Many players on the Celtics were in the media spotlight this offseason. The main focus was on the new big three: Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford. Everyone wanted to see how well they would play together. There was also a lot of interest in the new third overall pick, Jason Tatum. People wanted to know how the rookie would adjust to the NBA. In the first game against the Cavaliers, Paul Pierce even made the bold comparison between Tatum and himself. “When I’m watching [Tatum], he looks like a mature version of my game, like sixth, seventh, eighth year," Pierce told NBC Sports Boston. With all of the talk surrounding these Celtics players, one player flew under the radar: Jaylen Brown.
After being selected third overall in last year’s NBA draft, Jaylen Brown was not very well known among NBA fans. After completing just one year at the University of California, the one thing people knew about Brown was that he is super athletic. But just because someone is athletic, does not mean that the player’s skill set will be adaptable to the bigger, more athletic players in the NBA. Jaylen Brown was not on national television very often in college. But at only 19-years-old, he averaged an impressive 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. With high expectations associated with a third overall pick, Brown was going to have to impress Celtics fans from the beginning.
Last season with the Celtics, Brown showed glimpses of his potential star status. Averaging just over 17 minutes per game, Brown scored 6.6 points, grabbed 2.8 rebounds, and shot 34 percent from three-point range. Although those numbers do not jump off the page, Brown became more assertive as the season developed, earning more minutes, and became a real contributor to the team during the playoffs. As the season progressed, we saw Brown hit corner three’s more consistently as well as attack the paint at will. That great athleticism we heard about from college was on full display as well. We witnessed some highlight level dunks, something the Celtics lacked on the team as a whole.
Brown left his mark in Game two of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. In that game, Brown showed his superstar potential, scoring 19 points, shooting 7-for-11 from the field, and playing with great confidence. People started to realize that this kid is a prized commodity and a key to the future of the Celtics.
Now fast forward to game one of the 2017 season. As we all have heard and seen a million times, Gordon Hayward dislocated and fractured his right tibia just five minutes into the opener. Reports have said that he could be out for the year.
It was devastating.
But with Hayward going down, other Celtics players were going to get more minutes and opportunities to score. One of those players was Jaylen Brown.
This season, Jaylen Brown is averaging 15.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. He is also second on the team in scoring and in minutes, behind just Kyrie Irving in both categories. Although Brown has been inconsistent offensively, scoring 25 points against the Cavaliers and just six points against the Heat, he has had many moments in games where he looks like a star in the making.
After having back to back poor shooting performances, Brown had a big bounce-back game in last night’s win against the Spurs, scoring 18 points (6-from-11) and getting back to attacking in transition opportunities.
The big difference for Jaylen Brown this year is his confidence. It is difficult to know if he would be this aggressive if Gordon Hayward were on the court. Regardless, he is attacking the hoop whenever he has the basketball and is scoring with authority.
In a postgame interview during a Celtics Broadcast on NBC Sports Boston, Brown proclaimed that he “can get to the basket like no other.” As a rookie, Brown was quiet and more passive on and off the court. He only took 5.4 shot attempts per game, and he picked his spots to drive and attack. This season, he is averaging around 13 shots per game and is attacking the hoop relentlessly.
For Brown to be this aggressive and confident in just his second season at only age 21, you have to be thrilled if you are a Celtics fan.
In addition to attacking the hoop, Brown looks more comfortable shooting from the outside. When he has the opportunity to shoot the three, Brown is hesitating less than he did last season. He is ready to catch and shoot and is making quicker decisions.
In addition, last season, Brown seemed to shoot more of his threes from the corner. But this year, in addition to the corner, Brown is shooting from all around the arc.
Here is a prime example of Jaylen Brown shooting decisively from the top of the key and confidently draining a three.
In addition to his shooting, Brown has also shown the ability to post up and score at a high rate. Last season, he was good in the post, scoring 48.8 percent of the time. But this year, he is scoring astonishingly 80% of the time while in the post, according to Synergy.
When Brown enters the post, he is making sharp, explosive moves to the hoop. At 6 feet 7 inches, Brown is recognizing that he will be able to post up most shooting guards in the NBA.
Here is a great post move against the Knicks.
It is important to realize that the season is early, and his shooting percentages and statistics will change; it is a small sample size. But what is clear at this moment is that Jaylen Brown will be a force this season, and most likely an all-star for years to come.
As Stephen A. Smith best put it on ESPN First Take, “Jaylen Brown is coming.”
NBA watch out.