The Jaylen Brown-Kevin Durant commerce saga seems to be within the rear view for now. A number of stories point out conversations between the Celtics and Nets by no means reached a severe level as coaching camp looms, and it’s arduous to think about the franchise’s focus will stay fixated on the potential of greener grass as soon as its personal gamers take the courtroom.
The Celtics sat in an enviable, albeit awkward, place over the past month the place their almost unmatched capability to contend for Durant might bolster a group that already made the Finals. If the worth stood too excessive, they may pivot again to a burgeoning trio of Jayson Tatum, Robert Williams III and Brown alongside three glorious guards. The group’s fortunes will now be tied to how significantly better Brown can turn into and possibly extra importantly, how lengthy he’ll keep.
Brown’s getting into his prime in his seventh NBA season, two seasons from free company, with a number of corrections on the edges of his sport to sq. away. He’s nearing All-NBA standing and — because the final yr’s postseason progressed — confirmed he’s not too far off from Tatum at his finest. That “my flip, your flip” dynamic settled in favor of Tatum increasing his playmaking and Brown embracing a ending function. Brown centered on scoring and Tatum did all of it, turning Boston’s season round. There’s nonetheless room for Brown to enhance and sneak into the highest of the league’s hierarchy along with his teammate. It could possibly be key to conserving him in Boston long-term, discovering extra of his potential in tandem with Tatum. He’s all the time identified he’s able to extra.
“All-around, the issues he does, the flexibility he offers us on the defensive finish is what it’s, I feel that trickles down with Marcus and our huge wings,” Ime Udoka stated. “He’s been strong there and he’s one of many guys who has most likely needed to restructure what he did as a defender. He’s often a man that locks in on an project on-ball, off-ball and sort of takes that man out the place we’re asking for extra communication and he’s one of many guys that has improved all through the season so far as that. Offensively … his playmaking capability and his scoring for himself. I feel (Sport 3 of the Finals) was one in all his finest video games of getting guys organized into spots he wished, get our spacing right after which attacking from there … one, two dribbles and discovering guys everywhere in the courtroom. That development, in addition to Jayson, was a giant level of emphasis coming into the season.”
For Brown to turn into tremendous max eligible, he’d should signal an extension with the Celtics subsequent summer time and make All-NBA, win MVP or rating Defensive Participant of the Yr honors the next yr in 2023-24. There’s some enchancment wanted for him to interrupt via that may begin now, notably within the ball management class. The league’s incentive construction is constructed across the elite gamers within the sport. Tatum himself missed tremendous max standing (and $25.2 million) by lacking All-NBA in 2020-21. Brown signed his final contract for slightly below the max, subjecting him to a 120% elevate if he extends this summer time. The designated veteran extension turns into out there subsequent yr, so he’ll know the way shut he’s to that threshold.
Brown might increase what would begin as an roughly five-year, $248.8 million extension right into a $290.3 million mega-deal, over $100 million greater than he might signal for with a brand new group in free company. It’s a severe benefit the Celtics would profit from if he positions himself to earn all that he can. He’s have already got to a point, with 2022 probably the most persistently concerned he’s ever been within the offense — averaging 24.2 factors on 18.8 pictures every evening after his damage. His 60.2 touches per sport had been up from 56.9 the yr earlier than and 49.0 in 2020.
Brown completed with three All-NBA Third Group votes, fifteenth amongst NBA gamers with LeBron James and Pascal Siakam finally scoring these honors at ahead. Siakam’s presence offers Brown hope, as one other participant whose identify has floated in commerce rumors earlier than he discovered his footing subsequent to a fellow star in Fred VanVleet and scored a profession season at 27-years-old; he shot 49.4% from the sphere, averaged 22.8 factors per sport, grabbed 8.5 rebounds and dished 5.3 assists per sport.
The returns of Kawhi Leonard (All-NBA 2019-2021), Anthony Davis (2018, 2020), Zion Williamson (second runner-up in 2021 behind Tatum) and Paul George (2018-19, 2021) from damage might crowd the ahead area whereas Jimmy Butler (2020-21), Durant (2016-19, 2022) and James (2005-2022) ought to stay within the combine. After Giannis Antetokounmpo (2017-22), DeMar DeRozan (2017-18, 2022) and Tatum, there’s a window for Brown to interrupt via within the subsequent yr or two alongside Brandon Ingram, Khris Middleton and Desmond Bane. These are the one forwards to seem in voting on the place since 2018-19.
The children are coming although. Count on Anthony Edwards to seem as quickly as this yr. Evan Mobley and Scottie Barnes might, too, and whereas unlikely, a rookie like Paolo Banchero or Chet Holmgren might get within the combine by 2024.
Third Group guards sometimes want near 24.0 PPG, Tatum scored 23.4 PPG in 2020, whereas Siakam and Butler squeezed in with nearer to twenty.0 PPG because of increased all-around numbers. Each averaged over 6.0 RPG, a mark Brown met final yr. Most All-NBA forwards over the previous 4 years averaged roughly 4-5 APG, or extra. Tatum (2020), Leonard (2019), George (2018), Siakam (2020) and LaMarcus Aldridge (2018) had been uncommon exceptions lately.
