June 23 was a big day for Cal basketball, with former players Jaylen Brown and Tyrone Wallace getting selected in the 2016 NBA Draft. Brown was picked up with the third overall pick by Boston Celtics, while Tyrone went to the Utah Jazz with the 60th and final pick of the draft.
Brown was the third-ever Bear to be drafted within the top three picks of the draft (Jason Kidd and Darrall Imhoff), and the 10th to ever be drafted in the first round. Brown, along with Ivan Rabb and Tyrone Wallace, led Cal to a fourth seed of the NCAA tournament, the best seeding in Cal history. Tallying only 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2 assists per game in his one year, Brown seemed unlikely to go this high. But his defensive versatility and swingman abilities will fit in perfectly with Boston’s Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley.
Brown joins a team that was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, with a ton of room for improvement. But unlike other early draft picks, he will have the luxury of playing alongside NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas. Although he was arguably Cal’s best offensive player, Brown has quite a bit to work on on that side of the ball. But as the Celtics were one of the top five teams in defensive efficiency last season, he fits right in with their mentality. And because the Celtics depth chart is not strong at small forward, Brown should be seeing quality minutes in Brad Steven’s rotation next year.
The Celtics were involved with numerous trade rumors leading up to the draft. This year’s free agent pool is ripe with talent, including players such as Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade, Al Horford and Kevin Durant. The Celtics are one of the few teams scheduled to meet with Durant on July 1, and Boston will no doubt be an intriguing option for the former MVP. With the Celtics’ eye on the prize, don’t be surprised if they trade away Brown and other young talent to clear cap space for big-fish free agents. But wherever Brown ends up, his NBA-ready body and elite athleticism will soothe his learning curve.
The other Bear drafted Thursday, Tyrone Wallace, may also become a defensive asset for the Jazz, but may not get the chance to prove himself. As the last pick in the draft, Wallace will get a chance in summer league to impress the team enough to make the roster. The Jazz already have strong depth at point guard, and Wallace will just be joining the parade — one that now also includes veteran George Hill. Wallace will be joining the group as perhaps the seventh point guard and, even if he makes the roster, will likely get very little playing time during the season.
But on the other hand, Wallace’s upside and potential is promising. Although he may be dubbed “Mr. Irrelevant” right now, he has showed flashes at Cal of being a great and dynamic playmaker. Utah great John Stockton, like Wallace, was a versatile defender, who could work well with Karl Malone to defend switch-heavy schemes. Just like Stockton slowed the Lakers screen-savvy offense during the 1998 Western Conference Finals, Wallace could play a key role in helping the Jazz stop a similar crafted switch-heavy offense of the Golden State Warriors. A player who stands at 6 feet 6 inches with a 6-foot-10-inch wingspan and finishes solidly in the paint, Wallace could enjoy great success within the Jazz organization, especially if he develops a consistent mid-range jumper. Even though Wallace wasn’t as highly touted coming out of college as many of his peers, don’t discount his low draft position. Wallace may join elite company among draft day freefallers, as many 60th picks, including Boston’s Isiah Thomas and Michael Cooper, have enjoyed successful NBA careers.
Contact Siva Sambasivam at [email protected].