Several weeks back I published an article where I inferred strongly that Jaylen Brown is likely to be better than Jimmy Butler. I also noted during the hype surrounding the trade deadline that Ainge would not deal Brown unless for some miraculous reason something on the table included the Cs getting either Westbrook or The Greek Freak.I still feel Jaylen Brown is highly likely to end up having a better career than Jimmy Butler, so naturally I ask why on Earth would Ainge deal him (PLUS a few others) for a guy that may have already peaked? That’s a conversation for another day.
What matters now is what happened to Brown’s play recently and which version of Jaylen Brown will The Green see suiting up in the playoffs.
Following the return of Avery Bradley, Jaylen slid into somewhat of a slump. That slumped gathered steam starting with the Minnesota game back on March 15th. Jaylen went five straight games getting less than 20 minutes on the floor and failed to score more than 6 points to include a goose egg in one of those games. A few days ago in the loss to Milwaukee, Jaylen only saw about 13 minutes of action and scored 3 points. Let’s not forget the likely biggest factor of them all: fatigue. There is no way to simulate the length and grind of a full NBA season.
In the Knick game on Sunday afternoon April 2nd, Coach Stevens yanked Jaylen about thirty seconds into the game for a missed assignment on offense. From my standpoint Coach Stevens yanks Brown from games (outside of normal minutes rotations) when he screws up an assignment on either end of the floor or appears to lack control on offense. Missed assignments and getting the bill stripped trying to do too much on offense are the most common triggers for a trip to the pine for Jaylen.
Jaylen is only 20 years old and a rookie. Of course he is going to make lots of mistakes. However, overall he is having an excellent season all things considered. Jaylen is shooting 34% from 3PT range. A robust 31. 4% of his FG attempts are from behind the arc so this is intentional and demanded by the coaches. This is a guy all of the Boston media “experts” whined “couldn’t shoot” on draft night. Here are his current 36 minute splits:
13. 9 Points, 6. 0 Rebounds, 1. 7 Assists
As the Celtics head into the postseason with perhaps the top seed in the Eastern Conference nobody can be sure of how Jaylen will perform. There are some very positive signs of late though. In his last two games Jaylen has gone 4/7 from 3PT land and averaged 14 points/game. He has also gotten some nice passes resulting in easy and at times highlight reel dunks. This is very encouraging on a few levels but most importantly for his confidence and momentum.
I think Jaylen will get into a little groove and overall have a fine postseason. His biggest challenge may be embracing the ability to remain focused in limited stints. Due to game circumstances one night he might get 25 minutes and another he might get 10.By all accounts the Cs are being cautious with Bradley so he will be around in April and May (and maybe June), so getting minutes is not easy with AB and JC healthy (presumably). The Celts need his athleticism, and crazy as it may sound, they need his 3PT shot and ability to slash and score. There will be playoff games where the Celts desperately need fast and efficient offensive punch off the bench from guys like Brown, Green, and Olynyk.
My optimism stems primarily from two things: being coachable and the lack of back to backs. I project that the time available for scouting and practicing for a specific team and situation will only help Jaylen in the playoffs. The added rest will help him recover from the long rookie year. Despite a lot of ups and downs Jaylen appears to be very coachable and very mentally capable of taking feedback and adapting. Hell, he seems to have developed his 3PT shot on the fly…during the season…as a rookie. Maybe we will see his best ball yet this postseason. I’m expecting it.