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PBT’s 2016 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Jaylen Brown

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Jaylen Brown is one of the more unique players in this draft class, and not from a basketball perspective. Take, for example, the fact that Brown opted not to hire an agent leading up to the draft, instead relying on a team of advisors that includes Isiah Thomas and Shareef Abdur-Rahim to help him through the process.

Even when he was being recruited by colleges, Brown waited until late on a random Friday night in the spring to announce that he would be spurning the bluebloods to enroll at Cal. There are NBA decision-makers that think he may be too smart for the league, so to speak.

He also happens to be the physical ideal for an NBA small forward with a long way to go to be an NBA player.

Height: 6′ 6.75″
Weight: 223
Wingspan: 6′ 11.75″
2015-16 Stats: 14.6 points, 5.4 boards, 2.0 assists, 29.4% 3PT

STRENGTHS: Brown is everything that you could possibly want out of an athlete at the small forward spot. He’s 6-foot-7. He has a 7-foot wingspan. He’s athletic in every way you would need to be athletic: He can run in transition, he’s explosive in space, he’s explosive in traffic, he’s a one-foot and two-foot leaper, he’s quick laterally, he’s strong. It’s all there, and it’s easy to look at him and see a guy who can eventually be an elite perimeter defender in the NBA.

That athleticism comes into the equation when Brown is attacking the rim, be it in transition or in half court settings. He’s a highlight reel waiting to happen when he’s got a head of steam going, and he’s quick enough that he can get by a defender from a standstill. In other words, he doesn’t need to attack a close-out in order to get to the bucket.

Brown is still very raw at this point in his development. He’s a work in progress — I’ll get to that in a minute — but it is important to note that he shows flashes of potential. He can change direction and he has some body control. He doesn’t have stiff hips, showing off the wiggle needed to get around defenders in the lane. He has the ability to do all of that. Learning to control it is a different story.

Next up in our NBA Draft prospect breakdowns is California Golden Bearsforward Jaylen Brown, who is one of the best athletes in the draft but who also has a long way to go before he's an impact player at the next level.

Posted by Rob Dauster on Tuesday, June 21, 2016

WEAKNESSES: Brown is essentially going to have to be taught how to be an NBA player. He doesn’t have a great feel for the game at this point, and he doesn’t quite understand how to use his physical tools.

The best example I can give of this is his dependency on playing bully ball. That worked in high school, when he went up against guys that didn’t have the same level of strength and athleticism that he does. It didn’t work at the college level, where 22-year olds in the Pac-12 aren’t going to let themselves get run over by a freshman that doesn’t have combination moves in his repertoire just yet.

He lacks craftiness, particularly around the rim, and he doesn’t quite understand how to avoid picking up offensive fouls. This issue also manifests itself with Brown’s tunnel vision. He’s not a selfish player and he’s a good enough passer when he sees the play developing, he just doesn’t yet understand where helpside rotations are coming from and who is going to be open as a result.

It didn’t help matters that the biggest issue Cal had this season was floor-spacing, meaning that, at this point, Brown’s skills should translate well to the NBA, where he’s going to be on the floor with plenty of shooters. But the bottom line is that, at this point in his development, he’s essentially a straight-line driver and not much else. That will only get you so far.

The other issue is that his shooting and his ball-handling is not at an NBA level yet. He’s super-inefficient, and much of that is due to his poor shooting. He shot 29.4 percent from three, 48.2 percent from inside the arc and around 45 percent at the rim. Throw in his turnover issues — nearly a quarter of his isolation possessions resulted in a turnover due to ball-handling issues and questionable decision-making — and what you get is a guy who produced solid numbers but needed a ton of opportunities to get those numbers.

Also worth noting: As much potential as he has defensively, he’s still learning how to maintain focus for an entire possession. Watching film on him, he has a tendency to ball-watch and can be a step-late on rotations. He can also be a total nightmare defending on the ball.

His jumper is fixable. His handle can get tightened up. He’s going to get better defensively playing in the NBA. He can be a starter in the NBA at some point in his career, it just may not be for a while.

NBA COMPARISON: The name you always heard as a comparison for Brown during his AAU days was Stanley Johnson. They played the same position the same way, and they had the same haircut. That’s usually enough to draw lazy comparisons.

It also doesn’t make much sense considering that Stanley had two inches and 20 pounds on Brown while Brown is a superior athlete. Given his issues offensively, Brown is a tough guy to project here. If he puts in the work, he could end up being Jimmy Butler. Hell, his physical tools and skill development is similar to what Kawhi Leonard‘s was when he left college, but the thing both of those guys have in common is that they lock themselves in a gym and won’t leave until they’re better than they were at the start of the day.

