July 2, 2020, 7:28 pm
This article is one part of a series of posts where we take a look and dissect what went either right or wrong with some of 2019-20’s top under and overperformers. Here, we shine the spotlight on the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, who made a significant leap in production this season, highlighting a more focused and leveled-up game.
2018-19 8/9-cat rankings: 180/187
25.9 MPG, 13.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.3 3PG, 0.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 1.3 TO, .465 FG%, .658 FT%
2019-20 8/9-cat rankings: 56/69
34.0 MPG, 20.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.2 APG, 2.1 3PG, 1.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 2.3 TO, .490 FG% .736 FT%
2019-20 was a huge coming-out party for Jaylen Brown. Both he and fellow Celtics standout Jayson Tatum took tremendous leaps forward and took the reins of one of the NBA’s most storied franchises. Brown saw a near-across-the-board improvement in every standard statistical category, with blocks and turnovers being the only exceptions. An eight-minute increase in his minutes per game allowed Brown the time and space to put a much-improved game on display.
Considering that Brown was drafted somewhere just outside the top-120 based on our comprehensive ADP Report, his 56/69 position in the 8/9-cat rankings made him one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2019-20 fantasy season. So now, the question is, “What went right?”
There’s been no secret that Brown’s been a Danny Ainge favorite ever since he was selected third overall in the 2016 draft. An uninspiring rookie campaign significantly dropped his fantasy stock futures valuation and left even the most ardent of cult fans wanting.
In his first three seasons, Brown has been able to keep himself relevant to the team with his effort on the defensive end. However, for what feels like such a long time now, his offense has not been able to fall into place – at least on a consistent basis – until now. Unperturbed by the “trade Brown” chatter over the summer, Jaylen worked his butt off and found himself in the arguably the best shape of his life coming into 2019-20.
The departures of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford ushered in a dynamic shift in the Celtics’ focus on both ends of the floor, opening up both need and opportunities for Brown to shine. With Irving out of the picture, the team was able to move on from what was a rather divisive and drama-filled 2018-19 season. The Celtics signed Kemba Walker to replace Irving, a less ball-dominant guard who’s still able to put points on the board. However, due to injuries here and there, Walker was only able to see 50 games before the COVID-19 virus abruptly ended the season. The biggest void that needed to be filled was the one created by Horford’s move to Eastern Conference rivals, the Philadelphia 76ers. Brown’s versatility on defense would be a much-needed piece if Boston wanted to remain as a serious playoff contender in 2019-20.
Brown’s tireless work ethic and serious approach to the game finally paid off dividends, a return that was visibly evident in his massive leap and impact on the offensive end. An improved shot selection and next-level aggression in driving to the hoop turned Brown into a dynamic and dangerous two-way threat for the Celtics, something the team has been aching to see for a while now. No longer an outsider looking in, Brown was seamlessly integrated into the flow of the Celtics offense. The team’s pivot firmly placed him and Jayson Tatum as their new fulcrum.
Let’s take a closer look at what happened. Breaking down his improved aggressiveness and the overall increase in confidence levels, we can see an increase of 2.8 more 2-point FG attempts and 1.9 more 3-point attempts compared to 2018-19. His shots from downtown found their mark at a better rate as well, improving to a .381 clip, compared to .344 in 2018-19. Brown was simply a different player. Teams could no longer afford to leave him open at the perimeter, considering he was now hitting 2.1 treys per contest. Thankfully for Brown, he has the speed and athleticism to blow by his defenders and finish at or at least close to the rim, making his overall .490 shooting from the field a much welcome upgrade in 2019-20.
Brown’s rebounding numbers of 6.4 boards per game weren’t a joke. He wasn’t afraid to help out crashing the glass now that Horford wasn’t there to do it. That said, one of the biggest reality-fantasy divides in Brown’s game comes on the defensive end. The Celtics see him as a solid defensive-stopper on the perimeter, someone able to guard multiple positions. Sadly, his efforts have not translated well for us box-score oglers. Still, we’re not going to fault him for averages of 1.1 steals and 0.3 blocks per game, but instead, look towards the future and remain optimistic that Brown’s game will begin to transcribe better on paper.
It’s also been noted that Brown has become more outspoken, more of a leader on and off the court. He’s taken a very intellectual approach towards improving his game and towards working better with his teammates. Despite Team USA’s lackluster finish in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, the time that Brown spent playing alongside teammates Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum in a global competition setting must have proved to be an invaluable experience. That was just extra gravy towards their building on-court rapport when they came back to their NBA-lives.
One of the biggest notable changes in Brown’s game has been his ability to deliver on a more consistent basis for the team. In 2018-19, he managed to show off flashes of potential here and there but Brown could not be counted on night-in and night-out to bring the goods, making him a tough sell in fantasy head-to-head drafts. In 2019-20, Brown managed to string together a few five-game streaks where he scored 20 points or more. Brown was finally to take his place in the spotlight and did not shy away from big games on big nights.
Jaylen Brown became the youngest Celtics player to ever score 30 points in a Christmas-day game.
On December 28, 2019, Brown recorded a new career-high, scoring 34 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brown went H.A.M. powered his team to victory. Yeah, you could say that it was against a young and rebuilding Cavs squad, with the Celtics having the game well in hand as early as the second half. Okay, let’s say we regard that stunning display of offense as a possible fluke-game. But we cannot ignore the fact that he nearly replicated the same feat, dropping 32 points against a formidable Eastern Conference opponent in the Sixers.
He led the team with 36 minutes and paced them with a near-double-double, going 13-of-23 from the field for 32 points, adding nine rebounds and two steals. Brown made only one of his 10 attempts from 3-point range, but obviously the confidence and the effort were things that were worth writing home about.
Let’s not make a mistake here though, Brown’s offensive game is still a work in progress, which winds up both as a positive and a negative. There are still many times that he’s unable to complete seemingly high-percentage plays or failing to capitalize on easy passing opportunities. On the bright side, and more importantly, Brown has even more room to grow and he’s found a trajectory that both real-life and fantasy fans can get on-board with.
Now whether the Celtics feel that Brown is worth a max deal by season’s end still remains to be seen. He’s blossomed into an up-and-coming star and should be a force to be reckoned with in the fantasy basketball arena. His improvements have been so incredibly good that his less-than-ideal (for a guard-forward) .736 shooting clip from the line was hardly more than a minor afterthought in the season so far.
Simply put, he’s finally hit his stride and this version of Jaylen Brown is here to stay.