Jaylen Brown has never had a problem with athleticism. He entered the NBA as a tantalizing blend of raw quick twitch muscle, leaping ability, and strength. A loose handle and a paucity of touch limited Brown’s ability to fully leverage his lightning quick first step and explosiveness headed towards the basket in his first several years in the league.
Brown made just 58 percent of his shots at the rim in his first two seasons with the Boston Celtics, per Cleaning the Glass, ranking him in the 42nd and 33rd percentile league-wide in consecutive campaigns, but Boston’s precocious young wing has built out his game over the last four years. Brown now has a deep bag of dribble moves and finishes deftly with both hands.
He ended the current season shooting a robust 71 percent at the rim, jumping him up into the 82nd percentile as compared to his positional peers. He’s been even better in the Celtics’ first-round matchup with the Brooklyn Nets.
Brown has made 76 percent of his shots by the basket against Brooklyn, despite the fact that he’s drastically increased the total percentage of his shots coming near the hoop from 30 percent to 42 percent, per Cleaning the Glass.
The Nets have no good solutions.
The best route to keeping Brown from scoring in the paint is to keep him from getting there in the first place. The Nets don’t have anyone with the right blend of size and speed to have much hope in that regard. Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Goran Dragic, and Patty Mills all might as well be traffic cones.
The one player who might stand a chance, Bruce Brown, is frequently dealing with Jayson Tatum. That’s left Brown with plenty of time to feast at the basket, where Brooklyn’s bigs can offer only average protection at best. He’s slithered around outstretched hands with ease, and powered through contact when the Nets have risked putting their bodies in his way.
Brown’s 6.3 made field goals per game within five feet aren’t just the best of anyone in the series, but the third highest mark in the entire NBA Playoffs. He trails only Giannis Antetokounmpo (8.0) and Jimmy Butler (7.0).
Brown’s effectiveness at the basket has buoyed his overall efficiency despite a stretch of cold three-point shooting. He’s benefited significantly from Boston’s matchup and the attention that Tatum constantly draws, but that’s always been the vision of the duo. Tatum was born to be the leading scorer, while Brown ravages opponents’ less talented individual defenders with his athleticism, each generating oodles of efficient looks.
Both have made monumental improvements in their games to become the terrifying tandem they are today. Brown’s ability to score efficiently at the basket was a major milestone in that process, and it is paying massive dividends thus far this postseason.