Does Brown have that in him?

Because if he doesn’t, I think he’ll likely end up being somewhere between an Al-Farouq Aminu and a Harrison Barnes.

OUTLOOK: Brown has all the physical tools that you could ask for out of an NBA small forward. He’s a shade under 6-foot-7, he’s 225 pounds, he has a wingspan that is just under 7-feet. He’s explosive, he’s mobile, he’s agile. He can defend guards and is strong enough to guard small-ball fours.

There isn’t much more that you could ask about of a small forward prospect athletically.

But whoever drafts him is going to have to teach him how to be an NBA basketball player, because he just doesn’t have the feel that you like to see out of a prospect. He … well, he looked like a freshman out there. He tried to play bully ball, which worked on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit but didn’t work against juniors and seniors in the Pac-12. He’s not selfish but he gets tunnel vision around the basket. He needs plenty of work on his jumper, both spotting up and off the dribble; someone with his athleticism should not be taking set-shot pull-ups. Some of his mental lapses defensively are inexcusable, and he’s careless with the ball offensively.

He has some bad habits that need to be broken, but everything about his game is fixable. The question is going to end up being whether or not he is willing to put in the work to make himself an upper-echelon NBA wing.

Indiana’s Victor Oladipo: “There’s a strong possibility I might play”

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There are about three million reasons Victor Oladipo wants to play for the Pacers in the NBA’s restart in Orlando.

He told reporters on Wednesday he’s “definitely here trying to play” and not thinking about the money reasons. He says just wants to lace them up. Via J. Michael of the Indy Star.

There has been a dispute about Oladipo’s health and salary. After sitting out about a year with a ruptured quadriceps tendon above his right knee, Oladepo returned to play 13 games before the NBA season was shut down. When it came time to make a decision on playing in the restart, Oladipo announced he was sitting out due to increased injury risk during a quick ramp-up to play. However, the league saw the games played — and the fact Oladipo traveled with the team to Orlando and is practicing full speed, leading to increasing optimism he’ll play — and said he would be counted as a player not out due to injury. Which means Oladipo would not get paid for the games in Orlando — that’s $2.8 million if the Pacers got swept in the first round, and $3.2 million if they play at least six games.

After working out down in Orlando without restrictions, Victor Oladipo sounds like a guy ready to play.

Him feeling healthy no doubt factors into that decision, but in the NBA always follow the money. And there are $3 million reasons for Oladipo to lace them up.

Thunder’s Dennis Schroder will leave bubble next month for birth of child

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Oklahoma City guard Dennis Schroderjust like Boston’s Gordon Hayward and Utah’s Mike Conley — has a pregnant wife due to give birth to his child while he is in the bubble.

Just like those guys, Schroder said he is leaving the bubble to put family first when it is time. Via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman:

“I’m not gonna leave my wife by herself while she’s having a second baby,” Schroder said. “(Dennis) Jr. is still 17 months old, so I’m for sure gonna go there and support her and try as much as I can to be there for my family…

“For me it’s tough,” Schroder said. “I love my teammates, I love basketball, but family comes first all the time. I’ll try to make something happen with the organization. I sacrifice a lot for my team, but like I said, we still gotta get on the same page that I can see my family maybe when the baby is coming. We’re going to make it work.”

The baby is due in “3-4 weeks,” which is mid-August.

Schroder is absolutely doing the right thing prioritizing his family. Nobody should criticize his decision.

That said, if he is gone for some of the first round of the playoffs, which start Aug. 17, it would be a blow to the Thunder, who almost certainly will be in a difficult matchup in the middle of a crowded West (currently they would face Utah in a 4/5 matchup, but with the middle of the conference bunched together the seeding games likely change that).

Schroder is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate averaging 19 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three. The Thunder are at their most dangerous with a three-guard lineup where Schroder is paired with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rotation that can’t happen with Schroeder gone.

Schroder can return to the team. He has to get tested every day he is outside the bubble, but because this is an excused absence and the league has been notified, upon his return Schroeder will have a four-day quarantine (so long as he continues to have negative tests). Players who leave the bubble without notifying teams face a 10-day quarantine.

Oklahoma City is going to need Schroder and his crafty game if they are going to be a playoff threat that moves beyond the first round in Orlando.

 

Orlando’s James Ennis admits he had COVID-19, is now recovered and practicing

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Add James Ennis — who has started most games at the three for Orlando since being traded there at the deadline — to the list of players who had COVID-19.

