Some of the buzz heading into training camp has been the impending deadline on Jaylen Brown’s extension. Brown is in the final and fourth guaranteed year of his rookie contract and the Celtics have until October 21st to offer him a new deal. While that seems unlikely--Danny Ainge hasn’t extended a rookie since Rajon Rondo in 2009--that financial instability doesn’t seem to faze the 22-year-old who is now the team’s second most tenured player.
“I’m not putting too much thought into it. I’m not losing sleep over it,” Brown said at Media Day on Monday. “I think stuff like that will end up working itself out in the end.”
His per-36 numbers have plateaued over the last two years (a respectable 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists per game), but his versatility has expanded. He’s become a competent three point shooter and his handle has improved steadily since getting drafted third in 2015. He’s come off the bench, started, and joked that he’s played “every role” with the Celtics.
To his credit, Brown’s performance at FIBA’s World Cup this summer showed an extra level of growth that Celtics fans didn’t see last season. For Greg Popovich and Team USA, Brown came up big. Literally. In a quarterfinals match up against a bigger Brazil team, Jaylen played back up center and turned in his best performance in China.
Brown scored 11 points, grabbed 4 rebounds, dished out 4 assists, and picked off 4 steals. Brown has always had the athleticism to compete in the NBA, but being able to pick his spots and take advantage of mismatches has been a learning curve.
“I was actually playing center. I was playing all over. It was a good experience,” Brown said of his international play this summer. “I’ll probably play a little bit more of that this year consistently, comparing that to (Team) USA. Getting that experience with Pop, it’ll definitely help going into this year.”
With the departure of Al Horford, the Celtics will have a stable of interesting prospects at center: free agent Enes Kanter, rookie Vincent Poirier, and returning veterans Daniel Theis and Robert Williams, With arguably the best pick-and-roll point guard in Kemba Walker, it’s likely that one of the rim rollers will start at the five. Brad Stevens even mentioned during Media Day that he sees a lot of running bigs in Boston’s future. However, don’t be surprised if Brown and some of the other wings spend some time on the block.
After that win over Brazil, Popovich said:
“[Brown is] a strong player. For his size and strength, he moves well,” Popovich told reporters after USA’s win over Brazil. “He can really penetrate. He can catch and pull, or get to the rim … He works on defense. He’s just kind of an all-around player. He’s stepped in and given us good minutes on both ends of the floor for sure.”
Brown is one of Boston’s most talented players and for him to see 30+ minutes a night, there will be times that Stevens will have to creatively juggle the lineups to get him on the floor. Whether it’s at the 4 or 5, the 6’7 Brown should see some time in the front court as a utility player. If he had kept the flap top and measured in three inches taller, maybe it wouldn’t be so much of a surprise.