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Forsberg's Focus: Where can Jaylen step up his game next season?

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* Each weekday for the rest of October, our Chris Forsberg will put a member of the 2019-20 Celtics under the microscope, assessing their season and what the future holds for that player.

-10.2

That’s the difference between what Jaylen Brown’s defensive assignments shot during the playoffs (35 percent) and their expected field goal percentage on those shots (45.2 percent), per the NBA’s defensive tracking data. It was the highest differential among the 79 players players who defended at least 6 shot attempts while playing at least five playoff games this postseason.

Only the Oklahoma City tandem of Dennis Schroder (34.6 percent) and Lu Dortz (34.9) held opponents to lower shooting percentages. And when you consider that Brown’s top defensive assignments included the likes of Pascal Siakam, Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro, Al Horford, and Bam Adebayo, his ability to post such a low number is all the more impressive.

What went right for Brown in 2020

True to his pledge to use the 2019-20 season as a blank canvas, Brown showcased a whole bunch of new tricks — or at least ones that had been masked during a maddening 2018-19 campaign. He displayed tighter handle, better court vision, rebounded more frequently, and shot better at the free-throw line. In the playoffs, he might have been Boston’s most consistent two-way player.

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Whatever ceiling most perceived for Brown, the 23-year-old pushed it skyward while asserting himself as a soon-to-be All-Star. The conversation around the rookie extension he inked at the start of the year quickly morphed from, ‘Why did Danny Ainge pay so much?’ to ’Ainge got himself quite a bargain.’ Amid all this, he was one of the loudest voices in the quest for social justice and used the bubble platform to spotlight racial inequalities.

 

What went wrong for Brown in 2020

There’s areas to nitpick, like how Brown didn’t finish nearly as many shots around the rim as in past seasons and needs to get to the free-throw line more consistently. The defensive numbers we spotlighted above were glitzy, but Brown still had the propensity to lose a shooter with occasional lapses in defensive focus.

The Celtics, strangely, had a net rating of plus-11.8 in the 159 minutes he was on the bench in the postseason. 

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Early outlook for Brown for 2021

For most of the year, us talking heads spoke about Brown as a third or fourth option given Boston’s collection of talent. The postseason showed that Brown and Jayson Tatum might just be Boston’s Batman and Robin for the long-term future, at least depending on the health of Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward.

Brown was knocking on the All-Star door last year and should get heavy consideration this year, even in an improved East. The real curiosity is what he’ll add to his toolbox this offseason in his relentless quest to improve.