• Just over a month before Jayson Tatum scored 24 points in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, hardly backing down from a typically dominant and determined LeBron James at a mere 20 years old, Jaylen Brown was staking his own claim as their team’s best young player. He poured in 34 points, a career-best, and grabbed eight rebounds in a hard-fought 104-102 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on April 22, helping the depleted Boston Celtics erase a 16-point halftime deficit by scoring 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting after intermission. Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s all-arms tip-in broke a tie score with five seconds left in the fourth quarter, giving the Bucks a crucial series-evening victory, but it was Tatum’s heroics seconds earlier that gave the Celtics their first lead of the second half – and added a signature moment to his burgeoning legend.

    The rookie’s pull-up 17-footer over the outstretched arms of Khris Middleton further cemented what the basketball world had come to realize during the previous several months. The question wasn’t whether or not Tatum would grow into stardom, but how quickly he’d do so on a team loaded with individual talent that nevertheless prefers to play an egalitarian style. But with Tatum confirming his precocious brilliance and old-school flair for one-on-one drama to a national audience in real time, it became easy to forget why he had the chance to take advantage of that opportunity in the first place.

    After a pair of free throws by Antetokounmpo pushed Milwaukee’s lead to four with under two minutes remaining, Brown made the last of his five triples on the night, a filthy between-the-legs step-back from the right wing that put Thon Maker on skates.

    The surprising prevalence of such eye-popping moves with the ball in his hands warrants a closer look at Brown’s breakout sophomore campaign, especially as Boston, finally fully healthy, establishes a new offensive hierarchy leading up to 2018-19. Conventional wisdom says that among the many players who stepped up during the Celtics’ thrilling playoff run last spring, Brown is the one poised to see his role changed most due to the re-integration of Kyrie Irving and addition of Gordon Hayward. The realities informing that notion aren’t necessarily critiques of Brown’s blossoming skill set, either, as much as they are an acknowledgement of his ability to affect the game in multiple ways.

    At 6-foot-7 and an ever-sturdy 225 pounds with long arms, Brown has the rare physical tools necessary to check quick lead guards, score-first wings and do-it-all forwards. He received five votes for First Team All-Defense at the age of 21, and considering the correlation between experience and defensive effectiveness combined with his notorious work ethic, is primed to emerge as one of the league’s most switch-proof perimeter defenders – the type it takes to make life hard on an offensive juggernaut in the modern NBA.

    But earmarking Brown as a contending team’s designated stopper sells his offensive potential well short. Andre Iguodala didn’t fall back into that role until his tenth season of service, at the crest of his thirties, after a decade of being stretched past his limits as a first or second option. But following last season, when he managed the difficult feat of increasing his usage, true shooting percentage and assist rate while simultaneously lowering his turnover rate, Boston would be remiss to put an artificial ceiling on Brown, no matter the extent of Tatum’s promise, nor the expected amount of touches and shots for anyone else on Brad Stevens’ roster.

    Preseason concerns about the Celtics, up to that point gritty underdogs coalescing into a whole more than the sum of their parts, adding a ball-dominant superstar to the fold in 2017-18 were unfounded. Irving’s average touch time of 4.82 seconds, his lowest since tracking data became available in 2013-14, was actually .8 seconds less than Isaiah Thomas‘ number from the previous season, but Boston still held the ball far longer than any other in the Stevens era. Irving being shut down for good on March 11 also didn’t change anything in that regard. The Celtics averaged 3.01 seconds per touch on the whole last season, 11th-most in basketball, and one-hundredth of a second more than they did after Irving went down.

    The offensive principals Stevens preaches have been mostly immune to perceived threats of ball-hoggery so far, basically, but that doesn’t mean the same will prove true going forward. No team in the NBA, including the Golden State Warriors, has more hungry mouths to feed than Boston. Even role players like Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris are gifted and confident enough to expect a certain number of shots. Al Horford‘s real influence is never accurately portrayed by points or field goal attempts, thankfully, and it stands to reason Hayward, still not cleared for full basketball activities, will need some time re-acclimating to the speed of the game before assuming an offensive role like the one he had with the Utah Jazz – if he’s ready to do so at all.

    Regardless, it goes without saying some Celtics will have to sacrifice more than others for the greater good, and Brown’s inherent versatility makes it seem like he could be chief among them. Knocking down open jumpers, attacking close-outs, bullying overmatched defenders on the block after switches and running the floor in transition would let Brown play to his natural and nurtured strengths without taking the ball away from teammates, whose more limited ability to impact the action on both sides of the floor means their energy is best expended on offense. It’s not like standing behind Irving and Tatum, shot-making maestros, or even Hayward and Horford in the offensive pecking order suggests any lack of confidence in Brown’s developmental track on behalf of the team itself. Kawhi Leonard, remember, would probably be wearing green and gold had Danny Ainge relented on his steadfast refusal to include Brown (and Tatum) in any trade package offered to the San Antonio Spurs.

