From day one, Jaylen Brown brought the goods. Even on those occasions, early in his prep career when his skills were somewhat lacking, he always competed like a madman. And then the madman went out and constructed a more suave ensemble, maintaining his initial fury but layering texture atop the foundation of burst.
During his freshman season, Brown — who stood 6-5 at the time — identified himself as a high-major talent. He fearlessly played up a division on the travel circuit and physically confronted his older peers. Aggressive defiance was a hallmark of his game from the beginning, and he held down a spot in the national top 15 heading into his upperclassman years.
His junior season actually brought mixed reviews. Brown's jump shot failed him at times and he began to look like an overpowering driver who lacked finesse to play effectively from range. He carried a little bulky weight as well, appearing to be as much football player as hoopster.
But the 2014 travel circuit proved an unqualified success. He dominated The Elite Preview in March and then, at then, at the May Adidas Gauntlet event, soared with "the performance of the spring" according to colleague Brian Snow. Brown clearly had begun to smooth out his game's unwelcome bumps and notches, and in the process he had streamlined his body to become a more lithe — not just powerful and explosive — athlete.
He didn't slack during the summer. Brown continued to excel with Game Elite, including in Las Vegas to round out July, and even more recently commanded headlines at Adidas Nations.
Brown could become a successful college player based on his raw physical tools alone. Now 6-7 and a lean, muscular 220 pounds, he possesses a dynamite first step, top-shelf body control, elite speed and leap, and a natural aggression that all add up to his being a preeminent slasher.
And clearly, slashing is an area he specializes. Like a highly physical running back operating behind a massive offensive line, Brown loves to hit defenders over and over, wearing them down during the course of a game. He finishes sensationally above the rim but might be even more effective when he's ground-bound and putting his shoulder into a defender's chest.
Observe him closely and you'll notice "alterations" defenders make to avoid taking contact from Brown head-on. Good defense? No. Good survival tool? Definitely.
Brown is an adequate handler for his size and a whipsmart passer who doesn't need to advance the ball all the way to bucket. He can stop short for little floaters and runners when shotblockers cover his intended driving angle, and he can change his direction in traffic either to score or create a preferred angle for a dish.
|Brown can change speeds but typically doesn't face the need|
His jump shot remains a point of contention, but no one can deny that he has improved it significantly. At times, Brown appears to be a genuine long-range threat capable of playing with ideal inside-outside balance. He has improved his release to eliminate a previous rough spot, and his follow through looks sound as he proceeds toward much more intense levels in terms of defense.
His own defense is stellar. Even if Brown doesn't round into shape as a complete offensive player, he could develop into a Ruben Patterson-style defender (but bigger) capable of shutting down even the best scorers thanks to his athleticism, strength, wingspan and toughness.
Competitively, Brown clearly seeks to demonstrate his own prowess yet doesn't lose sight of the team concept and plays to win. He'll step right in and confidently — and unselfishly — contribute to the collegiate program of his choice.
When we're hanging out with NBA scouts in Chicago next spring for McDonald's All-American practices — Brown is a lock to make the squad — they're going to focus primarily on his jump shot. He still shoots it a little tight through his shoulders, which could hamper his consistency against a professional closeout.
Meanwhile, he's a far better dribbler with his right hand than his left, and he needs to continue improving his mid-range shooting game.
You likely won't wait long to hear Brown's name called in the 2016 NBA draft. Yes, that's making a lot of assumptions — and, as outlined above, he's hardly a perfect or complete player — but his physical abilities alone will make him a highly prized hoopster in the minds of the people whose opinions matter most.
More immediately, Brown possesses the strength and unflappable confidence to outshine much older collegiate opponents. He won't be willing to defer, nor will anyone ask him to. He projects to become an immediate starter and potential impact player as a freshman, given that he can do so many things on the court that elude the grasp of his peers.
From there, we enter the land of uncertainty. There's no denying that the 2015 class lacks a clear top prospect. As No. 1s go, Brown still must address more questions affirmatively than is normally the case. But just the fact that he's here now, after a long and grueling travel circuit on top of an uneven junior season, makes the point.
Without a doubt, Brown should enjoy a very long and successful career playing the game.