Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown, A Kawhi Leonard In The Making?
Can the Boston Celtics develop Jaylen Brown into the best player from the 2016 NBA Draft?
On November 25th I will be back at my favorite place in the world. I will be back at TD Garden. I will be back home attending the Celtics vs. Spurs game. I will be watching the rookie Jaylen Brown for the first time in person, most likely matching up against Kawhi Leonard at some points throughout the game.
We have seen flashes of brilliance from Brown so far this year. Every time I watch him play, the superstar small forward in San Antonio always comes to mind.
While it’s not fair to bring that type of comparison onto Brown’s shoulders, especially in such his young age. Brown is just a few games into his rookie season, but you can make the argument that he’s been one of the most impressive rookies thus far.
Let’s take a closer look at Jaylen Brown.
8.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 46.5% from the field
Jaylen Brown had his greatest game thus far against the Cavs, scoring 19 points on 8-16 shooting from the field (3-6 from 3) in 35 minutes.
Brown’s performance even caught the eye of LeBron James.
LeBron on Jaylen Brown:
“I think he’s a really good talent, and that’s why he was drafted so high,” James said. “He’s a strong kid. You can see he knows how to play the game.”
What type of player will Jaylen Brown honestly be in the NBA? All Celtics fans have pondered this extremely important question. As stated before, we have seen flashes of potential. Brown is a raw 20-year-old with obvious physical attributes. He is strong, long, quick, and mobile. However, the best part about Brown is his infectious personality and his unique intelligence.
Crowder said this about Brown, “He’s everything that I wanted to be at that age,” said Crowder. “He’s very mature, beyond his years. He’ll have a conversation with you about anything. I like that, personally. I don’t always want to talk about basketball. I want a guy that I can go be at home with and just chill and talk about anything. He loves music, just like me. He’s into music, he makes beats and stuff like that. I just wanted to get to know him a little bit more.”
In terms of his unique intelligence, Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about Jaylen Brown during his one season at Cal. On free Saturday afternoons, Brown challenged old-timers to chess at a Bohemian cafe in Berkeley.
That’s part of why/how Danny Ainge fell in love with him. It was evident that Ainge wasn’t going to pass up on the prospect of taking Jaylen Brown. Even though there were whispers that the Celtics would drat Kris Dunn, but with Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier already on the roster, it was clearly not an area of need.
Instead, Ainge decided to roll the dice on Brown over taking a risk on Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss.
Question is, what’s Jaylen Brown’s true upside?
IF Jaylen Brown reaches his full potential, he has the chance to become a Kawhi Leonard. That is a huge IF. He fits that mold though. The mold of a Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and Kawhi Leonard. All three are defensive studs, who all improved on their shooting when they got to the NBA.
Butler and Crowder are Buzz Williams guys and I think it is a huge benefit for Brown to be around guys like this. These guys are high energy and high motor players, and I think Jaylen Brown fits with them perfectly. They go out and do their job every night.
Jaylen’s 2015-2016 season at Cal:
- 27.6 minutes per game
- 14.6 points per game
- 5.4 rebounds
- 43.1% from the field
- 29.4 % from 3
- 65.4 % from the free-throw line
- 3.1 turnovers per game (4.5 per 40 min.)
Physical attributes from 2016 draft combine:
- 6-foot-7 with shoes
- 223 pounds
- 6-foot-12 wingspan
- 8-foot-7 standing reach
The two things that stand out to me are the turnovers, and the poor shooting. As previously stated, Jaylen Brown is extremely raw. At Cal, he often played out of control. Brown shot 1-6 in Cal’s tournament loss to Hawaii. He also had seven turnovers. Yes, SEVEN!
Lets be honest here, Jaylen Brown did not have an impressive freshman year. He probably should have stayed in college another year with Ivan Rabb, but as we know, the NBA has switched to drafting one and done guys. They are young and have the upside.
Let’s look at his comparison to Kawhi Leonard, in college.
The Comparison To Kawhi
2009-2010 season at SDSU: 2010-2011 season at SDSU:
31.3 minutes per game 32.6 minutes per game
12.7 points per game 15.5 points per game
9.9 rebounds 10.6 rebounds
45.5% from the field 44.4% from the field
20.5% from 3 29.1% from 3
72.6% from free throw 75.9% from free throw
2.3 tpg (2.9 per 40 min.) 2.1 tpg (2.6 per 40 min.)
Physical attributes from 2011 NBA draft combine:
- 6-foot-7 with shoes
- 227 pounds
- 7-foot-3 wingspan
- 8-foot-10 standing reach
Everyone forgets that Kawhi Leonard couldn’t shoot from 3 to save his life in college. His numbers from 3 were actually WORSE THAN Brown’s. Overall, Kawhi and Jaylen have very similar college numbers across the board. Both were terrible shooters in college (Kawhi was better from the free throw line). The numbers for the most part are in the same ballpark.
Kawhi’s 2015-2016 regular season stats (5th season)
- 21.2 points per game
- 6.8 boards per game
- 50.6% field goal
- 44.3% 3 point
- 87.4% free throw
- 1.5 turnovers per game
These numbers are honestly unbelievable if you compare them to his SDSU stats. His improvement from his two years at SDSU to his 5th season in the NBA is staggering, and it just shows you how hard he worked.
I imagine being traded to the Spurs on draft day and being under Pop definitely helped him out, but he must have put in a ridiculous amount of work. Kawhi is on pace this year to improve on his scoring again, averaging just over 26 points per game thus far this year. I consider Kawhi a top five player in the game, so that is a tough comparison for Jaylen.
By no means am I saying Jaylen Brown WILL be a Kawhi Leonard one day. Lets face it, Kawhi is extremely special. However, Jaylen does have the tools and the work ethic necessary to get there. He has all the physical and mental characteristics. It will take time.
Kawhi only averaged 7.9 points his rookie year, but he increased that number every single season. This past season was by far his best season so far (and this year could be even better). So, Ill be very curious to see what Jaylen’s stats look like in 5-6 years. Maybe the Boston Celtics are smarter than everyone else after all?
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