• James O'Reilly

Jaylen Brown’s Meteoric Rise

Questions were raised when the Boston Celtics signed Jaylen Brown to the extension that they did.

Ahead of the 2019-20 season, Boston announced that they had signed Jaylen Brown to a four-year, $115 million extension. The move was considered a surprising one at the time. Picked 3rd overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, Brown had established himself as a solid NBA player. His frame had always allowed him to have a particular presence on the defensive side of the floor, but his offence didn’t particularly justify his contract.

Brown had taken a step back in his third season, the 2018-19 NBA season, his averages declining from those of his sophomore year. Moving from averaging 14.5 to 13 points per game, whilst too suffering declines in rebounds, assists and steals, it was evident that the Celtics were paying their guard for his potential. In Brown’s defence, he was playing alongside Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford, with Marcus Morris too averaging higher points per game in the 2018-19 season. Brown had been efficient in his limited scoring, averaging nearly 55% on true shooting, but did this, coupled with his defence, merit over $28 million per year?

The 2019 off-season saw a reshuffle in Boston. Kyrie departed for the Brooklyn Nets and in his place came Kemba Walker, a seasoned NBA veteran. Walker would provide an innate leadership for his young side, as well as improve the chemistry that had seemingly been so damaged by Kyrie.

As the 2019-20 season progressed, it was clear that Brown was making the correct steps in order to realise his potential. The departure of Kyrie, as well as Horford’s move to the 76ers, meant that Jaylen Brown received a higher role in Brad Stevens’ system. Although his usage rate only improved by 2.6, going from 22.1 in 2018/19 to 24.7 in 2019/20, the significance of Irving and Horford’s departure was clear. The Celtics seemed more unionised as a team, going from a 49-33 record to a 48-24 one (at the time of the season’s suspension).

The improvement was in no small part due to Brown’s improved contributions. As afore mentioned, Brown had always been a solid contributor on the defensive side of the ball, but he finished the 2019-20 season with career highs in per game numbers, averaging 20.3 points, 2.1 assists and 6.4 rebounds. Brown too saw improvements in efficiency, completing a season that went a long way in justifying his contract.

Brown had improved and it was clear he would continue to improve, but to what extent was, at the time, a valid argument. Of course, Brown was a young NBA player and still is, being 24 at the beginning of the 2020-21 season. 20 points per game wasn’t a superstar, or at least, all-star average however, and it is perhaps this that was the focal point of criticism for the Boston guard, regardless of other contributions.

The start of the 2020-21 season has been a mixed bag for the Celtics. Standing at 13-13 after their opening 26 games, there have been questions over Kemba’s longevity in the side as well as general questions surrounding their franchise, given their current form. One thing that has been put far from the realms of doubt, however, is Jaylen Brown.

Brown came into the season hot, showing a somewhat elongated flash of the potential many hoped he would reach one day. The key aspect of such is that people assumed that Brown’s hot streak would eventual cool, with Brown soon returning to normality. The ‘hot streak’, however, seems to just be sheer improvement on Brown’s part. Now the undisputed secondary option behind Jayson Tatum, Brown has skyrocketed this year, his first 26 games returning per game averages of 26 points per game, almost 3.5 assists, and 1.3 steals.

Brown’s rebounds have declined slightly, but with the introduction of Tristan Thompson to Boston, that could no doubt have been expected. Brown is currently averaging 60% in true shooting, something that emphasises his growth and value immensely. Brown has completely embraced his role as the second option and, with each passing game, Boston’s faith in their then 13 point per game scorer has never seemed so invaluable.

Boston are a side contending for the playoffs, but are perhaps capped at a certain ceiling for a multitude of reasons. With a duo of Brown and Tatum however, two young, exciting players, both locked down to long term contracts who are essentially locks for the All-Star game, (this season and for years to come), the future can surely only be great for the Boston Celtics.

Written by James O'Reilly


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