BOSTON (CBS) — Despite being just 19 years old, there are some lofty expectations for Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown.
Danny Ainge’s selection of Brown with the third overall pick last June was met with a smattering of boos from the TD Garden crowd gathered for an NBA Draft party. Boston fans, still suffering from some indigestion following the team’s second straight first-round exit from the postseason, wanted fireworks that draft night. While Brown had plenty of upside coming out of California, he wasn’t considered to be the kind of pick to make an instant impact.
But Brown’s recent play, albeit in preseason action, have many now salivating at the thought of the rookie being an integral part of Boston’s second unit for the 2016-17 season. He’s dropped double digits in his last three games, hitting 60 percent of his shots, while providing a few highlights along the way, whether it be a sweet alley-oop jam (or two, for good measure) or a beautiful behind-the-back pass on a fast break.
Overall, in 22.6 minutes per game this preseason, Brown has averaged 9.7 points on 44 percent shooting and is checking in as a +5.3 in plus/minus rating. The 19-year-old appears to be ready for his first season among the men of the NBA. Just ask Brown’s new teammates, who say the rookie is living up to all the hype that surrounds a kid taken so highly in the draft.
“He’s a freak, man,” Celtics guard Avery Bradley said of Brown. “He’s making a lot of plays that 19-year olds aren’t making… He’s going to be a perfect piece for us.”
It’s not just Brown’s play on the floor, but his willingness to learn as well.
“He works hard, and he asks questions, and he’s here to get better every single day,” Bradley said. “I appreciate him for that, a young guy that has an open mind and just wants to work hard because that has to be your mindset coming into a team like this with good players like we have.”
“I wasn’t as smart as him (at that age),” said forward Jae Crowder, via MassLive. “I wasn’t as heady as he is. Physically I could play basketball, but I just didn’t have the tools up top at the age of 19. I had to go through college and I had to go through a lot more obstacles to get to where I’m at today. But he has his head on right, he thinks properly, he works. He’s become more of a professional earlier than I was.
“A lot of guys come in and are behind the curve a lot mentally. We’re not talking physical, we’re just talking mental, and the game here at this level is a lot mental,” added Crowder. “And that’s one thing he brings with him. His mental approach is where it needs to be.”
Brown got his first taste of action at the TD Garden crowd on Monday night, winning fans over with a 12-point performance in a 120-99 win over the Brooklyn Nets. He’s pleased with the way the Boston second unit has played so far this preseason, but knows they have another level in them.
As for his own game, Brown is always looking to improve on all fronts. He’s hard at work to knock down shots more consistently, and determined to improve his low-post game as the preseason winds down.
“I try to get better every time I step on the floor,” the rookie said after Monday’s win. “My goal for next game is to get better that game and be as prepared as possible. Just get better every day.”
Brown’s play during Boston’s preseason slate already has him pegged in the Celtics rotation, and he could evolve into the leader of their second unit if he continues to improve. Based on his play and attitude, plus some high praise from his new teammates, those boos from draft night will be drowned out by cheers in the very near future.