The Boston Celtics came up just two wins short of winning the 2022 NBA Finals. It was a painful end to an otherwise fantastic season.
They wouldn't have come close to that stage of the playoffs without the impressive performance of starting shooting guard Jaylen Brown.
Brown was the Celtics' best player in the Finals, averaging 23.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in six games against the Golden State Warriors. The 24-year-old star did his best to keep Boston's season alive in Game 6 with a 34-point outburst, but it ultimately wasn't enough to prevent the Warriors from winning the title.
Brown made great strides in his game last season, becoming a more complete player and a leader on and off the court. However, there are still many areas of his repertoire in need of improvement.
How can Brown take his skill set to an even higher level (or two)? We continue our player spotlight series by highlighting Brown's accomplishments -- and his areas of improvement.
Brown's 2021-22 stats
- Regular season: 23.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 47.3 percent FG, 35.8 percent 3PT (66 games)
- Postseason: 23.1 pgg, 6.9 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 47 percent FG, 37.3 percent 3PT (24 games)
Brown's contract situation
Brown is entering the third year of his four-year, $106 million contract that was signed in 2019. His base salary for 2022-23 is $26,669,643 and his salary cap hit is $28,741,071.
Brown is extension eligible this summer, but it makes better financial sense for him to wait because he could make more money closer to when his current deal expires in 2024.
What role will Brown play on the 2022-23 Celtics?
Jayson Tatum firmly established himself as the Celtics' No. 1 option with a tremendous 2021-22 season that resulted in an All-NBA first team selection. Brown complimented Tatum extremely well as Boston's No. 2 option.
We should expect Brown to continue filling that role for the foreseeable future. That doesn't mean Brown can't be the No. 1 in many games or take clutch shots late in the fourth quarter. He's shown on numerous occasions that he can hit big shots when it matters or when the C's are struggling.
Off the court, Brown proved quite valuable to the Celtics with his leadership and positivity, specifically during the November and December lows when Boston was outside of the playoff picture and really struggling. His unwavering faith and steadfast belief that this Celtics team could be special was a major catalyst in the remarkable second-half turnaround we all witnessed.
Brown's 2022-23 season will be a success if ...
... The Celtics win a title and Brown returns to All-Star status.
The Celtics finally broke through and reached the NBA Finals after losing in the Eastern Conference Finals three previous times in Brown's career. Now that the C's have experienced what the Finals are like and the heartbreak that comes from losing the series, there should be plenty of motivation for Brown to help Boston get back to that level and finish the job.
Ultimately, that's what the Celtics and Brown will be judged on. The bar has been set, and it's all about Banner 18.
That said, getting back to an All-Star level should be a goal for Brown. He made his first All-Star appearance in 2020-21 as a reserve and was not selected last season. Brown is talented enough to be on that level throughout his prime. Getting to a point where he's consistently a no-brainer All-Star selection should be something the versatile wing can achieve.
Biggest obstacles to Brown's success
Too often last season, and especially against physical teams such in the playoffs as the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat, Brown would drive to the basket and lose the ball as defenders reached in to disrupt his attack. Brown has to be stronger driving to the basket and not keep the ball down so low where opponents can swipe at it.
The 25-year-old guard is an explosive athlete and finishes really well when he gets to the basket. But there were too many times last season where he failed to get to the rim because defenders forced turnovers during his dribble or after he picked up the ball.
Brown had four or more turnovers in 10 of his 24 playoff games last season.
Fixing this issue will allow Brown to get more high-quality looks at the basket and probably more free throw attempts as well.
Projected stats, prediction for Brown's 2022-23 season
Projected stats: 25.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.3 spg, 48.9 percent FG, 39.3 percent 3PT (74 games)
There's no doubt Brown can take his production to a higher level. He's been knocking on the door of 25 points per game for the last two seasons, and unless injuries are a huge factor for him, he could easily hit that mark next season. An uptick in 3-point shooting percentage would play a huge part in reaching the 25 points per game level. Brown's 3-point shooting dipped to 35.8 percent last season -- his worst rate since 2018-19. Getting that number back into the 38-40 percent range would be huge for Boston's offensive output.
One area where Brown can develop more is as a playmaker. His ability to beat opponents off the dribble with his athleticism should create plenty of opportunities to kick the ball out to the perimeter for open 3-point shots. Making your teammates better is a hallmark of every top-tier star.