This is the second of a daily look at the top prospects in the NBA Draft: Their strengths, their weaknesses, and whether or not they're a fit for the Celtics. Today's prospect: Oklahoma State's Markel Brown.
MARKEL BROWN, Oklahoma State
6-foot-3, 184 pounds
HIS STORY: Markel Brown was the other big-time guard on Oklahoma State this year. While Marcus Smart got all the preseason hype and in-season media attention, Brown was the one stable piece throughout a roller-coaster ride of a season for the Cowboys. Smart and Brown were supposed to be one of the most dynamic backcourt duos in the country, with Smart running point and Brown serving as an athletic wing scorer. That didn’t exactly go to plan, as the team suffered injuries and Smart was suspended in the middle of a brutal Big 12 conference schedule. Smart's suspension allowed the spotlight to shift to Brown and he made the most of it, finishing the season with per-game averages of 17.2 points and 5.3 rebounds. While Smart was out, Brown had to shoulder more of the point-guard duties and run the team. When he did, his individual production increased to 23.0 points and 3.7 assists. It was a pleasant surprise to see that he could run the show at the college level, though in the NBA he’ll undoubtedly be a shooting guard.
HIS STRENGTHS: Athletically, Brown is second to none in this draft. At the combine, he tied for the highest vertical leap at 43.5 inches. Translation? He can fly. He adds to that with a good wingspan for his size, measuring at 6-foot-7. Brown thrives in transition and can finish emphatically above the rim. But almost more importantly, in his four years at Oklahoma State he dramatically improved his jump shot. His field-goal percentage increased from 39 percent as a freshman to 47 percent as a senior. Over that same stretch, his 3-point percentage went from a paltry 26 to a solid 38.
HIS WEAKNESSES: The problem with Brown’s game is, he doesn’t maximize his athletic ability in the half court. His skill set is what limits his effectiveness. He's not a great ball handler, has no good go-to offensive moves, and can struggle to finish at the rim in traffic. According to Synergy Sports, last year only 28 percent of his shot attempts in the half court were at the rim. He was both unable to break guys down and too willing to settle for very difficult jump shots off the bounce. A wing player in the NBA has to be able to create his own shot and finish consistently. Brown couldn’t do that in college and there's no way that will change in the Association. In addition to his minimal offensive skill set, he’s undersized for a NBA shooting guard at just 6-3. We’ve only talked offense to this point; defensively, he has all the physical tools but lacks the desire to lock guys down. In college he would seem disinterested at times, or wouldn't seem to make the necessary effort to get stops consistently. If he commits himself, defense could turn into a strength at the next level. But many great defenders are born with a specific mentality that “I will not get beat." It's difficult to manufacture that in any player.
IS HE A FIT FOR THE CELTICS? The Celtics are in desperate need of a great wing scorer. Unfortunately, Markel Brown is not that guy. Marcus Smart has overshadowed Brown in college and he will do so again in this draft: Smart will be a lottery pick while Brown most likely will be a second-round guy. But if he can find the right fit, Brown could brand himself as a defensive stopper that can make a jumper and may have a solid NBA career.
COMING ON THURSDAY: P.J. Hairston, formerly of North Carolina