Ennis is recovered and Wednesday returned to practice but admitted to reporters in a zoom he was one of the players who had tested positive for the disease. From Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

James Ennis is an example of why the NBA started its testing in the home markets of teams back on June 23: find the players who had the virus, get them treatment as needed, help them recover, and keep the virus itself out of the NBA campus/bubble in Orlando. How well that ultimately works remains an unanswered question, but the Ennis is an example of the concept working.

Ennis’ move into the starting lineup in Orlando not-so-coincidentally timed out with when the Magic offense took off (a 117.8 offensive rating after the All-Star break, best in the NBA). Ennis, the lone Long Beach State player in the NBA now, provides shooting to space the floor on the wing (career 35.4% from three), and that opened up driving lanes for Aaron Gordon and room for others to operate. He quickly became a critical piece of the Magic offense. Ennis was traded to Orlando from Philadephia at the deadline for a second-round pick.

Orlando enters the NBA restart as the eighth seed in the East, but with a realistic shot to pass a depleted Brooklyn team for the seven seed. Healthy, with an explosive offense and balanced roster, the Magic will not be an easy out in the first round of the playoffs.

Coaches, players compare NBA Orlando restart to USA Basketball experience

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Formulating a plan to get a team ready for the restart of the NBA season wasn’t as difficult as one might expect for Indiana coach Nate McMillan.

Turns out, he’s been through something similar to this before.

Spending an extended stretch away from home during the summer, while unprecedented as part of an NBA season, isn’t exactly a foreign concept for those with USA Basketball experience like the Olympics and the World Cup. Plenty of players and coaches at Walt Disney World see parallels between those experiences and this challenge.

“I had that opportunity to work with the Olympic team and preparation was very similar to what we’re going through here,” said McMillan, who was an assistant under Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski on the USA Basketball staff from 2006 through 2012. “Having a training camp, basically, at a hotel and getting ready for a 45- to 60-day season. … We’re going to have three scrimmage games, eight so-called regular season games and then we’re in the playoffs so it’s very similar to preparing to play for the gold medal.”

Players who have been through the World Cup or Olympic grinds agree that there’s a level of familiarity with this sort of schedule and situation.

“It helps tremendously,” said Toronto guard Kyle Lowry, who was part of the U.S. gold-medal-winning team at the Olympics in 2016. “In Rio it was a lot more strict and tighter because we were living on a boat. That experience was pretty awesome. … But living on a boat, to be in a smaller room and not have as many amenities it really kind of prepared me for this.”

Even players who have been part of USA Basketball’s events for younger players, like Under-18 or Under-19 tournaments internationally, know the drill when it comes to living in a hotel for a few weeks and not having a lot of latitude when it comes to being free to roam. Players at Disney cannot leave the campus because of coronavirus protocols, though the league has made plenty of entertainment options — fishing, golf, boating, table tennis and more — available to them.

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said he would follow much of the same policies that the U.S. program used when he was an assistant on those national-team staffs, such as a heavy reliance on medical personnel to determine what days to have a hard practice and what days to take it a bit easier. Phoenix coach Monty Williams said he also refreshed his memory on national-team days when putting together a plan for his team’s stay at Disney.

“It has forced me to dig into the archives of that time with USA Basketball,” said Williams, another former national team assistant under Krzyzewski. “I’ve heard a lot of the players say that it reminds them of AAU, but for me it reminds me so much of my time in Spain at the World Cup. It’s a bit longer than the Olympics … and you have a lot of free time.”

Pacers center Myles Turner was with the U.S. team that competed in China last summer at the World Cup, a group that spent more than seven weeks together between training camp, exhibition games in the U.S. and Australia, and then the tournament itself.

The Pacers have clinched a playoff spot, so they’re assured of spending at least seven weeks at Disney this summer. It’s another long summer for Turner, and he’s not complaining.

“There is a lot of similarity in how it’s set up, but for me personally, I just think that it’s a great time for everybody to kind of stay focused,” Turner said. “There’s no distractions. Everybody’s locked in and focused. So, there’s really not a lot that can go wrong in a basketball sense.”

One difference at Disney is that nobody has family members with them until at least the second round of the playoffs. At an Olympics, it’s typical for family and friends to make the trip — and at last year’s World Cup, a small number of players also made arrangements for family to join them in China.

“This is a little bit different than that, but certainly the timing is similar and the timing for us as far as preparation is probably more like a FIBA-type schedule than it is like a training camp,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “You’re practicing for a couple weeks and then you’re playing a few games and then it really, really counts.”

NOTES: San Antonio assistant Tim Duncan is not with the Spurs at Disney; the team said he has remained home to help LaMarcus Aldridge with his rehab from season-ending shoulder surgery. … Of the 22 teams in the restart, eight opted to take Tuesday off from practice.