He replied, “I’ve always been that guy, it didn’t just turn on. It’s kinda who I am.”

(Listen to Jaylen Brown’s entire interview here)

A big question was how he saw his intellect and diverse interests playing out on the basketball court.

“I think definitely my a high level on intelligence translate onto the basketball floor. You can just transfer it over,” Brown replied. “Like, I play chess all the time and I kind of compare chess to the game of basketball, just making the right reads and making the right decisions. I kind of consider myself a king and everyone else is pawns. and I just kind of make decisions going forward like that.”

Of course, the Suns’ front office and Coach Watson where big questions. Everyone wants to know Brown’s thoughts on his possible staff.

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“Down to earth. I think everybody is cool, everybody is on the same accord, on the same page. I think coach Watson, him being a player as well as a coach, he can relate, he understands it, he gets involved in the workout,” Brown said. “Before I got on the floor, Devin Booker was working out and he was in the workout pushing Devin Booker as well. So he got in the workout and jumped in with me as well. So that kind of goes a long way they are not just showing you, they are teaching and they are doing it at the same time.”

When asked about his disappointing end of to the season, “My response is things happened the last five games and that didn’t end the way I wanted them to. Very fair question, but I’m more concerned about the next five games… learn from it and move on”.

It is clear that Jaylen has both the intelligence and body for the NBA. Where he lands on Draft Night could come down to whether or not teams feel like he can continue to develop his shooting ability and defensive versatility.

Is he the next Draymond Green? Probably not. Could he be the next Harrison Barnes? Who knows.

While many showed up interested to see an NBA ready body (which he has) they was far more intrigued by the brain, than the brawn of Jaylen Brown.