Jaylen Brown, one of the Boston Celtics' rising stars, injured his left wrist in May. The injury caused him to miss the last seven games of the regular season and most of the playoffs. He has since then undergone successful surgery. According to Brad Stevens, he has been cleared for basketball activities and will be part of the Celtics’ training camp.
Before the injury that sidelined him, Jaylen Brown was averaging a career year in points, assists and FG%. He gained his first All-Star team selection and was poised to do even better in the playoffs. Despite the drastic improvements in his game that earned him an All-Star nod, there are still aspects of his game that could be improved on. Together with Jayson Tatum, a better Brown could make the Boston Celtics a legitimate threat to a stacked Eastern Conference.
As a top duo in the league, there is no reason why Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum can’t lead the Boston Celtics to challenge the best teams in the league like the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. An improved Brown and Tatum can mirror the success and potential of the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. More importantly, the budding Celtics’ stars are just about to enter the prime of their physical skills, so further development can go a long way in making the Celtics a title contender.
How Jaylen Brown can make the Boston Celtics a threat to come out of the East
#1 Brown has to refine his handles
The need for JB to improve his dribbling is well-documented. Since entering the NBA as a raw prospect for the Boston Celtics, he has worked on that part of the game that it has become a relative strength. He now has a tighter dribble with a lower stance compared to his past years. The result is a more confident player who is unafraid to mix it up in the lane. He increased his drive attempts from 8.5 the previous season to 10.5 last campaign. A more refined handle and confident Brown could see those numbers go up.
The better Jaylen Brown’s handles are the more chances he can create at the rim. Attacking the rim could also increase his free throw attempts per game. His 4.3 FTA last year was just not good enough for someone of his skill and athleticism. An increase of 4-5 FTAs per game could push him closer to the 30 PPG milestone.
The refined handles are not just for him. The entire Boston Celtics game plan could change because of this improved ability. It would draw more help defenders and open the lane for drives. The Celtics will be harder to defend because of this development.
#2 Jaylen Brown must be a better playmaker for the Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics' new coach Ime Udoka stressed the need for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to become playmakers in his introductory speech. The improvement in Brown’s handles will help him become a better playmaker as well.
Last season, Brown averaged 3.4 assists. For someone who will handle a large part of the offense next season, his passing range has to improve. The Boston Celtics’ retooled lineup offers intriguing prospects when the right playmakers are around. Enhanced playmaking from Brown could unleash the promise of Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard. It could also help Josh Richardson get back to his shooting averages while with the Miami Heat.
Brown’s upgrade in playmaking eases the pressure on Tatum and Marcus Smart to create for the Boston Celtics. It will make the team's offense flow more freely and will surely get their lowly assists number to go up.
#3 He has to pick up his defensive awareness
Jaylen Brown is an elite athlete that is tough to beat in one-on-one situations. He has a nice blend of size, length and strength to bother people in the post. Brown is also quick enough on the perimeter to be a nuisance. It is his consistency and effort as a help defender that has to pick up for the Boston Celtics.
Playing defense is different when the opponent is right in front of you and when that opponent is covered by someone else. A player’s defensive awareness is highlighted on help defense because it takes effort and commitment to check two opponents almost at once. It is in this area that Brown could clearly improve as he is already a good on-ball defender.
The Boston Celtics slipped to 16th in Defensive Ratings last season. Boston added Al Horford and Josh Richards to the rotation. These are stout and savvy defenders who will greatly help the C’s on the less glamorous part of basketball. With Ime Udoka being a defensive-minded coach, the emphasis on off-ball defense will be monitored. If the Celtics, and Brown, in particular, can elevate their defensive ratings, they would be a significantly better team.
In the loaded Eastern Conference with the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Jimmy Butler as playoff adversaries, Brown and the Celtics better be on point defensively to have a chance of beating these elite teams and contend for the NBA championship.