There are few consolations for how Cal basketball's season ended at the moment. The only way it could be turned around is two Cal freshmen considering the possibility of being Cal sophomores
It's not often that basketball dork Bill Simmons is talking about Cal basketball, but he has mentioned Jaylen Brown on several of his latest podcasts. In his latest pod (around the 7:30 mark), Bill briefly mentioned how Brown is the type of player NBA scouts love in the new smallball era, and there's a reason he's being mentioned in the top 5 (an athletic wing with great size who has the potential to play 2 through 4 depending on matchup).
But after a promising January, Brown's development clearly stalled out the final month of the season with some really rough performances. And Simmons mentioned how nice it would be for him to return to Cal and figure some things out.
Yes Bill. That would be nice.
This is not an uncommon sentiment. Kyle Neubeck of Upside Motor had similar comments.
At the moment, Brown is more athlete than basketball player. That can be said of a lot of one-and-done guys showcasing the difficulty in transitioning from high school to college, but Brown's case is particularly pronounced. He's a poor shooter across multiple contexts; Brown forces the issue and frequently takes contested pull-ups in addition to being a below-average player in catch-and-shoot situations. The aformentioned free-throw prowess helps offset this a little, but his field-goal percentage at the rim (61.6) leaves a lot to be desired for a guy who isn't knocking down many looks elsewhere.
Not having a "go-to" set of shots you can hit is problematic once your athleticism becomes less of a dividing point between you and the competition. If you want Brown to be a primary initiator on offense, he'd need to rein in his shot selection and become more of a threat from mid-range. If you prefer him to play off-ball to take advantage of his athleticism off screens and cuts, he has to improve from deep. Both are big asks at the moment â he shot 30.1 percent on 2-point jumpers and 29.4 percent from 3-point range, respectively.
Brown is one of those players whose NBA future is uncertain. He has all the athletic skills to be a great pro wing player, but has yet to match it with on-court production. You see the potential but there isn't much of a resume yet to back up the top 10 draft stock circulating around his name. It's going to be a risk for Brown to come out and declare early after the way his season ended.
This might be one of the few times returning to college, getting into true conditioned shape, and discovering more of his game might serve him well. Sometimes players who get drafted into the NBA that raw struggle to figure it out and are stuck bouncing between the D-League and back, and it's debatable how much better that would be for a blue-chipper like Brown than a second year in college.
This isn't like Jared Goff, where he was clearly seasoned and ready to go; a fourth year at Cal would have served Cal fans more than it would have served him. Brown is not totally polished yet. The talent isn't going anywhere--a year from now he'll probably still be a lottery draft pick. It might be worth staying another year to ensure no slippage in his stock when he's scrutinized by the scouts over the next two months.
But I'm biased. What do you guys think?