Jaylen Brown is a freshman for the California Golden Bears. It hasn’t stopped him from being considered a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft should he decide to go pro. The 6’7” forward has obvious athleticism and can beat his man to the bucket or pull up from midrange to keep the defense honest. He has scored in double-digits during all but four contests so far, which is an especially strong accomplishment in the college game. Brown still has areas in which to improve, but he will undoubtedly come closer to reaching his potential with professional coaching. In the end, that’s the best argument for him making the jump after this season. He would be an ideal fit for a team like Phoenix, who could have a top five pick in June. If the Suns select Brown, the denizens of the desert should be prepared to watch a future star.
Assuming Brown is in Brooklyn for the draft instead of returning to Cal, I would hate to pass on him in favor of anyone not named Ben Simmons. His freshman teammate, Ivan Rabb, is an intriguing player as well, but Brown’s talent shines through even in less effective games. For instance, his shot wasn’t falling on January 23 against Arizona, but he was able to get his team involved by distributing the ball. The result: Brown registered a career high in assists and Cal knocked off the #12 Wildcats. He also has the physical gifts to be a strong rebounder especially from his projected NBA position of small forward. A 6’11” wingspan certainly doesn’t hurt. Brown plays with tremendous energy as well as the ability to keep calm under pressure.
Brown’s game tape is full of explosive plays. His highlight reel includes a coast-to-coast layup at Washington State that required weaving through heavy traffic. That ended up being a microcosm of the game, which resulted in an 80-62 victory for the Bears. He also had a notable transition bucket on the same trip at Washington, running the floor before finishing with a powerful two-handed dunk. In a November matchup with Richmond, Brown’s superior driving ability made him an unstoppable force even in half-court sets.
For fans who have endured a rough season this year, Brown will give them something to cheer about. His slam in the waning minutes of a February 13 game managed to both seal the win against Oregon State and create a raucous reaction from the Haas Pavilion crowd. Brown was also a major factor in a victory over UCLA on February 25, which kept the Bears undefeated at home. Guards Jordan Mathews and Tyrone Wallace have both played key roles in this run of dominance. However, Brown leads the team in scoring and feels like the team MVP.
The Suns have already hastened their rebuild by grabbing the Wizards’ first round pick in exchange for Markieff Morris. After watching how Phoenix has played this season, I agree with management’s decision. On their roster, Brown could play decent minutes right away next season instead of sitting on the bench hoping to develop. His potential competition at small forward certainly isn’t tremendous: P.J. Tucker and Sonny Weems have underwhelmed, and T.J. Warren missed the chance to stay in the rotation after suffering a season-ending foot injury. Brown could also potentially slot in at shooting guard when Eric Bledsoe is off the court. Bledsoe himself hasn’t played since December due to knee issues.
Jaylen Brown was the #3 Rivals prospect among graduating high schoolers in 2015, but at this time next year he may be making crossover dribbles on NBA courts. Where Brown ends up is uncertain, but he’d be a great fit for a franchise in flux like Phoenix. It’s true that he may need to hone his jumper and free throw shooting. Still, with his array of moves Brown will be able to score at the next level while chipping in with some rebounds. He can also be disruptive on defense given his ability to create steals and blocks. The only question is: how many teams will regret passing on him?
photo via llananba