Top NBA Players 2022-23: #18 Jaylen Brown

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Jaylen Brown comes in at number 18 on our list of the best players in the upcoming 2022-2023 season. Brown has a strong claim to be considered the best player in his draft class after being picked third in 2016. Notably, he’s become a true threat from beyond the arc after having an unreliable outside shot at Cal. Brown has averaged over 20 points per game in his last three seasons, and nearly 3.5 assists per game the last two seasons.

He’s spent all six seasons with the Boston Celtics, and was a major reason the team made the Finals for the first time in his career. Brown’s improvement could be the difference in winning or losing the Finals. We’ve discussed the expectations for the Celtics next season as a team; what can we anticipate from Jaylen Brown as he embarks on his seventh NBA season?

Click these links to check out our list of honorable mentions and our profiles of Donovan Mitchell (no. 20) and James Harden (no. 19).

Top NBA Players 2022-23: #18 Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown’s 2022-2023 Season

It’s easy to forget about the breakout season Brown just enjoyed, considering trade rumors involving Kevin Durant seemed to follow him throughout his summer vacation. While Brown’s future seemed uncertain at times, he’d instantly become the most coveted player in the league if Boston made him available. Brown can credibly defend any wing in the league and is signed through the 2024 season.

Expect Brown’s three-point percentage to improve next season. His percentage dipped from 38.2% and 39.7% the previous two seasons to 35.8% in 2021-2022. Brown’s free-throw percentage was the second-best of his career, though, suggesting the downturn was likely a fluke. He shot just 28% on left corner threes, and improvement there should get his overall percentage higher.

Overall, the shooting is a counter to what makes Brown truly dangerous: he’s one of the very best half-court drivers in the NBA. While Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, and new acquisition Malcolm Brogdon will run more pick-and-rolls, Brown will be well-positioned to receive a pass and attack the scrambled defense after the initial action. 

In contrast with other names to come on this list, the best is yet to come in Brown’s career. Stunningly, he has been selected to just one All-Star game. His off-court career has been impactful as well. Brown has been a VP of the NBA Players Association since 2019 and memorably led a peaceful protest in Georgia in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in 2020. Brown’s on-court capabilities and off-court leadership combine to create a player deserving of much more national recognition. Boston’s continued team success will help Brown earn that attention.

Jaylen Brown’s Areas of Improvement

Brown is a tremendous player, but there are still notable areas he can improve. The Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors exposed his limited handle and passing vision. While he scored effectively, he struggled with ball security and finished the series committing five turnovers in both Games 5 and 6. Tightening his dribble should allow him to get to his spots more effectively. 

A look at NBA.com’s shooting splits shows that Brown also struggled from “floater range” last season. He shot just 38.4% on the shots in the paint but outside the restricted area and away from the basket. This is an important spot on the court for Brown. He needs a consistent counter in this area when defenses successfully barricade the basket on his drives. Despite taking over 300 fewer shots than Tatum overall, Brown attempted more total floaters last season, 250 to 231. Brown needs to be more efficient from that range if he continues to shoot at such a high volume.

Brown has been more solid than spectacular on defense to this point in his career. To be fair, his backcourt mate is Smart, who will always get the more challenging initial defensive assignment. Brown also held up on switches within Boston’s stingy defensive scheme, which was clearly the best in the league last season. One wonders if there are higher heights for Brown to reach as a help defender. Given his athleticism, it’s puzzling he could only contribute a block roughly every three games.

The Last Word on Jaylen Brown

Brown played about 24 of his 33.6 minutes per game with Tatum last season. Interim Head Coach Joe Mazzulla could choose to keep the two stars together for a majority of their minutes again. Might he stagger them and lean on Brown to prop up the second unit on offense? The addition of Brogdon makes this a curiosity rather than a necessity. Still, playing in more Tatum-free lineups could force Brown to further stretch his creativity as a passer and ball-handler. The Celtics are good enough to experiment in the regular season with minimal effect on their playoff seeding. Brown is good enough that any significant improvement could be the difference between Boston winning or losing the Finals.