Jaylen Brown’s early shooting numbers were totally unsustainable. Should he adjust his play style now that he’s regressed to the mean? According to Jaylen, the coaching staff challenged him to shift some of his midrange attempts to three-point attempts.
Jaylen Brown said the Celtics have challenged him to shoot fewer midrange jumpers and to find more 3s and layups. Even though he’s good from the midrange, the coaches think it will help the team.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) March 23, 2021
Why now? Is this an over-correction for Tatum’s troublesome midrange shots from a couple years ago? If it is, why did those shots come back? Does this contradict Stevens’ past comments on making the most of a player's strengths even if there’s a cost? I don’t know how many of these things I can answer, but here’s a fantastic passage from an SB Nation article I found from 2018 that gets to the root of what I’m talking about:
The only reason Stevens even brought up his own shortcomings as a player was in order to praise Smart, the energetic — and let’s say streaky — Celtics guard. The coach tells his players to let it fly and that green light extends from Al Horford — who rarely makes a wrong decision — all the way down to Smart, who is statistically one of the worst shooters in the league.
To Stevens’ way of thinking, Smart has earned that right because he does so many other things that help you win, from battling big bodies in the post to diving on the floor for loose balls. He’s not going to mess with that kind of hell-bent confidence over something as pedestrian as shot selection.
And it’s not like Smart takes bad shots. Some might be described as ambitious, but most are in the rhythm of the game. In order to win, Stevens needs Smart to be Smart and that involves a wide range of latitude.
“We have to be that way and I want to be that way,” Stevens says. “It’s a fine line. You can’t do a bunch of stuff as a player that aren’t your strengths. At the same time you also need to know that you’re believed in when the moment arrives.”
I love everything behind Brad’s philosophy here. I’d even take it a step further; Marcus Smart has the green light to shoot because he does so much else to positively impact the game that it’ll easily offset his streaky shooting. In addition, he’s able to impact the game in that way because the team has faith in him to shoot. Brad trusts Marcus to play as the best version of himself, and Marcus buys into the system because the coach trusts him.
Of course, I’ve loudly taken one exception to this, which is Jayson Tatum’s tendency to hunt for contested two-point shots. No basketball player has any business passing up open shots to make sure to take one that’s challenged by a defender instead. Tatum’s adjustment was a major reason he made All-NBA last year, so I’d say my concerns were justified. Otherwise, I’d rather players play the game in the way that makes most sense to them. It's ultimately Brad's job as their coach to make it all fit together.
Jaylen on being asked to take more 3-pointers/get to the rim: "I believe in our coaching staff, and I believe in what they put in front of me. ...The midrange shot is a comfortable shot for me, but I want to do what's best for our team."— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) March 23, 2021
If Jaylen and the coaching staff are on the same page, then so be it, but this is entirely different than dealing with Tatum’s shot selection because Jaylen was knocking midrangers down at an absurd rate before knee issues and some expected regression. Still, I can’t remember a time where Brad tried to pry someone away from their signature shot, or at least a time where we knew about it.
Again, from the quote above:
He’s not going to mess with that kind of hell-bent confidence over something as pedestrian as shot selection.
The irony of how much I love this quote and how I treat shot selection as anything but “pedestrian” is not lost on me, but the point is the “hell-bent confidence." Jaylen has that. Most basketball players, despite their bravado, do not. I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of reigning his shot selection in after learning everything I know about Brad Stevens’ philosophy of coaching.
Sure, I think the Celtics should shoot tons of three pointers. Ideally, they would have players at every position who can do so. The math behind the shot is self-explanatory and modern NBA rules favor the shooters so much that you’d be insane to not take advantage of them. But in the past, Brad’s coaching typically didn’t run parallel with these new trends if it compromised player individuality. Boston’s schemes always catered to the roster they had, which is why they've overachieved on a yearly basis. If Boston’s current roster only has six or seven solid NBA players, then this is the perfect time to think outside the box again. If that means Jaylen working fifteen feet away from the basket, so be it.
For example, I want more Grant Williams post ups. Yeah, I said it. Every article is a Grant article. I’d even like to see more of Javonte Green’s haphazard running floaters. Let Robert Williams fling more line drives from midrange until he starts taking threes. Let Marcus Smart play in the paint on both ends! More broadly, I hope every Celtics is afforded the same freedom as past rosters and Brad Stevens can re-discover the magic that carried them in the playoffs. Isolation offense is good, but team chemistry trumps everything.