He can’t be a primary option.
He can’t play with Jayson Tatum.
He needs to be traded.
He’s not even an All-Star.
Jaylen Brown has had it rough over the past few months, as the media and fanbase began to question his fit on the Celtics roster, and his ability to be part of a contending team. Brown isn’t one to bark back at guys in press conferences, or call somebody out on Twitter - he seems more reserved than that.
But judging by his current level of play, he’s out to prove the haters wrong.
Just eighteen months ago, we were discussing if the Celtics’ hierarchy was a “1A and 1B” type of thing, and it would seem we were closer to the mark back then, rather than the third option narrative that was forming while Jayson Tatum was out with COVID.
A 31-point outing against the Detroit Pistons was just another reminder that Brown is still one of Boston’s premiere sporting talents.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how lucky we are as fans. The number of players that can curl around the perimeter, catch the rock while still squaring up to the basket, and hit the three despite the close-out consistently, is small. That wasn’t something he could do coming out of Cal. It’s something he’s developed.
In fact, Brown has become rather adept at peeling off screens and firing off the catch, so much so that 10% of his offense comes in this manner, and he’s averaging 1.13 points per possession. Now, every time we see him curl, we expect a high-quality shot, and recently, he’s been making good on our expectations.
“My ability on both sides of the ball speaks for itself. I’m not going to knock any of those other guys. Congratulations to them. I think it’s situational, to be honest, maybe some other things go into it that we don’t know about right now. For me, JT will hold it down for the both of us. It’s not that big of a deal. More important for us to continue to win games and get ready for the playoffs. Obviously, I think I deserve it, but that’s life,” Brown said when asked about missing out on an All-Star selection.
A shot like the one above, from that depth, as just the third bucket of a 12-for-21 night does seem like an All-Star moment. Ok, Brown’s been having lots of All-Star moments recently, but that’s a debate for another day.
Brown isn’t just a catch-and-shoot guy though, and labeling him as such would be doing him a terrible disservice. Another important part of his game is his ability to get to the rim. either off the dribble or driving off a catch. According to Instat’s tracking data, Brown is catch-and-driving 2.7 times per game this season, and the above clip shows you why.
The bucket isn’t the important part here, but rather, how well the Georgia native absorbs the contact from Isaiah “Beef Stew” Stewart and still remains poised enough to finish with a gentle touch off the backboard.
“(It was) a physical game. The refs let a lot of things go tonight and allowed them to play to their strengths and they took advantage. We’ve gotta meet these teams' physicality, and tonight was a challenge for us to do so,” Brown explained when asked about how Detroit dominated the physical component of their game.
Beyond the scoring, Brown also managed to notch six assists, an area of his game he’s been working hard to improve.
When Tatum was out in the league’s health and safety protocols, and Marcus Smart was missing games due to injury, a lot was said about Brown’s inability to orchestrate an offense. And while he still doesn’t project to be a leading point forward, there has been substantial growth in Brown’s playmaking and court-vision this season.
As soon as Brown curled off the Daniel Theis pin down, he was looking to hit the roll man. Luckily, Theis is rather mobile and spun away from his defender and into the lane as soon as Brown detached himself from his defender.
Smart pass makes light work. Just ask Theis.
If you’ve ever played NBA 2K, then you would know this is a forbidden pass, as it usually flies through the recipient's hands and into the stands. But this isn’t 2K, and without those algorithmic limitations, Al Horford was perfectly capable of securing the rock, finding his shooting pocket, and letting that shot fly.
It was a great pass in a high-pressure situation that put the Celtics up by one with just over 30 seconds remaining on the clock. That’s what star players do: make decisions in the heat of the moment and put their team in the best possible chance to succeed. Sure, a mid-range jumper from Brown, who is a 41% shooter from that area this season, is a perfectly acceptable shot, but Horford was open in the corner, and that was a better shot.
Brown might not be heading to the All-Star Game, but that’s mainly due to time missed, rather than poor performances. But for Boston, Brown’s absence could end up being a blessing in disguise, especially if their All-Star wing comes back for the remainder of the season with a chip on his shoulder.
Regardless of what the future holds, Brown was exceptional against the Pistons, just as he was against the Philadelphia 76ers the night before, and considering the struggles he’s had this year, he deserves the recognition currently coming his way.