BOSTON – After a solid rookie season, Jaylen Brown’s second season was even better.
He was a starter in all 70 games he played, improving his numbers statistically in just about every category while delivering more than his share of highlights.
Now on the eve of season third season, Brown’s commitment to improving his body and thus his overall game remains alive and well.
But Brown’s strong showing was in part aided by him making the most of his chance to play more minutes following the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward in Boston’s opener at Cleveland.
With Hayward expected back in time for training camp, a number of players – Brown included – are likely to see a dip in their time on the floor this season.
But what does that mean for Brown’s impact?
Here are five reasons why even if Brown plays fewer minutes, his ability to impact games will be as good – or even greater – than it was this past season.
At 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, Brown spent a good chunk of last season splitting time defensively between shooting guards and small forwards. Regardless of the matchup, Brown had a strong season defensively for the Celtics and was one of the more under-the-radar stars for Boston’s top-ranked defense. He had a defensive rating of 100.3 which was second on the Celtics’ roster among players who appeared in as many games (Aron Baynes appeared in 81 games and had a league-best 97.0 defensive rating). But as good as Brown was defensively, there was room for improvement. With what appears to be added bulk this summer combined with being more experienced, Brown’s impact defensively should be even greater.
During a twitter exchange, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joked with Brown about hoping his ball-handling improves. With Kyrie Irving, Terry Rozier, the emergence of Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart, Brown doesn’t get many chances to showcase his ball-handling skills. But the numbers suggest (he averaged 1.6 assists along with 1.8 turnovers per game) this is an area he needs to get better at. In addition, better ball-handling will allow him to get to the rim more frequently (he shot 57.3 percent in the restricted paint area last season) and could result in teams giving him more space on the perimeter for fear he would beat them off the dribble. Brown shot 39.5 percent from 3-point range last year, doing most of his damage from the corner and above the break where he shot 43.3 and 37.5 percent, respectively.
With Boston having the ability to play position-less basketball seemingly every possession if they wanted to, Brad Stevens will have some games akin to last season when the starting lineup was dependent upon certain matchups rather than having a set-in-stone starting five. So, it should not come as a surprise if there are some games in which Brown comes off the bench for Boston.
FINDING MORE WAYS TO SCORE
While Jaylen Brown’s scoring might take a dip, that doesn’t mean he should take a step back or stand pat when it comes to how he goes about getting his points. He averaged 14.5 points per game last season for the Celtics which was second only to Kyrie Irving (24.4). But the bulk of his points came from the restricted paint area (37.2 percent) and corner/above-the-break 3’s (11.9). Showcasing the ability to score more on mid-range shots and in the paint but outside of the restricted area, would make him an even tougher cover for defenses.
As much Brown seems to like attacking the rim, you wouldn’t know it by the way he has shot the ball from the free throw line. Last season, Brown was second only to Kyrie Irving (4.4 attempts per game) among Celtics when it came to free throws taken (3.3) per game. But in connecting on just 64.4 percent of his free throws last season, he ranked dead-last on the squad in free throw percentage among players who averaged at least 25 minutes of court time per game.