2018 Awards Series Most Improved Player: Jaylen Brown
It’s awards season at Celtics.com! We’re handing out six awards over the next few weeks as we roll through this year’s Celtics.com Awards Series. We may not have trophies or acceptance speeches, but we do have some top-flight Celtics performances to outline. Here we go...
BOSTON – Jaylen Brown spent his rookie season in 2016-17 grinding away for minutes and proving his worth to the Boston Celtics. All of his hard work paid off by the time his sophomore campaign rolled around, earning a promotion to the C’s starting lineup and quickly becoming recognized as one of the premier two-way players in the league.
Brown’s numbers vastly improved all across the board from his first season to his second, more than doubling his averages in points, assists, steals and blocks.
In just one season, the 6-foot-7 wing transitioned from an inconsistent role player off the bench to one of the most reliable all-around players on the team, which is why he has earned our Most Improved Player award.
As a rookie, Brown averaged 6.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game, while playing 17.2 minutes per contest. He showed some flashes of greatness along the way, but didn’t really get the opportunity to shine until the start his sophomore season, when was asked to step up right away in the face of adversity.
When Gordon Hayward went down with a season-ending leg injury five minutes into the season-opener, Brown took it upon himself to help fill the void. While battling the emotions of losing his teammate in gruesome fashion that night, he scored a career-high 25 points to lead all Celtics scorers.
From that moment, it was clear that Brown’s game and focus level had reached new heights. Sure enough, it only marked the beginning of what would be an outstanding individual campaign.
The scoring department was where Brown improved most from Year 1 to Year 2. He became a dominant slasher in the lane, while also upping his 3-point percentage from 34.1 percent to 39.5 percent.
Brown reached the 20-point mark 16 times over the course of the season, after doing so just once during his rookie campaign. And his 14.5 PPG ranked second on the team, trailing only Kyrie Irving.
Brown also saw his rebounding average climb to 4.8 RPG. And he boosted his passing mark to 1.6 APG. These increases were largely thanks to his spike in minutes, as he played 30.7 MPG, nearly doubling his playing time as a rookie.
Brown even showed improvements as the season went along, particularly in the free-throw department.
The 21-year-old struggled at the charity stripe during the first half of the season, making just 56.2 percent of his freebies through his first 40 games. He corrected the issue mid-season by adjusting his breathing technique and went on to shoot 76.0 percent from the line for the remainder of the regular season.
Brown also saw some great improvements on the other side of the ball. He was counted on regularly to guard the opposing team’s best player, and he never backed down from a challenge. The lockdown perimeter defender tied for seventh in the NBA with 3.8 defensive win shares and helped Boston secure the No. 1 defensive rating in the league.
Brown stepped up even more come playoff time, taking on a heavier scoring load to help the Celtics get by without Hayward and Kyrie Irving, who also sustained a season-ending injury.
The Georgia native averaged 18.0 PPG during the postseason, scoring 25 points or more on four different occasions. His offensive contributions helped lead the C’s all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, before falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Brown was not only the most improved Celtics player from last year to this year, but he also showed some of the greatest in-season refinements on the team as well. From the start of the season to the end of the Playoffs, Brown’s development arc continued to rise, indicating that he still has even more room to improve as he transitions from Year 2 to Year 3.