Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown was officially named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team, highlighted as one of the league’s highest-performing first-year players. Brown found relatively regular minutes on a team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, an impressive feat for a player his age, but he could not carve out the minutes to post similar statistical seasons to many of his peers.
Jaylen Brown named the the NBA All-Rookie Second team, behind Saric and the Knicks' Willy Hernangomez. pic.twitter.com/0KErqVPWot— Jared Weiss (@JaredWeissNBA) June 26, 2017
Philadelphia’s Dario Saric and New York’s Willy Hernangomez edged Brown out for spots on the First Team. Those players deserved the nods they got. Their level of production outpaced that of Brown, though neither flashed the type of potential he did, and ultimately that should be taken into account when reacting to these awards.
These accolades are intended to reward individual rookie seasons, not to project who will be the best players in 3-5 years. The process is a somewhat rote and unnecessary one. Single rookie seasons rarely benefit a team in a truly meaningful way, and in cases where they do (much like Brown’s) they typically aren’t complemented by the requisite level of statistical output needed to lock up a top spot.
The NBA faces the same challenges in awarding the Rookie of the Year trophy, a race that Brown is all but officially out of with this announcement. Awarding a player for having the best year of a bunch of (typically) sub-par years is counter-intuitive, but it’s also tradition.
That’s not to say this is all totally inconsequential. It is never a bad thing for a player’s hard work to be affirmed. Breaking into the NBA is tough, and there isn’t anything wrong with acknowledging those that do so with the greatest success. What’s nonsensical about it is that, excluding late-career ring- and paycheck-chasing, it will likely be the worst season any of these players have. It’s a celebration of their present mediocrity, and not their future excellence.
The dissonance comes in the fact that rookies are interesting because of their potential, not because of what they are today. In that sense, there is likely no more intriguing player from this rookie class than Brown (Joel Embiid might trump Brown’s level of intrigue if healthy, but that’s a major question mark). Celtics fans should take solace in that.
It’s easy to have watched Brown grow over the course of the year—to see him work through spells of poor decision making, improve a questionable jump shot, and use his athleticism to compete against the best player in the world in the Eastern Conference Finals—and think he deserves to be mentioned as one of the five “best” rookies in the league. That perspective is framed by what could be though, and that is not what these awards are ultimately about.