What Larry Brown thinks about the NBA futures of Jalen Duren, Josh Minott and Lester Quinones
“’Coach, how can I be a top draft pick?’”
It was one of the first things Jalen Duren ever said to Larry Brown. Not long after both arrived in Memphis last summer, Duren and Brown were riding in a car together with Tigers recruiting coordinator Jeremy Kipness when the Tigers’ new 6-foot-10, 18-year-old eventual AAC Freshman of the Year’s ambitious side surfaced.
“I said, ‘Listen to Penny (Hardaway), be open to learn and outwork everybody,’” Brown, a Hall of Famer and the eighth-winningest coach in NBA history, who was an assistant coach at Memphis last season, told The Commercial Appeal last week. “If you do those things, something good will happen.’”
Less than a year later, Duren was chosen with the 13th overall pick and is now part of a young core of Detroit Pistons that also includes Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey. Duren is part of a trio of former Tigers who made the leap to the NBA this offseason. Fellow one-and-done player Josh Minott landed with the Minnesota Timberwolves after being taken in the second round at No. 45, and upperclassman Lester Quinones recently signed a two-way contract with the Golden State Warriors.
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Duren, Minott and Quinones have each spent the past two-plus weeks at the NBA’s Summer League, showcasing the skills largely responsible for getting them this far. Duren averaged double figures in points (11.3) and hit on 65% of his field goals. Minott, who scored 12.2 points per game, went viral last week when he put the Bucks’ Dewan Hernandez on a poster – then reportedly signed a four-year, $6.8 million contract on Saturday. Quinones averaged 9.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and one steal on 35.7% shooting from 3-point range in three games at the pre-Summer League California Classic.
Larry Brown: Pistons are ‘perfect fit’ for Jalen Duren
Brown, 81, just as he does every year, paid especially close attention to how his pupils take to the next level and navigate their ways through the professional landscape. Take Duren, for starters. It was never a matter of if or when – only where. Brown, who won a championship with the Pistons in 2004, knew before most did that Detroit’s top brass was keenly interested in Duren.
“I’m real close to George David (the Pistons’ assistant general manager). They came numerous times to watch Jalen,' Brown said. "I’m pretty confident that’s the perfect fit for him.”
Reason being, primarily, Brown said, is the presence of Cunningham and Ivey.
“Every time I spoke to George before and since (the draft), (the Pistons) realize he has a learning curve,” said Brown. “They’re not worried about the fact that he’s so young. When you consider he’s going to be surrounded by Cade – who I’m real close to because I coached his brother (Cannen, at SMU) – and Ivey, just to name two guys. They can really pass the ball and are really unselfish. That’s certainly going to help (Duren) as a big man.”
Josh Minott: ‘I’m only gonna be here a year, coach’
Brown, in the most favorable way possible, refers to Minott’s as a “really unique story.”
Relatively underrecruited out of Boca Raton, Fla., the springy, 6-8, quick-twitch, two-way wing flashed early and often with the Tigers. Minott stamped his arrival by winning the dunk contest at Memphis Madness, then relentlessly pushing for more playing time, overcoming inexperience with a blend of high-level instinctiveness and freakish athleticism.
Minott still managed just 6.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per game. But he stayed undeterred.
“When he came (to Memphis), he told Penny, ‘I’m only gonna be here a year, coach,’” Brown said. “He had it in his mind from Day 1 that he would be in the NBA, one-and-done. He’s so bright and so confident. I can’t tell you how many (NBA) people called me about him, and everybody had the same feeling that he’s a young colt who will continue to get better and better.”
‘Nobody works harder than’ Lester Quinones
It worried him when news of Quinones’ decision to leave Memphis broke, Brown confesses. If, for no other reason, than how deep the talent pool has become for a draft that has just two rounds.
“You look at how many good players don’t get drafted and you just scratch your head sometimes,” said Brown.
But then, he looks at this season’s NBA Finals teams – the Boston Celtics and champion Golden State Warriors – and it hits him that there were eight undrafted players between the two playoff rosters. It helps ease any concerns about Quinones’ future.
What also helps is both Quinones’ makeup and that of the organization of which he is now a part.
“Nobody works harder than him,” said Brown. “He can really shoot the ball and is a high-level defender, and enough people saw what he could do. Also, going to Golden State is unbelievable for him. If you look at their roster, they develop a lot of guys like Lester (who scored 13 points in the Warriors' Summer League finale Sunday). The fact that he has a two-way takes a lot of pressure off him.
“I think if Lester just continues to work hard and listen, it’s gonna be a really good story.”
Reach sports writer Jason Munz at email@example.com or on Twitter @munzly.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Larry Brown's thoughts on Jalen Duren, Josh Minott and Lester Quinones