The Boston Celtics are assembled to be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference that can perhaps get to the second round, but they don’t seem like a legitimate title contender right now. However, if Jaylen Brown blossoms into a star, the Celtics could move into that contender tier.
For the Celtics, the summer of 2019 will forever be the time when Kyrie Irving departed Boston for the Brooklyn Nets, Al Horford departed Boston for the Philadelphia 76ers, and Kemba Walker departed Charlotte for Boston.
The Celtics don’t lose much, if anything, going from Irving to Walker. They’re each ball-dominant players who are elite scorers and can put an offense on their back. On the other hand, losing Horford is detrimental to every part of their roster, as he’s an elite defender, a great shooter for his size, moves the ball well, and finishes inside. While he hits the boards and finishes around the basket, Enes Kanter’s defense is subpar at best, and he’s a one-dimensional player.
Third-year forward Jayson Tatum will take on a bigger role in Brad Stevens’ offense this season, while Gordon Hayward will be looking to get into a groove in his second season back from a gruesome leg injury.
But what about Jaylen Brown?
After a quiet rookie season, Brown became a starting fixture in Year 2 and seemed primed for a breakout. Unfortunately, his development stagnated last season as the Celtics never found their chemistry. The youngster’s playing time decreased (30.7 to 25.9 minutes per game) as he transitioned into more of a sixth-man role, with his scoring average dipping from 14.5 points per game to 13.0.
Stevens is going to be looking for more offense from Brown this season. If he answers the call, it dramatically changes things for Boston.
Walker is going to be the heart and soul of this offense, Tatum will be their No. 2 scorer, and Hayward may be more productive. Those three elements should come as no surprise. What the Celtics need is an element of surprise by means of internal growth from someone else in their rotation.
That’s where Jaylen Brown comes into the equation.
The 22-year-old has found success by means of being in the right places, cutting inside, and taking matters into his own hands, when need be. But the latter situation has been few and far between for Brown. Now, he gets to showcase a part of his game that has been in reservation throughout his entire NBA career.
He’s going to have the chance to play in isolation more, attack the rack, and draw more fouls. If he becomes adept at playing with reckless abandon offensively, the rest of the game will come naturally to Brown, beginning with his outside game. In his first full season starting, Brown was reserved to more of a complementary role, and that included being a perimeter threat. He thrived in this niche, shooting an impressive 39.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Brown serving as a go-to scorer alleviates pressure off the Celtics’ rotation. It takes some attention off Walker, makes defenses unable to fortify their efforts toward shutting down one player, and creates an open look for someone out on the perimeter. It also allows their rookies and those coming off the bench to keep the Celtics in games or slow down the opposition to play to their strengths, rather than trying to force shots.
There are few teams who have the defensive weapons to slow down three go-to scorers who operate with the ball in their hands and get from the perimeter to the paint in three dribbles with ease. Walker and Tatum are the type of players who inflict havoc on defenses when they’re on the floor together. With Brown doing the same, their offense becomes electric, and do they need that.
In each of the last two seasons, the Celtics’ offense has been in the middle of the pack; the big names haven’t made a severe difference. Last season, they were 14th in the NBA in points per game and 20th the season prior. Those teams were also dangerously reliant on Irving.
While Walker poses a similar situation, the Celtics are looking at others to contribute to a severe extent this season. Tatum and Hayward are the givens in that regard; Brown is the X-factor. He has similar potential as Tatum and Hayward, at least when it concerns having a big season.
Furthermore, Brown wants a big-time extension. When you consider his production and role in their offense in years past, he isn’t a max player. The only way Brown comes close to earning a max contract or it becomes justifiable for him to get such a deal is if he has an enormous 2019-20 season.
There are currently two championship threats in the East: the 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks. Outside of them, it’s a bunch of teams who need something severe to take place to be a threat in the conference. The Celtics are one of those teams, but they’ve been a playoff fixture and one that has gone deep into the playoffs. They just need a boost to remain such a threat.
Jaylen Brown wants to get paid, and the Celtics want a star to be born. A breakout season from the wing serves both parties well.