From now until the start of Celtics camp, we’ll be asking a Question of the Day about the upcoming season. Today: Will No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown spend time with the D-League Maine Red Claws?
BOSTON – When Jaylen Brown was drafted by the Celtics with the third overall pick last June, he was immediately given a C's baseball cap.
It might not have been a bad idea to give him a reliable GPS too.
Because as we’ve seen under coach Brad Stevens, rookies – regardless of where they are picked - have found themselves making the 100 or so mile drive up Interstate 95 to play with Boston’s Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
In 2014, the Celtics drafted Marcus Smart with the sixth overall pick.
Smart went on to become an All-Rookie second team selection that year, but not before making one D-League appearance in which he had six points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals.
In that same draft, Boston picked James Young with the 17th overall pick.
Young has seen plenty of action with the Red Claws, appearing in 31 games while averaging 18.7 points, 5.4 rebounds while shooting 40.6 percent on 3s.
Unfortunately for him, that success in the D-League has not translated to the NBA, where the third-year wing finds himself not just fighting for playing time but also a roster spot.
The Celtics have 16 players with guaranteed contracts and will have to trade or waive at least one of them before the start of the season. If Boston can’t make a trade, Young would be among those with a guaranteed contract that the Celtics will consider waiving.
The 2015 draft was more of the same with Boston adding Terry Rozier and R.J. Hunter with the 16th and 28th overall picks, respectively.
Rozier appeared in 14 games with the Red Claws last season, while fellow rookie Hunter saw action in 8 D-League games.
So what does that mean to Brown?
It means that the D-League will be an option to consider as the season progresses, but don’t be surprised if Brown doesn’t spend a single minute with the Red Claws.
Seeing a highly regarded prospect come into the NBA and play some in the D-League isn’t anything unusual these days.
But when it comes to top-three picks, life in the D-League doesn’t usually make up part of their rookie experience.
In the past 10 drafts prior to last June's picks, only two players (Anthony Bennett and Hasheem Thabeet) were top 3 picks that wound playing in the D-League.
And only Thabeet, the No. 2 overall pick in 2009, saw action in the D-League during his rookie season.
But Brown’s situation is very different than Bennett and Thabeet.
Those two struggled to adjust to the NBA game while playing for teams that at the time, weren’t very good.
The Cleveland team that Bennett played for, finished 10th in the East with a 33-49 record while the Thabeet’s Memphis club finished 10th in the West with a 40-42 record.
Brown joins a Celtics squad that has improved its win total every year under Stevens and has been to the playoffs each of the past two seasons.
In addition, the Celtics added their first impact free agent (Al Horford) who isn’t well past his prime (read: P.J. Brown, Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal, Rasheed Wallace), and are poised to be among the top teams in the East this season.
In addition, Brown will be playing behind Jae Crowder who was one of the NBA’s most improved players a year ago. And on top of that, Boston re-signed Gerald Green whose NBA career began when the Celtics drafted him straight out of high school in 2005.
So, the minutes available to Brown won’t be easy to come by.
But here’s the thing about Brown.
The one thing that is undeniable about him and his game, is that he will bring an elite level of athleticism to the floor which is something the Celtics don’t have much of at any position.
Because of that, Brown getting on to the floor won’t be that big an issue.
The challenge comes in getting him enough minutes to where he can truly develop into a contributor which is why the D-League is an option but in all likelihood not one the Celtics will exercise.