The Boston Celtics appear to have overcome their recent cold stretch, as they have been dominating their opponents as of late. After a crushing last-second loss to the Utah Jazz, Boston has responded by beating the Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs by at least 23 points each. And at the center of this run has been Jaylen Brown and his continued strong play.
Brown has been on fire for Boston in the second-half of the season, and you can make an argument that he has been better than Jayson Tatum during this stretch. Brown is in such a groove offensively, no matter who else is on the floor with him, that it raises the Celtics ceiling exponentially. If it wasn’t clear entering the season, Brown is one of the best players in the league.
The strong play of Brown is extremely encouraging for the C’s right now, but down the line, it could raise some issues, particularly as rumors of a Brown trade begin to pop up again. Questions have lingered about whether or not Brown could be ‘the guy’ to lead his own team rather than pairing up with Tatum. Brown has been answering that question with a resounding “yes” all season long, but that could end up being very bad news for Boston’s future.
How Jaylen Brown’s continued improvement could burn the Celtics
Boston still has seven games to play on the season, but this has already easily been the best season of Jaylen Brown’s career. His per game numbers are spectacular (27 PPG, 7 RPG, 3.4 APG, 49.4 FG%, 34.3 3P%) with his scoring and rebounding numbers making notable leaps this season. Brown has been an All-Star caliber player before, but he’s turning himself into an All-NBA player now.
Ever since the All-Star break, Brown has been on another level offensively for the Celtics (28.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.9 APG, 51.4 FG%, 38.8 3P%). This stretch was culminated with a dominant performance against the Spurs on Sunday night (41 PTS, 13 REB, 3 AST, 18-29 FGM) in which no one else on the court was even close to the level that Brown was playing at.
Further highlighting Brown’s hot streak has been a cold stretch for his partner-in-crime in Tatum. Since the All-Star break, Tatum hasn’t looked particularly good on offense (28.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 5.2 APG, 44.4 FG%, 29,4 3P%) which is rather concerning. Tatum is a better rebounder and passer than Brown, but right now, nobody is slowing down Brown when it comes to scoring the ball.
The main question surrounding Brown has always been whether or not he could be the best player on a top team. For the most part, he’s never been the best player on the court for Boston, as he’s played behind the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, and now Tatum. With Tatum, it’s always been more of a 1A and 1B pairing, but Brown has typically been the second option behind Tatum.
But as of late, Brown has been the superior player to Tatum. Leading the Celtics to a thrashing of the Spurs isn’t exactly a career-defining accomplishment, but Brown has outperformed Tatum for much of the second-half of the season, and is now showing that he can in fact lead an offense by himself when he has to.
It’s a complicated dynamic, because on the surface, this is a win for Boston. With Brown playing at a superstar level, it just makes Boston even more difficult to beat. But it also increases the stakes for the C’s to win a title this season, because Brown’s future with the team is murky at best, and if they can’t win it all this season, there may be an incentive for Brown to try to find a new home.
Brown has one more year left on his current contract, and while every Celtics fan will want the front office to extend him this upcoming offseason, it makes no sense for Brown to sign a new deal until after the 2023-24 season in order to maximize his value. He doesn’t seem closed off to staying in Boston, but his latest comments on his future with the Celtics seems to indicate he’s not set on sticking around either.
And realistically speaking, can you fault Brown for that mentality? He’s proving to everyone, including himself really, that he can score at will on offense when he’s the top option. He’s still taking 20 shots a night even while playing alongside Tatum, but he’s always going to be seen as the 1B to Tatum’s 1A unfortunately. And if he wants that to change, a move in the future could be in store for Brown.
Most of the commotion surrounding Jaylen Brown as of late has been overblown, but that doesn’t mean the same will be true in the future. Brown’s improvement could be a double-edged sword, as it could put the Celtics into a spot where they cannot win. It’s not worth worrying about now, but Boston has a lot of pressure to win a title already, and Brown’s latest strides may only add to their need to win it all this season.
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