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Has Jaylen Brown Closed The Gap Between Him and Tatum?

Many people are wondering if Jaylen Brown is now at the same level or even better than Jayson Tatum.

For years Jayson Tatum has been considered the Celtics’ clear number-one option and a true superstar. While Jaylen Brown has been considered an elite second option but a clear notch below Tatum. However, the playoffs are showing that the gap closing between the two stars. As Brown is moving closer to Tatum’s level. This gives the Celtics more of a “1A, 1B” situation where the top option changes based on the game or matchup. Let’s dive into Brown’s elevated play and rise in stardom.  

Has Jaylen Brown Closed The Gap Between Him and Tatum?

Playoffs So Far 

In the playoffs, Brown is averaging 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists on .544,/365/.635 shooting splits. Tatum is averaging 25.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 5.6 assists on .436/.266/.867 shooting splits. Notably, Brown and Tatum both have three 30-plus point games in the playoffs. However, Brown’s scoring has been far more efficient in these games averaging 57 percent from the field and shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc. Whereas Tatum has averaged 44 percent from the field while shooting 25 percent from three in these games. Notably, Tatum has only had two games in the playoffs when he’s shot over 50 percent from the field. 

In game two against the Pacers last night Brown had a stellar 40-point performance leading the Celtics to a 16-point win. In game one Tatum had a 36-point and 12-rebound outing including 10 points in overtime. However, it was Brown who saved the day and stole the show for the Celtics hitting a game-tying corner three to force overtime. 


Brown’s scoring and shooting efficiency have made him the better player in the playoffs so farIn the playoffs, Brown is shooting 36 percent from three compared to Tatum’s 26 percent. For their careers, they have posted very similar three-point shooting numbers however, if this trend continues it could change the way we look at these two players. For the first time since Tatum’s rookie year, Brown is posting a higher usage rate than him. In the playoffs, Brown has a 28.8 usage rate and Tatum has a 27.7 giving Brown the slight edge. 

This paired with Tatum’s season-long struggles in the clutch will cause the Celtics to turn to Brown more down the stretch of close games. Furthermore, Brown is shooting 73 percent at the rim compared to Tatum’s still very solid 64 percent. However, Brown is shooting 46 percent on shots within five to nine feet of the rim whereas Tatum is shooting just 26 percent from this range. Ultimately, Brown has been noticeably more of an aggressive and effective creator than Tatum in the playoffs. 

Two-Way Abilities 

Another that has to be mentioned with these stars is their defensive abilities. Throughout their careers and in the playoffs both players have been borderline elite defenders. However, the two have taken on different roles, especially during this playoff run. Brown tends to guard more perimeter players complementing Jrue Holiday and Derrick White as an elite point-of-attack defender. Whereas Tatum guards more interior players this has been particularly helpful with the absence of Kristaps Porzingis. Brown’s defensive field goal percentage of 49.6 is slightly better than Tatum’s 52.1 while Brown has defended slightly more shot attempts. Overall, both players have provided the Celtics with elite defense in the playoffs and you’re splitting hairs picking one over the other. 

Where Tatum Still Has The Advantage

Despite some of his offensive struggles Tatum has still made a well-rounded impact and helped contribute to winning in a real way this playoffs. Tatum’s overall impact is highlighted by his 10.2 rebounds a game and 5.6 assists per game. Tatum is also posting an assist percentage of 21.6 while Brown is posting a 13.2 assist percentage

Much like his interior defense, his rebounding has been vital to the Celtics’ success without Porzingis. While much of the media coverage has focused on Tatum’s shooting struggles he has been given little credit for his stellar all-around play. Another piece that must be considered is that Tatum has drawn the more difficult matchup in each series. Part of Brown’s exceptional play has been Tatum’s willingness to let Brown dominate a weaker matchup. Tatum also gets to the line more than Brown during the playoffs, he is averaging 8.2 free attempts compared to Brown’s 5.3 attempts while shooting over 20 percent higher than Brown at the line. Additionally, Brown doesn’t impact the game at the same level as a rebounder or playmaker even though he has improved greatly in those areas. 

The Last Word

Ultimately, it shouldn’t matter who the best player is to the Celtics as long as they keep winning. Having two elite stars is a rare luxury and it only makes the Celtics more dangerous. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to follow and there’s no doubt Brown has closed the gap significantly between him and Tatum. For a few years, Tatum has been considered a consensus top-ten-level player. It’s unfair to say he has completely fallen out of this group although some players such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have certainly surpassed him this year.

However, Brown has never been closer to this class of elite players. He is now a clear top-15-level player maybe even higher. For the past few years, Brown has been considered a top 25 player but not a top 15. Notably, Tatum recently was named to the first-team All-NBA while Brown didn’t make an All-NBA team. In my eyes, Brown’s omission was glaring and speaks to the different perceptions the media has about the two stars. However, a possible Eastern Conference Finals MVP and even a Finals MVP is in play for Brown. Winning one or both of these awards would greatly change the perceptions around the two stars. Some might even consider Brown the better player in this scenario.  


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