Jan 29, 2019 3:28 PM ET
BOSTON – If you raved about Jaylen Brown during the 2018 NBA Playoffs, you’d better be raving about him again right now.
Because he’s even better now than he was then.
Over the last eight weeks, Brown has racked up more impressive numbers than he did last postseason, when he served as one of the go-to options on a team that reached the brink of the NBA Finals. Brown’s rough start to this season is long gone. He’s moved on to bigger and better things.
Let’s start with the numbers, which have been surging since Dec. 6. Since that date, Brown has recorded nine 20-point games and ranks second on the Celtics, behind only Kyrie Irving, with an average of 19.7 points per 36 minutes. That number is up from 14.2 points during the first seven-plus weeks of the season. The key to his scoring surge has been efficiency; Brown has shot 48.7 percent from the field overall and 39.8 percent from long distance.
In comparison, during Brown’s memorable postseason run last year, he averaged 20.0 points per 36 minutes while making 46.6 percent of his shots and 39.3 percent of his 3-pointers. So, a tick lower in scoring during this recent stretch, but a notable spike in efficiency.
To find the real juice behind this story, though, we must look deeper than just shooting and scoring numbers. Brown’s last two months have also outperformed his playoff numbers in every other major statistical category.
During this run of hot play, Brown is averaging 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks per 36 minutes. During last postseason, he averaged 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.6 blocks per 36 minutes.
Now we know what you may be thinking: “This is just a flash in the pan – a smaller sample size than last postseason.” Nope.
This is a
sample size than last postseason.
Brown has played in 26 games during his ongoing stretch from Dec. 6 through Jan. 29. That’s eight more games than he played last postseason.
Now that there is a full understanding of just how well Brown has been playing from a statistical standpoint in his role off the bench, let’s look at how, exactly, he’s building these numbers.
Other than high-percentage shots like dunks, layups and finger rolls, the fadeaway has become Brown’s bread and butter. Brown has shot 47.1 percent on fadeaways this season, and has already made (16) and attempted (34) more such shots than he did all of last season, when he shot 11-for-26.
And boy, has he looked smooth in doing so.
The most recent example arrived Monday night against Brooklyn, after the versatile swingman cut to the lane and caught a pass from teammate Al Horford. Brown could have risen up for an attempted layup or dunk, but instead, he recognized that Jarrett Allen, one of the most feared shot-blockers in the league, stood between him and the basket.
So what did he do? He went to his go-to.
Brown reversed course while dropping one dribble to the floor and delivering a Dream Shake to Allen. That move created plenty of space for Brown to get his shot off as he faded away from the basket at the right elbow.
We’ve seen this move dating back to training camp against his own teammates. It’s effective, it’s efficient, and it clearly falls into Brown’s comfort zone.
Now, let’s take a look at Brown’s recent rebounding, which is up a full rebound during this stretch compared to last postseason.
No one could argue that Brown didn’t play hard and give effort last season, and the same argument would fall on deaf ears regarding the start of this season. However, over these last eight weeks, the 6-foot-7 wing has taken it to another level while giving supreme effort on the glass.
For an example, we again look back to Monday’s win over Brooklyn, during which Brown grabbed six boards – three at each end – in 31-plus minutes of action.
This fourth-quarter play arrived when the game was hanging in the balance. Gordon Hayward fires up a 3 from the right wing, and Brown quickly recognizes an open path to the basket for a rebound attempt. He takes a direct line from the corner to the basket, but the ball ricochets a good six or seven feet away from the hoop. D’Angelo Russell of the Nets is in perfect position to grab the board, yet look who finds a way to react and extend his arm into the play to intercept the loose ball: Brown.
This is what it’s all about: making winning plays in winning moments. Brown has had fewer opportunities to do so this season due to his shift to the bench, but over the last two months, he has swiftly adapted to that new role and capitalized on his opportunities at a higher level than he ever has. And yes, that includes last postseason.
So again, we tell you: if you raved about Jaylen Brown during the 2018 NBA Playoffs, you’d better be raving about him again right now.