Jaylen Brown never needed an incubation period. A streamlined 6-5 freshman back in spring 2012, he played up an age division and proved he could compete — even overpower — older opponents.
An injury hindered him at the opening of his sophomore season, but by then he had received overtures from Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgetown, Kansas, Texas, Alabama, Clemson and others. The high-major level beckoned almost immediately.
He finished that campaign strongly and hit the road again in 2013, touring with Game Elite that spring along with Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler teammate and fellow high-major prospect Daniel Giddens. Brown proved his national status legitimate, showcasing top-rate athleticism and upper body strength.
He camped at the Elite 100 in June and arguably was the top wing prospect in attendance, then playing a year up at the NBAPA Top 100 Camp, also held his own. By the time summer concluded he had drawn offers from schools as far away as UCLA. And, not surprisingly, more local programs such as Georgia Tech earmarked Brown as a top priority.
I watched him closely at the High School OT Invitational this past December. Everyone knew Brown was a top athlete and capable slasher, but I came away most impressed with his defense. He uses his length, quick feet and ample muscle to bully and beat up opposing ballhandlers, and few wings burst through screens with as much vigor. He's physically tooled to defend the modern screen and roll offenses yet also should be able to assist versus drive and kick schemes.
Brown enjoys the luxury of being able to focus on skill development, rather than having to gain weight as most of peers must accomplish prior to college. He does some good things already on offense but definitely has room to improve. He possesses impressive dribble moves when he has built up a head of steam, but his control dribbling versus pressure needs work.
And that doesn't even touch his primary weakness: jump shooting. Brown's shot must improve significantly in order for him to become a complete player, because for now defenders can neutralize his quickness by backing off and daring him to fire away from the perimeter.
But Brown does excel when he's within leaping range of the basket, which in his case covers a wide swath of territory. He's a very physical driver and should rack up free throw attempts at the next level, and his value has increased based on this season's officiating changes.
Meanwhile, he's a tough rebounder and will produce buckets and fouls due to his offensive boardwork. He isn't tall enough at 6-6 or built sufficiently stodgy to be a combo forward, and thus I categorize him as a "power wing." He's a pure — and prime — wing defender with an ability to generate offense from receiving touches inside, rebounding or opportunistically creating off the bounce.
Even while Brown turns his attention to his jumper, he should continue to be among the most effective players in the Class of 2015.