Celtics Lead

Jaylen Brown’s Slow Start is No Cause for Concern

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Despite being one of the most talked-about teams all offseason, the Boston Celtics have come out of the gate with a sluggish 2-2 record. Since trouncing the 76ers on opening night, Beantown has gone on to lose handily to a strong Raptors squad, narrowly beat a rebuilding Knicks team, and fall to the youthful Magic. They’ve averaged the fewest points per game in the league through the first week and shot 38.2% from the field. The starting lineup, with proven shooters at every position, has converted a putrid 29.9% of their three-point attempts.

While many have pointed to All-Star Kyrie Irving as the reason for such low numbers, and his poor performance has undoubtedly been detrimental, the Celtics still lost in both of Kyrie’s better games. Al Horford flailed against the Magic, but his overall season hasn’t been a disaster. Jayson Tatum has electrified in three of the first four contests, and Gordon Hayward‘s gradual warming is expected.

Meanwhile, 22 year-old Jaylen Brown hasn’t sparked at all during the first week. He’s made just 34.1% of his shots and 33.3% of his triples. Brown’s offensive rating of 87 is far and away the worst on the team (even below Marcus Smart!). He’s still getting up 10.3 shots per game, a tick down from last year, but his usage rate is down, from 21.4% to only 17.4%. Brad Stevens is working to spread the ball around, and Brown may be feeling early aftereffects.

However, Brown’s struggles aren’t a glaring anomaly upon further review. The 6’7″ wing faced similar inconsistencies during his sophomore season. Brown also shot 33% from long range in October of 2017 and cleared 35% in just two of the first seven games. Yet, Brown also ended the regular season shooting over 39% from downtown. He simply takes a little while to heat up beyond the arc. Since the rest of the Celtics’ scorers are also cold, Brown is facing scrutiny for unjustified reasons.

This season his biggest struggles has actually come from close range. Though historically a solid finisher, Brown has converted a mere 38.5% of his looks within three feet. In the 3 to 10-foot range, his accuracy plummets to 20%. These numbers are way out of norm for a player who is a lifetime 61% shooter near the basket. There’s no reason to believe a 225-pound downhill runner like Jaylen Brown has suddenly forgotten how to finish. Those percentages should return to mean form soon.

Besides the scoring difficulties, Jaylen Brown has kept up his tough-minded identity on the court. He’s averaging 4.8 rebounds, on par with last year, while primarily playing shooting guard. While admittedly early in the year, his defensive rating sits at a career-best 103, and his Defensive Box Plus/Minus is a career-high +1.8. Brown has been a huge plus for the stingiest defensive unit in the NBA; the squad is first in opposing points per game, first in defensive rating, fourth in opposing second-chance points, and sixth in defensive rebound percentage. He may receive less accolades in a league that is more offense-oriented than ever, but Brown still deserves recognition.

With such a loaded starting lineup, Jaylen Brown may never get a featured role on the Celtics. But fans shouldn’t lose faith in the third-year man because of a rough beginning. Brown just turned 22 and still has plenty of room for development. And to his credit, Brown has already made one highlight-worthy play with his “dunk” on Joel Embiid. Just as with the whole of the Boston Celtics, give Jaylen Brown reasonable time to show why he is such a fantastic basketball player.

All statistics obtained from NBA.com and Basketball Reference.

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About Ethan Fuller

Hailing from Portsmouth, NH, Ethan is a journalism student at Boston University and writes about the Celtics for TLSM. His chief basketball teams are the Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. Ethan is also a still-growing ultimate frisbee player.

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