Cal small forward Jaylen Brown could be headed to the Boston Celtics

Jaylen Brown is one of the more intriguing prospects in Thursday's NBA Draft, one who's drawn massive praise for his physicality, but whose intellect and personality have sharply divided NBA brass.

Jaylen Brown is anything but conventional. The former California small forward heads into today's NBA Draft without an agent -- the only projected lottery pick to do so. He finished his second semester at Cal, instead of hitting the eject button and focusing his entire life to training. He only just moved out of his Berkeley apartment, on Sunday. The middle school chess club president spent his day, two days before the NBA Draft, in Greenwich Village, at the Marshall Chess Club, on the eve of the New York Invitational. He's worn a suit and tie to every interview he had with NBA executives during the pre-draft Combine in Chicago. He took a graduate course at Cal his first semester, and that same inquisitive attitude that led him into that classroom, that led him into an internship with a venture capital firm, has caught some NBA executives off-guard.

ESPN's Chad Ford reported that one NBA general manager called Brown "the worst interview we had this week."

He's been called cocky, his inquisitive attitude mistaken for arrogance, and his refusal to hire an agent seen as presumptuous. An agent could have prepared Brown for those interviews -- softened his edges, cowed his probing intellect, coached him to play the part -- but instead, he took on a former Bad Boy as a mentor, and chose a different path.

"From an NBA standpoint, what I would say to that, is, he's a wonderful young man, he's a smart young man, he's going to make sound decisions," said Bears head coach Cuonzo Martin. "Just because he doesn't have an agent doesn't mean he's not gathering information. Isiah Thomas, one of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA, he gets information from Isiah Thomas. That's a guy who's behind the scenes who can get him direct access to what he needs, so it's not like he's going through the situation by himself. He's getting information, making the right call. I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

"He's more mature than I was at that age," said another mentor of Brown's -- Shareef Abdur-Rahim. As Brown said, "I know who I am." has Brown going to the Phoenix Suns at No. 4. ESPN NBA Draft analyst Jay Bilas's big board has Brown as the No. 8 overall prospect available, but its being widely reported that the Boston Celtics, at No. 3, are favoring Brown and Kris Dunn.

"He's got an NBA body, he's very good in transition, he can put the ball on the deck and drive it, specially from the elbow," Bilas said. "He is not a great shooter, and he is not a great handler. Those are areas of skill that he's got to wok on, but he's got the physical tools in order to be a really good prospect in this NBA draft."

But, he also had a team-high 108 fouls. 

Those have been the biggest knocks on Brown. As a wing player in a game that is moving inexorably towards being more perimeter-oriented, he shot just 29.4% from three-point range. For a player who made his hay in transition and as a driver, he averaged 3.1 turnovers per game and played out of control.

"Jaylen Brown is one of the best athletes in this entire draft," said ESPN analyst Jalen Rose. "The game is a lot harder when you play on the perimeter and you can't knock down shots, but if he, in the gym, if he's working at that, he's going to be a guy in the league that can play both back court spots, as well as some small forward in the era of positionless basketball." So, what did Brown do with those criticisms? He got into the Gold Gym at the RSF, Cal's practice facility, and worked. The result? Watch him sink 10 straight three balls.

"Physically, he's ready," Abdur-Rahim said. "Skill-wise, I think he has a position that he can guard, right away. That's the one thing I think he can do right away. Mentally, I think he's as prepared as you can be for the rigors of what an NBA season is, an NBA lifestyle."

Martin said that Brown -- the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year -- reminds him of a LeBron James or a Dominique Wilkins, because of his size and athleticism.

"Because of his explosiveness, he reminds me of those types of guys," Martin said.

The line on Brown at this point is that he's a projection pick. He's not a player who can start right away. Many have compared him to Stanley Johnson. That's why his fit with Boston -- for whom he worked out twice -- seems to be the most natural.

"You've got a guy who's 6-7 and a half, 220, 225 pounds, can move the ball end-to-end, has a lot of tools, has a lot of skill, especially with a team like that, that has veteran pieces, it'll be great for him, because he's a guy who can pretty much do anything on the floor," Martin said. "Now it's just a matter of continuing to get better, continuing to work, because you're talking about Jaylen Brown at 19-years old, that's not what he'll be at 22, 23, 24. With an experienced team like that, they can fold him into the way they play, and he can guard the one through four positions, he can score the ball a variety of ways, he's a better three-point shooter than his percentage shows. I think it wouldn't surprise me. I think he'd fit in well with them."

Brown has also worked out with the Philadelphia 76ers (1st overall), Los Angeles Lakers (No. 2 overall pick), Suns (No. 4 overall pick) and the New Orleans Pelicans (No. 6 overall). Ford said that Brown had an "incredible" workout with the Pelicans.

“It’s a good time for a guy with his physique kind of coming into the league,” Suns assistant general manager Pat Connelly told “Like most freshmen, they usually turn the ball over a little bit. The next point is kind of getting more familiarity with the game, who he’s playing with…growing as a player and maturing as a player and playing with better players is also another thing that kind of will usually lead to less turnovers as things get simplified.”

Brown will find out where he's headed when the NBA Draft begins at 5 p.m., Pacific, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on ESPN. Top Stories