O’Sullivan: Brown sounds like a bright kid but the Celtics aren’t trying to win chess matches

  • California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) Ben Margot

  • Fans watch on a big screen at TD Garden, Thursday, June 23, 2016, at the Celtics NBA Draft Party in Boston. The Celtics selected Jaylen Brown, a forward from California, with the third pick in the NBA basketball draft. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Elise Amendola

  • Jaylen Brown, right, stands up as he is announced as the third overall pick by the Boston Celtics during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 23, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) Frank Franklin II

  • California forward Jaylen Brown dunks against Coppin State during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. California won 84-51. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) Marcio Jose Sanchez

  • NBA Commissioner Adam Silver (left) poses for a photo with Jaylen Brown after he was selected by Boston with the third overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft in Brooklyn. AP

Monitor staff
Published: 6/24/2016 12:19:09 AM

Jaylen Brown sounds like a bright kid – he plays chess, took a graduate level class as a freshman at Cal and will represent himself in the NBA. Brown looks like a megastar athlete – 6-foot-7, 233 pounds, 5.1 percent body fat, great quickness, speed and hops.

Those are the reasons why it made sense for the Celtics to take Brown with the No. 3 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft. Unfortunately for Boston, there are more reasons why the pick made no sense.

Brown committed 105 turnovers while dishing out just 67 assists during his one year in college. He committed a team-high 108 fouls. He shot 29.4 percent from 3, 43.1 from the floor and 65.4 from the line. Crunching those numbers, and several more, led ESPN analyst Kevin Pelton to rank Brown 101st among draft-eligible prospects. That’s not good.

The Celtics may have taken a thoughtful physical specimen, but they aren’t trying to win chess tournaments or track meets. They’re trying to win basketball games, and there’s a real chance Brown won’t be much help with that.

Maybe Brown, just 19, will fix his jump shot and learn to play with the kind of intelligence he shows off the court. He recently started a grueling, two-a-day workout regimen in hopes of doing just that. He says he wants to put in 20,000 hours of work – a nod to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hours-to-greatness theory.

Maybe his elite athleticism and drive will allow him to make an immediate defensive impact. Maybe in time he will become an All-NBA defender and it won’t matter if his offense stays shoddy.

There’s just way too many maybes for the No. 3 pick. If Brown doesn’t defy the odds and prove he was worth it, we will look back at this decision as one of the main reasons the Danny Ainge era ended in Boston.

The Celtics didn’t need a 19-year-old project. They needed a player who could help them immediately, help them get more than the 48 wins and the first-round playoff exit they had last season. Someone to help them go from good to great. And to do that, they needed to make a trade.

Ainge reportedly worked the phones to death trying to move this pick. He used it as a piece to make runs at Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton. He also reportedly turned down an offer for Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel and a pair of first-round picks.

In the end, Ainge and the Boston brain trust felt all of the potential trade scenarios were “ripoffs,” as principal owner Wyc Grousbeck said on Comcast SportsNet New England on Thursday night.

So instead of overpaying for what they really needed, the Celtics spent their asset on (pardon the pun) a lottery ticket. That seems like bad business to me.

And it seems like what led to this bad business was overvaluing this pick.

Ever since the 2013 draft day trade that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn and brought back a haul of future draft choices, including this one, it felt like Boston – the team and fans alike – viewed this particular pick as a golden egg guaranteed to bring the next banner.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a great trade, but it was no guarantee. And the longer the Celtics held onto it, and their other stockpile of picks, they all became less valuable because the rest of the league knew Ainge was dying to trade them.

So would swapping the No. 3 pick for Noel – a young, defensive-minded big man, which is exactly what this team needs – really have been a ripoff? Or was it just a case of Ainge overvaluing his asset? It certainly seems like the latter.

There needed to be some luck involved (winning the draft lottery) or at least serendipity (finding a willing trade partner) for this pick to turn into the All-Star Boston needs. And there definitely needed to be some wise decisions from Ainge, but the Celtics basketball boss seems to have lost his draft-night magic.

During the early years of Ainge’s tenure in Boston he showed such promise by getting the likes of Rajon Rondo and Al Jefferson with mid-first round choices. But consider the last eight players Ainge pulled from the first round before Thursday night: JaJuan Johnson, Jared Sullinger, Fab Melo, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, James Young, Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter.

That’s not a list that inspires confidence. And neither did Thursday’s first-round picks – Brown, No. 16 Guerschon Yabusele (6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward from France) and No. 23 Ante Zizic (6-11, 235-pound center from Croatia).

The best I can say about this group is that my friend’s 8-year-old son, Mason, is a huge Yabusele fan. Seriously. Mason always picks Yabusele when he’s drafting his team in NBA 2K16.

“Underdog guy,” Mason said, “but when you need him he always makes a play for you.”

That’s encouraging, but I didn’t think this draft night would require moral support from an 8-year-old.




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