It’s awards season at Celtics.com! We’re handing out six awards throughout mid-October 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 - The Celtics had two particularly strong candidates for this season’s Most Improved Player Award in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Either player could have won the award, but when it came down to our MIP Twitter poll earlier this week, it became clear that Boston's fan base very much appreciated Brown’s development throughout the yearlong campaign, as it gave him 52.6 percent of the 14,763 votes that were cast - nearly doubling the mark of 28.5 percent for Tatum, a first-time All-NBA player.
We here at Celtics.com are in total agreement with those results.
Let’s start with the obvious reasons why Brown was deserving of this award: his improvements on paper.
For one, he drastically increased his scoring load as he upped his points-per-game average from 13.0 to 20.3. Such an enhancement was largely due to the fact that he attempted nearly five more shots per game this season (15.6) than he did last season (10.7), but also because of his improved shooting percentages. His field-goal rate rose from 46.5 percent to 48.1 percent, his 3-point clip took off from 34.4 percent to 38.2 percent, and his free-throw mark climbed from 65.8 percent to 72.4 percent.
Brown also saw increases in rebounding (from 4.2 per game to 6.4 per game), assists (1.4 to 2.1), steals (0.9 to 1.1), and minutes (25.9 to 33.9).
Every single one of those stats was not only an improvement from one season to the next, but also a career-high.
Brown also revamped his game in countless ways that did not appear in the box score, such as with his offensive creativity. This season’s version of Brown was more aggressive in driving to the rim, more controlled in his dribbling, more precise and creative in his passing, and more patient in his overall approach.
One game that had all of that on display was Boston’s Christmas Day matchup in Toronto, where Brown tallied 30 points, six rebounds and four assists, while shooting 10-of-13 from the field, 5-of-7 from long range, and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Opposing All-Star guard Kyle Lowry noted following the 118-102 Celtics win how Brown was playing with “extreme confidence” and that his “overall game was just flowing.”
Of that rise in confidence, Brown later explained, “The more you see the game, the more you understand the game, the better you are. As you get that time and that experience, the timing, the game kind of slows down for you. I see the game differently than I did two years ago.”
As much as Brown has matured as a player, it is nothing compared to the way in which he has matured as a person. This season it became clear that he wants to improve the world during his time off of the court.
Throughout the last several months, Brown has devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy toward the pursuit of social and racial justice within the United States. In May, he drove all the way from Boston to Atlanta to help lead a peaceful protest in his home state of Georgia. During his time in the NBA bubble, he continuously spoke out on examples of ongoing injustice and also acted as an advisor to any of his NBA peers who wished to learn more about the cause.
Off-court activity isn’t typically factored into our Awards, but Brown’s seeking of a better world fits so perfectly into the Most Improved Player category that we couldn’t ignore it being a factor. Combine that with all of the tangible improvements that he made on the court, and it’s clear as day that the fourth-year wing deserved this recognition.