The Boston Celtics were touted as the top team in the Eastern Conference and the team most likely to challenge the Golden State Warriors for the NBA Finals prior to the 2018-19 NBA season. However, so far they have not come anywhere near their high expectations. The Celtics are currently 20-15 and as of now are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
For a team with so much talent and potential, the Celtics have majorly underachieved during the first part of the season. Coach Brad Stevens still runs his rotations like he’s coaching in college. Leaving Kyrie on the bench for too long has stunted the Celtics’ offense and killed momentum in many games. Gordon Hayward, who suffered a season ending ankle injury during the first quarter of the first game last season, is looking timid, uncomfortable, and a shell of his former all-star self. Terry Rozier has a serious ego problem and forgot how to shoot. Probably the biggest problem that the Celtics have is the lackluster play of former third-overall pick Jaylen Brown.
Jaylen Brown has an opportunity to build off of a strong second season and a series of great performances throughout last year’s NBA Playoffs. Instead, he’s done the opposite. During the off-season after his rookie year, Brown worked hard to improve his offensive scoring. His three point shooting, mid range shooting, and post scoring improved from nonexistent to decent. It was obvious that he put in the work over the summer in order to become a better player and to take on a bigger role on the team.
Brown demanded to be on the Celtics summer league team even though it wasn’t required, and for the most part, he looked like the best player on the court at all times. His work ethic was very promising in the summer of 2017, and it served as a prime reason for his successes last year.
Jaylen Brown has a lot of undeniable flaws in his game. Although he has improved greatly, his shooting is still streaky and inconsistent. He has horrible ball handling and seemingly can’t drive to the basket without dribbling the ball off his leg. His inability to finish easy, uncontested layups has really hurt the team the whole year. He has poor passing skills and court vision. He’s uncoordinated and plays out of control. His basketball IQ isn’t very high, and he’s prone to turnovers. His defense is mediocre at best due to his uncoordinated foot movement and his lack of defensive fundamentals (always leaves his feet on pump fakes and fouls too much).
Also, he is very undisciplined. Take a look at the recent Bucks game. With his team down a lot in the fourth quarter, Brown made a beautiful dunk on Giannis Antetokounmpo. Instead of hustling back on defense, he decided to flex on the Greek Freak. It didn’t matter to him that his team was getting manhandled. He wanted to look cool for the cameras. His selfishness ended up resulting in a technical foul and another momentum killer for the Celtics.
In addition, as good as his work ethic was in 2017, it was terrible last off-season. Instead of working on his game, he was making documentaries in Indonesia and telling reporters that he’d win 5 championships by the time he’s 28. His lack of off-season practice has shown as he hasn’t improved in ball handling, defense, finishing, composure, or passing.
Brown’s performances this season have been terrible for the most part. This season he has averaged 27 minutes per game, 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 assist. He’s been shooting 27% from three, 64% from the line, and 49% from the floor. In the bigger games this year, his performances have been worse than usual.
In the Celtics’ 101-95 win away against the Thunder, he got 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists, while shooting 0-2 from three and an awful 1-8 from the floor. In the Celtics’ 123-116 OT win against the Raptors, he tallied 7 points, 2 assists, and 4 rebounds on 3-11 shooting and 1-5 from three. In the Celtics’ 121-116 OT win against the 76ers, Brown had 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists on 2-7 shooting and missed his only three attempt. In the Raptors and 76ers games, he did not come anywhere near the floor during the last five minutes of the 4th quarter and the overtime periods. This shows that the Celtics were able to play better and win without him on the court.
While Brown has been sucking it up on the court this year, the casual Celtics fans or “green teamers” on Twitter have made every excuse possible for him. When they can’t make up any more excuses, the green teamers go to quote is “They’ll be fine. Just give him some time. He’s in a slump. He’ll play better soon just watch.” Recently the green teamers have blamed his trash performances due to a hand injury. While it may be true that Brown’s hand has been bothering him and contributing to his bad play, it does not excuse the many holes in his game; the holes that green teamers refuse to acknowledge.
After next season, Brown will be a restricted free agent. With the way the free agent market is looking, it’s most likely that some bum, desperate team will offer him a max contract, putting the Celtics in a tough situation. They will either have to match his contract and give him an awful max contract or let him walk away to another team for nothing. This problem wouldn’t matter if Brown started to improve all facets of his game and live up to his high potential. If Brown starts to fix the holes in his game and start playing like a player worthy of a max deal, the Celtics won’t have a problem re-signing him.
The issue is that it is not likely to happen. Brown has too many flaws in his game. As I stated before, he has poor court vision, passing, handles, basketball IQ accompanied to inconsistency on both sides of the ball and a questionable work ethic and ego. He will have to make massive strides in the majority of these areas in the next year and a half to be worthy of a max deal. Due to the short amount of time, the large number of things he really needs to improve on, and from his performances this season, I personally don’t think it will happen.
The Celtics cannot be forced to pay a max contract to a player who is nowhere near the quality of one. The last thing this team needs is to have an Otto Porter situation and pay a player an absurd amount of money just so he doesn’t walk for nothing. My advice would be for the Celtics to trade him for a player worthy of a max contract and of being part of a “big three.” Whether it’s for Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, or any other NBA all-star, the Celtics should look into trading Brown. His young age, flashes of talent seen in the past, uncanny athleticism, and high potential still give him great trade value despite how badly he’s played this year. The Celtics also have many solid assets and high draft picks that can be used along with Jaylen Brown in a trade package for someone like Anthony Davis.
The most practical move for the Celtics regarding Jaylen Brown in my opinion would be to pursue an Anthony Davis trade when the possibility becomes available this off-season. Davis is a clear top ten, maybe even top five, player in the NBA and would slot perfectly next to Al Horford in the front court. A package including a couple of decent first round picks (Grizzlies, Clippers, Kings etc.) or any player taken using those picks, Brown, a sign and trade with Terry Rozier to match salaries, and possibly a salary filler if necessary should be enough to get Davis.
Either way, as a Celtics fan, I hope Jaylen Brown turns into a max contract player and fulfills his high potential. I am rooting for him, but my conscience tells me it isn’t going to happen.