The Boston Celtics lost in 6 games in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors last season. During that NBA Finals run, Celtics star Jaylen Brown cemented himself as a premier talent. Brown led Boston in scoring during the Finals with 23.5 points per game, while logging a heavy 38.8 minutes per game. However, with Kevin Durant trade rumors swirling around Boston, the young star’s time in Boston may be limited.
Jaylen Brown’s Uncertain Future in Boston
Jaylen Brown had a Second-Half Surge for the Ages
Before looking at the rumors that have popped up this off-season, Brown’s accomplishments last season shouldn’t go unnoticed. The 25-year old averaged 23.6 points per game and 6 rebounds while shooting 47 percent from the field. While those are great numbers, they don’t tell the full story. The Celtics struggled out of the gate to start off, stumbling to a 16-19 record.
It was what happened afterwards, though, that made this Boston team so special.
After a brutal loss to the L.A. Clippers on December 29th, things weren’t looking great. Boston occupied the second and final spot in the NBA play-in, clinging to the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference. It all seemed to change next game however, when the Celtics blew out the Phoenix Suns by 15 points on New Year’s Eve.
From there, the Celtics took off. They won six of their next 10 games to crawl up to the ninth seed. However, it wasn’t until January 29th when the Celtics bandwagon really picked up steam. The C’s rattled off nine straight wins, winning each game by an average of 20+ points. That surge carried them to the sixth seed in the East, and they never looked back.
The Celtics went 17-6 over the final 23 games of the season, shooting up to the second seed in the East, only trailing the Miami Heat by two games. Jaylen Brown had a key part in that incredible second-half surge, elevating his level of play when Boston needed it most. Over the last 45 games he played in to close the season, he averaged 23.9 points per game. Brown shot 48.7 percent from the field, and made significant growth as a playmaker.
Jaylen Brown Showed Playmaking Growth & Development
That aformentioned ability to playmake is what propelled the Celtics to close out the season. Not only did Jaylen Brown average a career-high in assists last season with 3.5, he averaged nearly 4 per game down the stretch. Brown averaged just 2.6 assists per game in his first 22 games, so he made a noticeable jump in that department. With rookie head coach Ime Udoka’s encouragement, Brown became a more complete player last season. He was making the extra pass, finding the open man, and earning assists as a result.
Brown was already one of the better shot-makers in the league, but took on even more offensive responsibilities last season. At just 25 years old, he was a team leader on both sides of the ball. Over 66 regular-season games, he earned a career-high plus-minus of 6.9 points. Plus-minus measures how valuable a player is on the court, and his career-high represents just how vital he was to the team.
Thanks to his newfound playmaking chops, he reminded the NBA world just how versatile the California product is. He has no visible weaknesses in his game, and is reliable on both sides of the ball. His only real weakness is his frequent turnover issues, but that was a team-wide issue for Boston last season. Also, if turning over the ball is a player’s worst flaw, that’s usually a great sign.
In addition to his versatility and leadership, his ability to turn it up in the playoffs was showcased yet again. He averaged 23.5 points in the NBA Finals, to go with 7.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. Brown’s playoff run was capped by a 34-point explosion in Game 6, and he was the only Celtic to score 20+ in that game. He logged a team-high 44 minutes, playing through a nagging hamstring injury he dealt with the entire playoffs.
Jaylen Brown Rumors Rear their Ugly Head
The last thing a player wants to think about are trade rumors. Especially if you were the best player during your team’s NBA Finals run. However, that’s the unfortunate reality Jaylen Brown faces, and it could get ugly fast.
Together, along with fellow star Jayson Tatum, Brown formed one of the best duos in the entire league last season. It seems however, that they might have played together for the last time. Per a report from Athletic writer Shams Charania, Brown was dangled in trade rumors with the Brooklyn Nets.
That report wouldn’t be too damaging on its own, but it gets worse.
The Celtics not only dangled Brown, they fully offered him in an effort to trade for Kevin Durant. The only reason why the Nets said no was that Boston refused to include Boston fan favorite Marcus Smart in the deal. The presumed thought process here is that with Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum on the Celtics, Boston would have two top-10 players in the league on the same team.
Let me be the first to say that this is a horrible trade for Boston. How many times have NBA teams swung for the fences on a superteam and failed, miserably? The only reason why the Nets are trading Durant is because of the latest failed experiment in that regard.
If there’s anything the NBA has taught us in recent years, it’s that it is an ever-changing league. Maybe years ago if a team threw a couple stars on a team, they would win a championship. However, the last 3 NBA champions have changed that narrative.
The New Way To Win
The new NBA is powered by depth, and the more of it, the better. The 2022 Golden State Warriors built a talented cast around superstar Stephen Curry, besting the supporting cast of the Boston Celtics. In 2021, the Milwaukee Bucks rallied around two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, getting much more contributions from their bench then the Phoenix Suns did theirs. In 2019, the Toronto Raptors healthy and helpful supporting cast outlasted the star power of the Warriors behind the heroics of Kawhi Leonard.
Just in case the message wasn’t clear enough, recent history suggests teams do not succeed anymore solely through star power. The league is evolving, and that means what it takes to win is as well. Regardless of how many years Durant has on his contract, he’s not worth the risk. Durant is one of the most accomplished and talented NBA players ever, but resumes don’t win championships. The reality is that the soon-to-be 34 year has only played 90 games over the last 3 seasons, and there’s no one stopping him from wanting out of Boston if things sour.
Together with Jayson Tatum, Brown formed one of the best duos in the league last season amid an NBA Finals run. The fact that the Celtics are willing to throw that away for a superstar on the wrong side of 30 is preposterous, but it may be too late to backtrack. If the recent tweet from Jaylen Brown is any indication, his future in Boston is murky at best. Boston’s mishandled plenty of superstars in recent years, and Brown could become the latest to slip through the cracks in what’s become a vicious cycle in Beantown.