BOSTON — It was fitting that Jaylen Brown, one of the foundational pieces in what appears to be a very bright future for the Boston Celtics, played a meaningful role in a Game 7 of a playoff series on the eve of the NBA Draft Lottery.
The Celtics selected Brown third overall in last year’s draft, a pick they owned because of a 2013 trade with the Brooklyn Nets, a deal that also netted the C’s a first-round pick swap with the Nets in this year’s draft and ownership of Brooklyn’s first rounder in 2018.
Boston enters Tuesday night’s lottery with the best odds of landing the No. 1 pick. This draft choice, whether it’s used on a highly touted prospect or packaged in a trade for a superstar, will add another strong piece to a roster that reached the Eastern Conference finals with a 115-105 win over the Washington Wizards on Monday night at TD Garden.
“It’s big for the Celtics,” Brown said. “The team that finished first in the Eastern Conference, and now we have the potential to get the No. 1 pick in the draft. That’s a credit to (president of basketball operations) Danny Ainge and the staff upstairs. It’s going to be a bright future for the Celtics for a long time.”
Having Brown in the fold is one of the reasons why the Celtics could be good for a long time.
C’s coach Brad Stevens went to his bench early in Game 7 and called Brown’s number. The rookie forward scored nine points, pulled down a rebound while laying on the floor, and upped the energy level with a sweet alley-oop as part of Boston third-quarter run.
Before that alley-oop, Brown forced a turnover by denying entry into the paint. It was an example of the two-way talent that impressed Boston during the scouting process last year.
The Celtics could rely on Brown to play an even larger role against LeBron James and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference finals. Brown’s length, athleticism and defensive smarts make him a candidate to defend James often.
Brown showed during the regular season he won’t be intimidated by James’ Hall of Fame talent.
“I was definitely watching LeBron in the Finals, Eastern Conference finals. And now, I could potentially be guarding him,” Brown said. “It’s a blessing to be here. But I’m more ready than I’ve ever been, and I’m ready for whatever challenge anybody throws at me right now.”
Most third overall draft picks don’t find themselves in the playoffs the following season, much less contributing to a Game 7 win in the second round.
Being part of the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season didn’t result in Brown getting a ton of minutes. In fact, he played about 10 minutes less per game than No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram, who led all rookies with 28 minutes per night.
But playoff experience should benefit Brown as much as anything he could have learned with more regular-season minutes. And he’s having a ton of fun playing in these games instead of watching them on television like the rest of his fellow 2016 lottery picks.
“Pure excitement. I was in high school two years ago, and now I’m in a Game 7 environment,” Brown said. “Biggest game of your career. I was watching games like this on TV last year around this time. It’s pure excitement and pure joy. I’m happy to be here.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images