Virtually no NBA draft pick ever knows his upcoming destination with any certainty, and California product Jaylen Brown is no different. General uncertainty surrounding the 2016 NBA draft class after consensus top two Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram plays a role, but Brown has an even wider range than many of his peers since he is one of this year’s more divisive prospects.
“I’ve heard a lot of things, from [pick] one through 10,” Brown said at the NBA combine.
The more visible public scouting tools agree generally, though none have quite touched the more favorable end of the range Brown offered for himself. He’s ranked fifth by both DraftExpress and CBS Sports as of this writing, checks in seventh on NBADraft.net and is as low as 10th on ESPN’s Chad Ford’s Big Board. Our own Basketball Insiders panel listed him anywhere from third to seventh in our first mock draft.
The variety of opinions make sense. Brown has many of the prototypical physical characteristics of a modern NBA swingman, with excellent size and length (he measured 6’6.75 with a 6’11.75 wingspan at the combine) and pro-level athleticism. But he had intermittent issues throughout his one year at Cal with the more detail-oriented areas of the game – his shooting stroke was inconsistent, his feel for the game lagged behind his physical skill and he struggled at times with motivation.
Brown isn’t oblivious to his own areas of need, and he knows the situation he finds himself in to begin his NBA career could have a big impact on his development.
“Of course it’d be great to be the number one pick in the draft, but for me it’s about being in the right situation,” Brown said. “That’s what I want first, being on the right team where I can show what I’m capable of.”
Brown has surrounded him with people who can help him maximize his full potential. Like many other top prospects, Brown has taken on experienced mentors in the form of former Detroit Pistons star Isiah Thomas and former 12-year NBA veteran Shareef Abdur-Raheem. Thomas even interrupted his combine media session with a phone call.
“They help me off the floor, they mentor me, try to develop me as a young man,” Brown said of the two former pros. “They fly me out, try to work on my game a little bit. Shareef takes me down low, shows me the things he used to work on. He went to my high school, went to the same college as well. Isiah’s [a] defensive specialist, as well as a nightmare up and down the floor. So he teaches me a bit of his game too. So I’ve just combined those two, and learned a lot.”
Those aren’t even his only outlets for improvement, either. Current NBA head coach and former star Jason Kidd, a former Cal product himself, has helped him along the way as well.
“He’s a mentor of mine as well,” Brown said of Kidd. “Jason, he went to Cal. So he calls me every now and then to check on me. I appreciate all the resources that I have. I feel truly blessed to be part of a family like Cal. I’ve grown so much since I’ve been there.”
Brown has already spoken to over a half-dozen NBA teams and has more on the schedule.
“I’m just trying to be myself, trying to let them get a feel,” Brown said. “The interview is only 30 minutes, so it’s hard to expect them to take a lot from me in 30 minutes. It’s hard to get a feel for somebody in 30 minutes. So when [teams] invite me back to work out, I hope to get a better second interview.”
The real work comes on the floor, though, and Brown is ready. He patterns his game after Tracy McGrady, a childhood idol and a perfect model to aspire to for Jaylen, who boasts some of the same physical attributes. McGrady “had whatever you needed” as a player, Brown said, and he wants to emulate that versatility at the next level. He thinks the NBA and its physical style are much more suited to his profile, and may well be right.
Brown gushed about how attending Cal helped his work habits and he knows this will be among the most vital areas for him the next few years as he enters the league and looks to make his mark. He’s looking up to yet another all-time great in this respect as well: Kobe Bryant.
“I try to approach the game the same way,” Brown said of Bryant. “I admire his work ethic. They say Kobe Bryant, he wakes up at 5:30 every morning. So I’m trying to do the same thing, catch up to him. I know if that’s what it takes to be where he is, then I’m going to try to do that too.”
The road is just beginning for the former high school phenom, and he knows it’s a lengthy one. Brown is here for the long haul and saying all the right things, and he could become a star in the NBA’s most coveted role if he develops the right way. He’s ready for everything that comes with that, both on the floor and off.
“[My goals are] not only playing good on the basketball floor and performing, but also getting involved in the community, getting involved in things [off] the basketball floor and being a leader on and off the floor,” Brown said.
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