BOSTON – The Boston Celtics fell in love with Jaylen Brown the moment he stepped on the court at their practice facility in Waltham, Massachusetts.
The California-Berkley forward brought a unique blend of athleticism, strength, versatility, determination and intelligence that sparked the interest of Boston’s basketball ops staff – so much that it opted to select him with the No. 3 overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.
Brown was the first of eight selections made by the Celtics on Thursday. The organization kept six of those picks, while trading away Nos. 31 and 35 to Memphis for a future pick. Also joining the C’s during the busy Draft night was Guerschon Yabusele (No. 16), Ante Zizic (No. 23), Demetrius Jackson (No. 45), Ben Bentil (No. 51) and Abdel Nader (No. 58).
Brown, however, being the team’s top selection of the night, was the hot topic of discussion as Danny Ainge took the podium after the Draft. And Boston’s president of basketball operations did not shy away from praising the young, promising forward.
“[He has] great athleticism – sort of the vogue, new type of player in the NBA – a versatile wing who can play multiple positions defensively,” said Ainge. “And we think he has a lot of upside. We think that he’s a 19-year-old kid that can get out on the court and play with the big boys right out of the gate, and those are rare.”
Not only is Brown a versatile, NBA-ready defender, but he’s also a significant scoring threat; he’s an athletic wing with great slashing ability, which is just the type of player the Celtics need right now.
When Brown phoned into Boston Thursday night, he admitted that he had no idea the C’s were planning to take him, though he had been feeling good vibes ever since the team flew him back to Boston for a second workout.
“When they invited me in for a second workout, I knew they had some heavy interest,” said Brown. “I wasn’t quite sure how things would go, but I’m glad I’m here now and can’t wait to get started.”
Brown played one season at Cal, where he averaged 14.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, while earning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors, as well as a First-Team All-Pac-12 nod.
His main trademarks with the Golden Bears were his playmaking ability and his extremely high motor, which he says should translate to “a lot of passion and energy” at the NBA level.
He emphatically stated that he plans to “Just go to war for the city every night; leave it all on the floor and wear my heart on my sleeve day-in and day-out.”
In other words, he’s already determined to bleed green for the city of Boston.
Brown sees the Celtics as an ideal system for him, in that it will enable him to take full advantage of his versatility and thrive in small ball situations.
“I’m strong enough to guard the big guys, and have enough heart to lock them down,” said Brown, who boasts a 7-foot wingspan. “The way the NBA is going forward with versatility and everybody being able to play multiple positions, I’ll fit right in.”
That belief seems to be mutual among Brown, the C’s basketball ops staff and the ownership, alike.
“We feel that he’s got the physique and the competitive drive and motor skills, and, really important – the character and the intelligence,” said managing partner, governor and CEO Wyc Grousbeck moments after the selection was made. “He’s a very, very smart guy.
“I’m really impressed with Jaylen, A to Z, and I’m looking forward to having him in Celtic green.
“I think it’s the right move for our team at this time and our future.”