Maybe Troy Brown can thank Dana Altman for a coaching assist that helped him find his new home in the NBA.
During his pre-draft visit with the Washington Wizards, Brown was asked to diagram a play for a last-second shot. Oregon’s first one-and-done freshman put on his coaching hat, grabbed the white board and drew up a play that must have impressed the Wizards’ brass.
“It was like a back screen into a slip screen, then a fade screen for a three,” Brown said. “It gave lots of various options, caused mismatches on the court for a last-second shot.”
The Wizards were impressed enough to select Brown with the No. 15 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, making him the first Duck drafted in the first round since Aaron Brooks in 2007.
Brown was in Washington on June 11 for a workout and said he came away believing the Wizards would be a good fit. He tried to keep his expectations in check, though, and went into the draft with no clear idea of where he would go.
“With this draft and everything going on, everything was unpredictable,” Brown said on a conference call with reporters. “I tried to have no expectations going into it, but at the same time, it was great to hear that the Wizards called my name.”
Brown’s goal in pre-draft workouts was to answer questions that arose during his freshman season, when he shot just 29.1 percent from three-point range and committed a team-high 86 turnovers. His stock climbed steadily in the lead-up to the draft as he showed the skills that made him a five-star prospect and a McDonald’s All-American in high school.
“Going into the workouts, I don’t think a lot of people expected a lot out of me because of the season I had,” Brown said after his workout in Washington. “I felt like a lot of teams had lower expectations for me as a player. I know who I am as a player and what I can do on the court.”
Brown describes that as a little bit of everything, including the ability to play point guard at 6-foot-7. His versatility was a selling point for the Wizards, who say he fits the league-wide trend toward position-less basketball.
“He really understands the game,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “I think for a kid that’s 18 years old, that’s rare. He just has a good feel.
“The way the league is going, you have to be able to guard multiple positions, and he can do that.”
Brown isn’t filling an immediate need for the Wizards, who return point guard John Wall, shooting guard Bradley Beal and wings Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter from a team that went 43-39 and earned the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. In Washington, Brown will have the luxury of developing his game without the pressure of needing to be a front-line player right away.
“I understand coming in as a rookie, I’m not going to have the biggest role, but I understand what I’ve got to do to get on the floor and (earn) my opportunities,” Brown said. “Now I’ve got to make the most out of them.”
Brown, who’d been projected anywhere from pick No. 13 to pick No. 25, wasn’t among the players invited to attend the draft ceremonies in New York. He watched instead with his family in Las Vegas, which was fine with him.
“After God my family is my number one priority,” Brown said. “They’ve always had my back and always supported me. I just thank God that I’ve been put in this position and have them to share this moment with me.”
Brown is Oregon’s highest-drafted player since Luke Jackson was picked 10th by Cavaliers in 2004. He’s the sixth Duck drafted during the Altman era, with the previous five — Arsalan Kazemi, Joseph Young, Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey — going in the second round.
“It was a lifelong dream to make it to the NBA,” Brown said. “You work so hard to make that dream come true.
“To finally hear my name, especially with a team I felt like I hit it off with in the workout and the interview, I was very excited.”