Cal Basketball

Sky's The Limit For Jaylen Brown

June 12, 2020

Lebron James, Paul George, Kemba Walker, and Kris Middleton. What do these four players have in common with Jaylen Brown?

They’re the only members of top-5 NBA teams who were averaging 20+ points per game this season, but were not the top scorers on their team.

What’s the difference?

Brown has never been an All-Star. At 23 he’s also much younger. 28-year-old Middleton comes closest.


In Brown’s first three seasons with the Boston Celtics, his minutes were limited and he had to deal with competition from guys who played similar positions like Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, and Gordon Hayward. Given more minutes this past year, Brown had a career season, averaging career highs in points per game (20.4), assists (2.2), rebounds (6.4), steals (1.1), field goal percentage (49%), and free throw percentage (73.6%). He was also averaging above 38% from three. Starting in every game he played, Brown’s game improved immensely.

Brown has an assortment of characteristics to his game that points to a very positive trajectory in the NBA. One strength is shooting. Over his four years with the Celtics, he’s shot the three-ball at a career average of 37%, and during the 2019-20 season in Boston, he converted on an astounding 50% of shots 10-16 feet from the basket. Arguably just as impressive is that 44% of those shots came from assists, meaning that he’s had to create his own shots in the majority of those instances. Another strength is athleticism. At 6’7 and 223 pounds, he makes for an ideal wing who can shoot over defenders and dominate while slashing to the rim. He’s made a habit of shooting the three while in transition this past year and has been a great driver since his college days. 

His aptitude for shooting along with great athleticism are things that cannot be easily taught. Meanwhile, his weaknesses such as handling, passing, and court vision are attributes that improve as players gain experience, and there is evidence that they're already improving. Take the following play for example, where Brown fakes out 6’6 Rondae Hollis-Jefferson twice to get the open jump shot. In this play Brown takes advantage of his two biggest skills, shooting and driving. By taking advantage of the defender not allowing him to drive to rim, he fakes the drive twice to create space for the open jump shot. This play required elite handling and vision, and it shows just how lethal Brown can be in isolation. 

Taking a big jump from a down year in 2018, his 2019 numbers have shown to be similar to superstars when they were Brown’s age. Kawhi Leonard, for example, had not been an All-Star until he was 24, and when comparing Leonard at 23 to Brown this season, Brown actually has better offensive stats in every category except assists. Jimmy Butler is another superstar that had a similar beginning. Like Brown, 5-time All-Star Butler can play shooting guard or small forward, and he didn’t average 20+ points per game until he was 25, and that was on more minutes per game than Brown and lower percentage from the field. 

What’s important about Leonard and Butler is that they continued to improve incrementally, Butler having his best season at 27 and Leonard at his current age of 28. If Brown is looking at superstardom, he must continue to improve as well.

Celtics Owner Wyc Grousbeck

Brown doesn’t only show promise in his talent and athletic ability, but also in his character. Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told WBZ-TV reporter Dan Roche that Brown has tremendous leadership and maturity.

Via Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston:

“Since day one when I met Jaylen, back in (2015), it was so obvious that he’s just special – a special person with special character,” Grousbeck told Roche. “He has educated me, to be perfectly honest. I’ve spent time talking with him and a couple other players in-depth over the last few days because I’ve realized I have a lot to learn, that I thought I knew and I didn’t know, just to be honest.

“And so, I’ve spent time listening to Jaylen, talking to Jaylen, trying to learn from Jaylen to be perfectly honest. I didn’t know that I would have, really, but the whole situation is shocking and surprising and stunning and disappointing and all of that. Jaylen might be a way for us to sort of move forward. He is a very, very good person with a very good conscience.”

Brown has not only earned praise from the owner of the Celtics, but also from head coach Brad Stevens.

Via Jay King of The Athletic

“Jaylen’s greatest impact, as good as he is in basketball, won’t be in basketball. He’s a special guy, a special leader. He’s smart but he has courage. He’s got a lot of great stuff to him.”

Attributes of leadership, maturity, and intelligence are important when it comes to separating good players from great players in the NBA, and it’s good to see that Brown already possesses those important traits. They indicate that he can be a leader in the future. 

Brown has grown into a tremendous player this past year, showing exactly why he was granted a $115 million contract extension last summer. He’s a coveted player who would be a massive upgrade to any team in the league, and at just 23 years old his future is very, very bright.

USA Today Sports
Brown alongside All-Star teammate Jayson Tatum

Brown is in the perfect environment to succeed, playing alongside another blooming talent in Jayson Tatum and veteran star Kemba Walker. It will be exciting to see what he can do this summer in Orlando. Don’t be surprised if the Celtics make a run. Whether it’s championships, All-Star appearances, or even a place among the best, anything is possible for young Jaylen Brown. 

Tags: Basketball
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