BOSTON -- The Boston Celtics selected Jaylen Brown with the third pick in the 2016 NBA Draft Thursday evening. After weeks of intense speculation and smoke screens about making a trade for Jimmy Butler or Nerlens Noel, they ended up holding on to their prized pick for the time being. The pick was first reported by ESPN's Chad Ford.
"I've known Danny a long time and this was his guy. He wanted this guy," Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said. "We did not sniff a trade today. It was a collection of rip-off attempts and we laughed at them."
Brown was shocked and delighted to end up with the Celtics, who had been heavily attached to Kris Dunn for the past 48 hours.
"I had no idea. I promise you, I had no idea," Brown said. "I was actually sweating bullets when the final five seconds came in. But I knew they were heavily interested when they asked me to come back for a second workout. But you hear different things every day. I mean, it changes ever day, so I was not sure at all. But I’m glad to be here and I think it’s the right fit."
The Celtics still hold on to a plethora of players that outnumber their roster spots, with first rounders being used on Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic. But after burning the phone lines all day, the Celtics brass felt there wasn't an offer up to their standards.
"The trades that were offered to us made us hang up right away," Grousbeck said. "We refused to be ripped off by anyone.
"People call us up, thinking they can rip us off because they think we're in a hurry," Grousbeck continued. "So thanks, but no thanks. We were open for business, but we weren't getting ripped off."
There will be no trade, for now, but Brown is an incredibly dynamic player who was stuck in a dual center system at Cal that suffocated many of his skills. He is a player that will need to greatly develop his perimeter scoring game, but has the potential to shine in every part of the court.
"I'm happy to be part of the family," Brown said at the draft. "I cannot wait to get [to Boston]."
Brown, like Celtics picks of the past, is excited to be a part of Celtics lore. "I know Boston has a lot of history, a lot of tradition, and I want to add to that," he said.
But he will be a unique Celtic, as there has rarely been an elite athletic swingman to don green. Ainge fills a crucial need by acquiring an energetic scorer, but knows that he needs to develop his outside shooting to be the player they need.
"He had two workouts with us and showed to us that he was a much better shooter than [his freshman year at Cal]," Ainge said. "He shot 38-percent I think in the high school leagues. Same amount of shots the year before. We’re not too concerned about that. We feel like he has a chance to be a good shooter. But he wasn’t this year."
When CelticsBlog asked Ainge if he sees Brown ascending as a shooter in the same path as Avery Bradley, he drew the connection while reminding the world that being a shooter is not a binary designation.
"I know I hear that a lot in the media that Avery wasn't a good shooter. Well I saw Avery when he was 17 and he was a pretty good shooter. He has just extended his range. I think it's the same thing with Jaylen. Jaylen is not a finished product by any stretch. A little bit like Avery as you're saying, but he's not a bad shooter. So I think he'll get better as a shooter every year for the next five or six years."
So the Celtics end up with Brown, a high-risk, high-reward project that fits the mold perfectly for the booming small-ball era. He provides the ballhandling potential and defensive versatility to thrive at the three or four around shooters, but will need to develop the ability to take threes off the dribble to be a star.
The similarities to the man they almost traded for, Jimmy Butler, are blatantly apparent. He can be even more explosive than Butler and has the early makings of a shot off the dribble that can make him a stud. The murkiness surrounding Brown's draft evaluation was as much due to the dual center lineup he was stuck with at Cal as it was his unclear position coming into the pros. Brad Stevens' system should allow him to unleash his potential, getting him in transition and utilizing his intellect.
"He’s a unique kid," Ainge said. "I’m not sure that’s why we drafted him, but he is interesting. He’s different than a lot of the players that we meet. He’s very polished, articulate kid, very well-educated kid. He’s a kid that I think some people have questioned if he likes basketball. To me, he seems like a very balanced young man and very mature for his years. So he’s going to have to grow fast. From freshman year of college to the NBA is a big jump. I’m confident that he can do that both physically and emotionally."
The Celtics remain versatile if the glass is half full, but overstretched after a few more sips. Brown can step in and contribute for a playoff run next year. But if he isn't the player Ainge envisions five or six years from now, the great Brooklyn trade may end up all for naught.