In a terrific combine review column from SB Nation's Paul Flannery, the subject of Jaylen Brown, a top-10 prospect out of California, comes up. It turns out that Brown -- at age 19 -- is becoming a "polarizing prospect" because, well ... he's smart.
From SB Nation:
As always, teams will fall in love with certain players and the draft talent will take on added luster as we get closer to June 23rd. One of those players may be Jaylen Brown, a one-and-done prospect from Cal by way of Georgia who brings a pro body and an advanced mind. A highly-touted recruit, Brown's interests at Berkeley included playing chess and taking graduate-level courses. As someone who worked with him said, "He's a guy that's going to use basketball to do great things in life."
"I knew there was something special about Berkeley when I got there but I was sure when I took my first class," Brown said. "The stuff I took from Berkeley I'll take with me for the rest of my life. The things I learned in those classrooms and the relationships I built with those professors was tremendous. I still have all of them on contact and in email and they talk to me throughout this process. They're proud of me for the decision I made, so that's big."
It's beyond dumb that having varied interests outside the game is thought of as a red flag, but Brown is a bit of a polarizing prospect. What some see as intellect others views as arrogance.
It is very predictable that this is an issue. For starters, it's entirely possible that Brown has a level of arrogance. It is not uncommon for athletes to have that attribute and in many -- if not most-- ways it's an advantage they need in a hyper-competitive environment.
But to attach Brown's intelligence to that factor is absurd. There are a number of layers to intelligence within the NBA community and there's definitely a stigma attached in many circles. Consider the way that business professionals or analytics-progressive front office personnel are regarded by former players as being disconnected from the human experience and "too smart for their own good." There's still a jock-ish culture that surrounds the league.
Brown having academic interests isn't a bad thing. Consider that the Spurs have an environment built on multiculturalism and a diversity of interests. Popovich talks to his players about world affairs and takes them to various restaurants to expand their horizons. The NBA isn't like college where there's a need to develop players as people, but it also means there's certainly a place for people with diverse interests. Shane Battier's an incredibly smart guy who had a long career in the NBA. There have been intelligent, well-rounded players with perspective who never made it in the league.
What really matters is whether or not Brown can play. His defense and 3-point shooting should determine his draft order. Character and intangibles should factor in, but Brown's intellect, independent of his personality, should not be a detriment towards teams' interest in him.