NBA Position: SG/SF
General Information: 19 year old freshman, played at California. From Marietta, Georgia.
Measurables: 6'5.25", 223 pounds, 6'11.75" wingspan, 8'6.5" standing reach
2014-15 Season Statistics: 14.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 3.1 TOPG (27.6 minutes per contest) - 48.2% FG, 65.4% FT, 29.4% 3P, 51.8% TSP
Jaylen Brown is polarizing player with great physical gifts, an NBA body, great rim-running abilities, and serious inconsistencies in his shooting, handles, and decision-making skills. If he lands in the right spot with an organization that will help him to fix his faults while utilizing his already developing attacking game, Brown could be one of the class' best—but he could also be primed for a lottery-bust label if he lands in the wrong spot and doesn't improve his feel for the game.
Physically, Brown is an exceptional athlete. He's built like a slightly less bulky Stanley Johnson, and Cal Coach Cuonzo Martin structured much (too much) of the Golden Bear's offense around Brown's physical gifts. He was given the green light to dive-bomb through traffic, which worked a decent majority of the time as there are few collegiate players who can handle Brown's size, strength, and quickness one-on-one; Over 42% of Brown's shots were at the rim, and he made 61.6% of them (which isn't great considering his dependence on it).
He's a gifted player who knows his biggest strength, and utilized his blow-bys to get himself and his teammates (15.7% assist rate) good looks. If Cal had been able to stretch the floor better (Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird were their only long-ball threats), Brown could have even higher numbers. One benefit to Brown is his unselfish attitude; His decision making wasn't great, but he was a willing passer who should provide a team with a high-potential secondary playmaker.
The biggest problem with Brown's freshman season was his consistency - in the first 13 games of conference play, he averaged 17.6 points and 5.3 rebounds on 76 of 159 (47.7%) shooting, but this number tanked to end the year; 10.1 points on 24 of 76 (31.5%). This included a four point, seven turnover night against 13 seed Hawaii in Cal's 77-66 loss in the NCAA tournament. Teams learned to leave their defenses inside and took advantage of his weak ball-control skills whenever he predictably drove towards the rim. On the season, he finished with a 3/2 turnover-to-assist ratio and a 18% turnover rate, both higher than the other ball-controllers in the class.
His offensive game is still mostly reliant on his ability to attack the basket; he shot 30% on both two-point jumpers and three pointers, and 65% on free throws. His shot isn't broken, but his entire motion is exceptionally inconsistent and doesn't look like there's an immediate fix.
Much like his offensive game, Brown has the makings off a good defender but performed with serious bouts of inconsistency. He's already got the size and muscle to guard NBA players, and I think he played with much greater effort on defense than he's given credit for, but he was beaten too often by smaller players who weren't close to his skill level. Like any other player in the class, it'll take time to see how good a defender he can become.
Brown finished with a 16.5% defensive rebounding rate, and wasn't afraid to muscle up to taller players. He was happy to take advantage of his size over most threes/some fours in college, which should translate to the NBA. His 4.5% offensive rebounding rate is surprisingly low given the amount of time he spent in the paint.
Brown will not hire an agent before the draft, and instead will consult with the National Basketball Player's Association for his rookie contract, according to the Vertical. Brown is also apparently close with former Pistons legend/Knicks general manager Isiah Thomas, who is "a close adviser and mentor". ESPN's Chad Ford quoted one NBA GM as saying Brown was the worst interview at the draft combine last week. "...he was arrogant and didn't show a real feel for the game when we asked him basketball questions. He hurt himself more than anyone here."
Discussions of a player's personality can be ignored (I encourage any draft fan to read Paul Flannery's draft piece that includes a good discussion on Brown's strengths, weaknesses, and interests outside of basketball) but the ‘real feel for the game' is a bigger concern for Brown. Outside of his abilities in transition, he lacks the court awareness of the others at the top of the draft class with similar usage rates. Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield, and Denzel Valentine all have much more refined offensive skillsets and awareness than Brown at this stage in their careers.
Fit with Sacramento:
Brown has been the most difficult player for me as an arm-chair scout to look at this season. I have concerns about his game—primarily his reckless, always attack offense that failed to produce more made shots than turnovers late in the season—but I also think my concerns about him are rooted in the fact that I am a Kings fan. And as a Kings fan, I see Brown and wonder why the Kings would use another lottery pick on Tyreke Evans when we saw how that worked out next to DeMarcus Cousins last time.
The comparison isn't perfect, because I think Brown's shot isn't broken where Tyreke's WAS, and Tyreke was a better passer out of college, but so much—from the head-down attack style to dribbling away the clock with no real plan—reminds me of Evans. As much as I want to believe in the Kings organization with any of these prized rookies going forward, I'm not confident enough yet to get entirely optimistic about Brown, who I see as a much, much bigger project than his physical gifts indicate.
And yet, I understand why a team would take him with a top five pick. His shot doesn't look broken, just inconsistent. With the right organization, the right player development system, and a by-in by Brown, he could turn into a mini Kawhi Leonard. Or he could turn into Shabazz Muhammad, a valuable rim-runner in his own right, but not worth a top-five pick. There's no red flags with Brown's work ethic, but a year of inconsistent play doesn't really give massive reasons for optimism.
Brown is the first big-name the Kings have been directly linked to after he met with Vlade Divac and company at the draft combine. The Kings biggest needs are shooting, defense, and basketball IQ. Brown has the tools to become a good defender, but he isn't currently, and he doesn't help the Kings other two weakenesses. Drafting Brown would be an odd roster decision given that he neither complements nor can immediately replace Rudy Gay's production. While it's possible that Vlade believes in Dave Joerger and his development staff enough to draft Brown, I would be a surprised.
As always, check out the DraftExpress breakdowns;