    Clearly, Boston likes the player Brown is right now and has even higher hopes for the one he’ll become. As near-consensus Eastern Conference frontrunners, though, the Celtics might feel tempted to give into temptations of playing for the present instead of the future, robbing Brown of the growing pains needed to reach his full potential. Evolving into a player of Iguodala’s ilk and caliber would be a fantastic outcome for his career, but not the one that keeps Boston’s championship window open widest and longest. The Warriors aren’t going anywhere this season anyway; why wouldn’t the Celtics try and strike the delicate balance between fostering the development of a guy like Brown and winning as many games as possible?

    Doing so will be far easier said than done, of course, but represents a problem every team in the league wishes it had. How Stevens tries to solve it won’t just loom large for Brown’s future, but Boston’s at large, too.

Fantasy News

  • Spencer Dinwiddie - G - Brooklyn Nets

    Kenny Atkinson was noncommittal about whether Spencer Dinwiddie would be back by the time the Nets embark on a 7-city, 17-day road trip that starts on March 13th.

    Dinwiddie is still recovering from thumb surgery he had on January 28th but he’s been working out on the court, dribbling with his off hand. Just to be clear, there hasn’t been an official medical update from the Nets yet so this is more of speculation on Atkinson’s part. With fantasy playoffs rapidly approaching, managers will have to make a tough decision on whether to hold on to Dinwiddie, but we should have a more concrete update on his status at some point in the next few days.

    Source: Brian Lewis on Twitter

  • Dwight Howard - C - Washington Wizards

    Dwight Howard will return to Washington D.C. and start on-court work on Wednesday.

    Dwight has been recovering from November spine surgery, and it's good to see him progressing. He's still a few steps away from playing, and with the injuries he's been dealing with this season, it's hard to see him being useful outside of deep free throw punt teams. More likely, the greatest impact he'll have is eventually taking a few minutes from Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Henry Ellenson - F - New York Knicks

    Henry Ellenson plans to sign a 10-day contract with the Knicks.

    Ellenson has shown promise at times, but he has never really put together any fantasy-relevant stretches. Leave him on the wire for now, but it's not impossible to imagine a scenario where the tanking Knicks are missing or sitting a couple bigs, giving Ellenson some decent run.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Clint Capela - C - Houston Rockets

    Clint Capela (thumb) returned to practice on Tuesday with no limitations, which could determine his playing status for Thursday's game against the Lakers.

    Capela underwent surgery on January 17 and was initially given a 4-to-6 week timetable, so this would be at the early end of a return. The fact that he is returning to practice without any limitations is a great sign for owners, meaning a return is imminent. Watch out for the Rockets injury report on Wednesday.

    Source: Jonathan Feigen on Twitter

  • Jodie Meeks - G - Toronto Raptors

    Jodie Meeks is signing a 10-day contract with the Raptors, per Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Meeks was waived by the Bucks following the conclusion of his 25-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug program. He hasn't played since last season with Washington and is unlikely to see much action with Toronto. He'll give the team some extra shooting when he does see the floor.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Jared Dudley - F - Brooklyn Nets

    Jared Dudley (left hamstring strain) was scheduled to be re-evaluated on Tuesday.

    Dudley has already made it known that he's planning to return right out of the All-Star break, so unless today's checkup revealed some kind of further issue we're expecting him to be ready for Brooklyn's two games this week. His biggest fantasy impact will be taking minutes from more intriguing players.

    Source: Greg Logan on Twitter

  • Caris LeVert - G - Brooklyn Nets

    Caris LeVert will undergo an evaluation from the Nets medical staff on Tuesday.

    There's no sign of any setbacks from LeVert but the team will obviously keep a close eye on him after he's returned from a dislocated foot. This shouldn't be anything more than routine maintenance, so fantasy owners don't need to worry about it.

    Source: Greg Logan on Twitter

  • Ray Spalding - F - Phoenix Suns

    The Suns are expected to sign Ray Spalding to a 10-day contract.

    Spalding was the 56th pick in last summer's draft but only appeared in one NBA game this season with the Mavs. He was waived at the trade deadline with Dallas taking on one more player than they sent away, and will look to make an impression in a crowded Phoenix rotation. His college numbers (12.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.7 blocks in 27.7 minutes per game) make him a name to file away in deep dynasty leagues.

    Source: Gina Mizell on Twitter

  • MarShon Brooks - G - Chicago Bulls

    Marshon Brooks has agreed to terms with the Guangdong Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association, according to Sportando.

    Brooks played 29 games for the Grizzlies this season averaging 6.6 points and he is expected to replace Malcolm Delaney. Leave him on the waiver wire.

    Source: Sportando

  • Kristaps Porzingis - F/C - Dallas Mavericks

    Mark Cuban said that Kristaps Porzingis won't play this season, even if the Mavs somehow are able to make the playoffs.

    The Mavs want to put their world-class training staff, led by Casey Smith, to work, strengthening Porzingis’ body the rest of this season and throughout the summer to hopefully prevent similar injuries in the future. And after all, given the amount of money the Mavs could be committing to KP this summer, a max salary of $158 million, there is no need to risk something happening to him in a season where making the playoffs seems unlikely. Kristaps remains a great stash in redraft leagues.

    Source: 247sports.com