Phoenix Suns work out top-5 talent, well-rounded F Jaylen Brown
PHOENIX — And on the 12th day, the Phoenix Suns finally held a pre-draft workout for a player worthy of the No. 4 pick, the first of their two lottery selections.
On Monday, Cal forward Jaylen Brown became the highest-rated prospect to visit Phoenix thus far, taking part in a solo workout at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Brown is a projected top-5 pick.
“I’m not concerned with being a top-5 pick in the draft. I want to be a top-5 player in the league,” he said, still with his shirt off following the post-workout three-minute run in which he recorded 26 baseline touches.
Brown played only one season at Cal, where he earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors and first-team all-conference after averaging 14.6 points and 5.4 rebounds while starting all 34 games for the Golden Bears.
The finish to his college career, however, left a lot to be desired.
Over his last five games, Brown shot just 20.8 percent (10-for-48) and committed 18 turnovers, a season-high seven of which came in Cal’s NCAA Tournament first-round exit against Hawaii, when Brown missed five of six shot attempts for a season-low four points.
“My response is things happen,” he said. “The last five games didn’t end the way I wanted them to. Very fair question, but I’m more concerned about the next five games. You learn from it and move on.”
Brown’s game is expected to fit well in the NBA, where there’s more spacing for his 6-foot-7, 223-pound frame to operate.
Plus, in college Brown showed the strength to outmuscle opponents while attacking the basket and bodying up defenders in the post.
“I think I can come in right away and contribute,” he said. “It definitely depends on the team, the situation and the role, but I can adapt. The way the NBA is moving, is kind of positionless, and I feel like my versatility is key. I can play 1-through-4.”
More importantly, perhaps, Brown can defend positions 1-through-4 on the court, aided by a wingspan that measured at 6-11 ¾.
“It means I can defend people, contest shots, make people uncomfortable; and for smaller guys, get more leverage than bigger guys when they guard bigger guys,” he said. “So like Draymond Green, he’s only 6-6 but he can get down low and use his leverage because he’s smaller and the refs, they give (the calls) to him.”
The versatility to guard multiple positions should give Brown an advantage when it comes to playing time, especially early in his career.
“It’s a good time for a guy with his physique kind of coming into the league,” Suns assistant general manager Pat Connelly said.
Due to his size and athleticism, Brown has drawn comparisons to Jason Richardson, the one-time Suns player who shot the 3-ball at a better than 39-percent clip during his three seasons in Phoenix.
That’s an area of Brown’s game that is improving.
“He shot the ball really well from 3,” Connelly said, noting Brown made just 29 percent of his college 3-pointers. “We did a lot of shooting, and he got through the entire workout without really losing his shot, which can be pretty difficult especially, again, when you’re doing it by yourself and your legs start kind of falling out. But he’s a really strong kid and I think that helps him kind of keep his shot up over the course of the workout.”
Added Brown, “I can shoot it a lot better than people think.”
Decision-making, specifically what to do with the basketball, is another aspect of Brown’s game that has come under scrutiny.
At Cal, Brown had more turnovers (105) than assists (68).
“Like most freshmen, they usually turn the ball over a little bit,” Connelly said. “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.”
The workout with the Suns was Brown’s third, with previous stops coming in Boston (No. 3) and New Orleans (No. 6), teams also with top-10 picks in the June 23 NBA Draft.
Brown, who will be 20 at the start of his first pro season, has done his homework on teams, seeing where he fits within the roster as well as researching the team’s city and how he can get involved in the community.
“I just definitely want to get a feel for everybody and everybody that I’m going to be around,” he said. “I’m putting my future in these guys’ hands so I want to make sure that I get to know them and have a personal relationship. I’m getting to know them a little bit, just like they’re getting to know me.”
Brown currently doesn’t have an agent, but he counts fellow Cal alums Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Jason Kidd plus Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas as mentors and/or advisers.
Basketball, though, is not all that Brown enjoys. His other interests include chess and soccer — his favorite player is FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi.
Brown is also bilingual, having taken Spanish at Cal.
“We live in basketball — 95-percent of our life is basketball,” Connelly said, “so it’s kind of refreshing sometimes to have somebody you can sit and talk to about something else or can teach you about something. I know nothing about chess, so if I sit with him later and he teaches me about chess, that’s kind of a neat kind of wrinkle to it. You don’t want too many interests kind of throwing you off your main focus, but it’s nice to have somebody that has kind of a wide-world outlook.”
Chess in particular seems to resonate the most with Brown.
“I kind of compare chess to the game of basketball, just making the right reads, making the right decisions,” he said, adding with a smile, “I kind of consider myself a king and everybody else as pawns.”
There was no immediate word whether anyone with the Suns planned to challenge Brown to a game before he left town.
“I stink at chess,” Connelly said, “so I think we can do like Connect Four or checkers, but I think I’d probably still wouldn’t advise you guys to bet on me.”