A look back to last year's draft gives clarity to Danny Ainge's interest in Jaylen Brown
More than 24 hours removed from the Celtics selecting freshman Cal forward Jaylen Brown with the third overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the verdict is already in.
Amid audio clips of fans booing Celtics Wyc Grousbeck at the team draft party, video clips of fans screaming their displeasure from the stands at the Barclays Center, and poor reviews from various mainstream media publications like the Washington Post and Yahoo Sports, the Celtics were the laughing stock of the draft.
Boston made six picks Thursday night, some which are expected to be stashed away overseas. But the focus of the Celtics' draft was on the Brown selection and more specifically, who they were unable to land.
Names like Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Gordon Hayward and all-star Jimmy Butler surfaced during the couple of days prior to the draft and resurfaced throughout draft night as fans were excited with the possibility of acquiring a young, known and in some cases, a proven commodity.
Several reports on potential player packages hit the rumor mill, but without having exact insight on what other teams were offering and asking, Danny Ainge's inability to strike a deal was viewed as not only a failure on his part, but an indictment of the assets he's collected over the past three years.
When Brown was selected, the disappointment centered around getting a player that the fans weren't familiar with. Most fans have only seen Brown from a underwhelming NCAA Tournament appearance and brief video evaluation clips. So immediately, many harped on the weaknesses of his game rather than wonder what was his upside.
While the criticism in some ways makes sense as Brown doesn't fill a crucial void for this Celtics team (perimeter shooting, rim protection), you don't have to look far in the past to understand Ainge's excitement over a kid like Brown.
There are differences between the two, but there may not be a player in the league that better compares to Brown than Winslow.
Winslow has and Brown will enter the league with an NBA body at the age 19 as each played of just one year of college basketball. Measured at 6'7," each possess the explosive athleticism to be defensive stoppers and guard multiple in an NBA that values small-ball forwards.
Winslow had terrific defensive efforts against the likes of Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George en route to an All-Rookie first team selection. It may be unfair to ask Brown to replicate that kind of success as he still has to learn NBA rotations and how to play pick and roll defense at this level, but the physical tools are there.
The biggest hole in their games are their inability to make jumpers. Both will have to improve their jump shot to justify time of the court, but shooting mechanics can be learned and isn't generally as steep a learning curve as it is for young players to learn how to play defense at this level.
The biggest difference between Brown and Winslow is while Brown's decision making on the floor is reason to worry considering his 2/3 assist to turnover ratio, Winslow was lauded by Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra during his rookie season over his poise.
“That's what you're trying to look for in this league is guys that have the emotional stability to think of the game as a competition and how to make winning plays,” Spoelstra said. “When you bring somebody in, you'll develop guys on how to run a better pick-and-roll, how to develop your three-point range, how to become a better individual defender, and understand scouting reports,” Spoelstra said. “Those things take experience and take time. The other stuff is what made [Winslow] a standout.”
To be fair to Brown, playing at Duke and for the Miami Heat is much different than playing for the Cal Bears.
It believed that an NBA level talent should dominate at the college level against lower level talent. For the NBA level talent that struggled during their time in the collegiate ranks as Brown did, it should also be remembered that his teammates were a part of that lower level talent. While his turnovers and decision-making were noticeable, it can be explained away as Brown forcing the issue on a team that wasn't bad, but wasn't among the college basketball's elite.
It's a glass half-full take in a glass half-empty world, but if Brown is like what Winslow is projected to be, the pick may be worth the risk.
Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP
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