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Stiffs NBA Draft Series: Jaylen Brown

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Jaylen Brown is one of the most physically talented players in the draft - but is he a good fit for the Denver Nuggets?

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Stiffs will be covering all of the top prospects in the 2016 NBA Draft in our Stiffs NBA Draft series. Check back daily for video, stats, and analysis of all of the projected first round prospects.


Jaylen Brown

Stats

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Field Goal % Three Point % Free Throw %
14.6 5.4 2.0 0.8 0.6 3.1 43.1 29.4 65.4


Strengths

Pro body and athleticism - At 6'7 in shoes and bricked out to 225 pounds as a teenager, Brown is more than capable of holding his own physically as a wing in the NBA right now.  His 7-foot wingspan will help his perimeter defense and his strength even as a young man. And that body helps him stand in with bigger players and do his part to rebound a bit (he averaged 5.4 boards as a small forward in college). I don't believe his athletic gifts are extreme, but they are pro-ready which is more than can be said about many of the players in this draft.

Rim scoring - In college Jaylen Brown could not be denied in the paint.  His drives to the hoop were Gallo-esque, resulting in buckets or fouls, and he could teach Mudiay a thing or two about finishing once you get to the rack.  Brown finishes with either hand and had some acrobatic, Barton-like maneuvers.  Doing work in the paint is definitely a strength.

Intelligence and desire - As illustrated in this Undefeated article, Brown is his own man with a lot of interests and unbridled intelligence and curiosity. He has a cadre of advisors from inside and outside his sport and is handling his own business by representing himself as agent and de facto business manager.  He has stated many times that he wants to be the best and has the work ethic to improve his game.  Whether that many advisors and outside interests will help or hinder him once he gets drafted is another question, but plenty of players with varied interests have done well in the NBA. Chris Webber comes immediately to mind if you're looking for a mental template. 


Weaknesses

No jumpshot - Brown's jumper is not broken, but it is weak. He's got a slow release, does some of the same weird things during his shot that Emmanuel Mudiay has been guilty of, and he doesn't seem to have any spots he is consistent from on the floor either as a spot-up shooter or off the bounce. His sub-par free throw percentage doesn't raise hope that those issues are a fluke, either. Brown can get a decent shot with some work, but I'm not sold it will ever be more than that. Not a passer or high BBIQ player - Brown's usage rate in his one year in college was well over 30%, and his assist rate was about half that. When he was forced into the role of creator once his point guard went down with an injury he was completely overwhelmed. Because he likes the ball in his hands so much, however, off-ball is not his strong suit either. In the 90s and 2000s that's not a deal-breaker, but with the necessity of ball movement and off-ball space creation in the 2010s that could be an issue. Has tools, not skills. Jaylen has a large wingspan, but is not great at defense. He has athleticism but is not a good shooter. He likes the ball in his hands but turns it over a lot and passes it very little. Jaylen Brown is built like a basketball player but is not actually good at most basketball skills that are not playground drives to the rim (usually unassisted). Right now his skillset is "get to the basket or get fouled." That's not a terrible place to start, but it leaves an awful lot of qualifications for being a good pro up in the air.



Pro Comparisons (Best to Worst):

Jamal Mashburn - A physically imposing SF who came into the league with mix of crafty ingenuity and bullish tendencies around the rim, and who developed a jump shot a few years into his career. It never looked pretty but it did go in, and Mash could do work in the paint but a weirdly low finish rate kept him from being a truly impactful player in most of his years. His mix tapes look a lot like Brown's, though. Wilson Chandler - A strong player capable of defending three spots (prior to his injuries) and who hit enough shots to make his drives to the rim a legitimate weapon. One difference between him and Brown would be that Chandler only drove to open baskets, hence his lack of free throws, while Brown likes and initiates contact on his way in. Lamond Murray - the 7th overall pick in the 1994 draft, Murray was an outstanding college player who could score and rebound with the best of them. He got to the pros and couldn't simply force the action as he had in college however. He still had an 11 year NBA career but never translated his skills to the big stage as an impact player.

Fit with the Nuggets

His fit may be entirely predicated on his growth as a player.  Brown may be the most talented player with the highest upside when we draft, but I don’t think adding a poor wing shooter with sub-par passing skills is a good idea for this team at #7. Mudiay is too good a passer to have so few assists, and part of that is playing a lot of time with Sampson, Toupane and Nurkic butchering the offense without Gallo or Chandler around.  Brown is not much of an improvement on the Sampson/Toupane offensive model out of the gate.

Brown’s skill is getting to the rim and getting fouled because he’s a strong kid with a good frame. But he’s not tall enough or big enough to play the 4 for more than short stretches and I don’t think he has the foot quickness to defend a lot of 2s, which makes him a shooting-challenged, average-sized 3 who might some day be good at wing defense. His one demonstrated skill at driving the hoop in iso ball is the antithesis of what the Nuggets are trying to build.  Brown is going to have to go get some of that potential in other areas to be a solid fit for Denver.

Projected Draft Spot

SB Nation - 4 (Phoenix) 
Draft Express - 3 (Boston) 
CBS Sports (Vecenie) - 7 (Denver) 
Bleacher Report (Wasserman) - 7 (Denver) 
NBADraft.net - 7 (Denver)  

Final Thoughts

As you can see, quite a few draftniks think Brown isn't getting past us if he gets to us at all. I don’t think anything about his game is broken beyond repair, his shot included. If you liked Justise Winslow then Brown should be your guy in this draft - they are similar players (although Winslow was the better college defender, which is also the skill he's relying on most in the pros). 

The hope is that Jaylen turns into Mashburn, or if you prefer a Corey Maggette type who gets 40% of his points from the free throw line and is a good rebounder for his size. Someone on the board (808inDenver I think) said they hoped he was stable Ron Artest with a jumpshot, but that goal seems high to me.  It involves a lot of skills that Brown has not shown yet. I feel the same way about comparisons to Andre Iguodala and Kawhi Leonard.  Brown's a hard worker and will always give effort, but if effort was enough then Faried would be an All-Star by now.      

Magette, Mashburn and Glenn Robinson are probably good high-water marks to shoot for in impact terms as a high-usage player player with Brown's skills and size. All of those guys could have been considered primary scorers at one point in their careers, but would have been better suited to having a lesser role.  

That kind of player probably can't lead a team to greatness, but could be a part of a great team if that team is properly designed.  And is adding that kind of player in a flat draft such a bad thing?  I don't think it helps the Nuggets win in the short term, but it could be a productive long play if things break right.

Regardless, it will take Brown a few years to pan out, so even if he struggles early don't despair. Based on his comps, Brown will likely have a long career in the League. How successful that career will be is the major sticking point.