Siakam’s wide-ranging impression is one Brown is aspiring to achieve. Brown averaging 23.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG and three.5 APG on 47.3% capturing whereas solely ending with 66 video games because of a nagging hamstring ailment he admittedly got here again too quickly from. Brown centered on playmaking getting into the season, gaining the chance to steer bench models and the group as an entire via a winter COVID surge.
The outcomes had been combined. A December win over the Pacers displaying his finest as a playmaker within the clutch. He additionally led a comeback effort towards Orlando with 50 factors.
“I feel I’ve made leaps,” Brown advised CelticsBlog in December. “That’s one thing that I’ve watched this summer time and actually tried to enhance at. I haven’t had as many alternatives to be in these roles the place I’m the one setting the tone, often I’m on the receiving finish making an attempt to attain. As I proceed to seek out alternative ways on this group to be a menace and to be aggressive, having the ball, bringing it up, working pick-and-rolls, discovering guys is one thing I really feel snug with.”
He continued to go on stretches of scoring explosions that rival almost any participant, reaching their pinnacle when he bounces round screens to hit successive threes that progressively elevate the amount in TD Backyard. There’s no response fairly just like the Boston crowd’s to Brown’s runs — they virtually want their very own nickname.
Brown went on one in all them to start out the third quarter of Sport 2 towards the Nets, following his driving layup to complete the primary half with a drive-and-kick to Al Horford for 3, capturing to the highest of the important thing two performs later to strip Kyrie Irving and bumping him out of the way in which to attract foul on the way in which to a transition basket. He despatched Tatum out for a dunk performs later after stealing the ball from Durant with Boston discovering itself again inside two factors lower than 5 minutes after they trailed by 10.
Subsequent quarter, after already tying the sport at 92 with an acrobatic layup, Brown hit a pull-up three to place Boston up by a number of possessions and ship the Backyard right into a frenzy. He averaged 22.2 PPG on 48.4% capturing via the primary two postseason rounds, undoubtedly helped by the stress defenses ship away from him at Tatum, then taking over the function of carrying the offense via dry spells within the later rounds.
His 40 factors saved Sport 3 towards the Warmth shut till the closing seconds. In Sport 6, because the Warriors sped towards a championship following a 21-0 run, he put his head down and made them sweat your complete second half in a 34-point effort. He improved to 23.8 PPG within the Jap Convention Finals and NBA Finals. Dribbling and tightening his protection as much as an elite degree are two factors that might make him extra environment friendly and improve his scoring and passing output.
Brown typically bristled at questions relating to his ball management final yr, understandably throughout a postseason run the place Tatum and Good turned possessions over at increased charges. He emphasised taking part in aggressively, which might assist break the offense open at its most stagnant factors, however he additionally started the season with extra turnovers than assists with a 1:1 ratio within the remaining two postseason rounds. When the purpose of the double groups Tatum drew got here up, Brown would emphasize he additionally attracts additional stress from defenses.
“I’m being myself,” Brown stated in March. “Two back-to-back video games the place the ball was transferring. I didn’t have one help. Folks would possibly’ve obtained on me about that earlier within the season, however taking part in the sport the suitable manner, drawing doubles, making the suitable performs and the ball is falling within the internet. So persevering with to be ourselves and play the suitable manner and getting good group wins, and simply taking what the sport offers you. You may’t management that groups are guarding you sure methods, you’ve simply obtained to play basketball and that’s what we’re doing.”
A few of Brown’s development will stem from acknowledgement of the holes in his sport. He already made some by taking part in nearer to the basket, making himself out there for passes extra typically and bending the protection with up-fakes. Ime Udoka and Brown spent important time collectively one-on-one in the course of the COVID surge, breaking down video games and making an attempt to carry his playmaking to the subsequent degree.
Then, he closed the season scoring 25 or extra factors in 10 straight video games, averaging 28.5 PPG on 55.7% capturing from late March into April. Brown dished almost two assists for each turnover. All of it got here collectively, because it has in spurts, and three.8 APG over the ultimate 53 video games would’ve been his profession excessive.
There’s a world the place James, Durant and DeRozan decline decrease or out of the All-NBA hierarchy solely, Brown edges out Siakam and large scoring totals sneak him into an All-NBA Third Group slot subsequent yr. The Clippers’ forwards might not play sufficient video games, making it all of the extra necessary Brown stays on the ground himself and hammers down among the defensive miscues that plagued him final season.
The Celtics have emphasised a sizzling begin and few have been higher than Brown at these, each in-game and to start out seasons. He led the league in factors early within the 2020 marketing campaign, one other one in all his scorching runs.
With a full season nearer to that manufacturing, he’ll be tougher pressed to say no what could possibly be a historic contract from the Celtics. Then, the franchise could have extra hope than ever of conserving its younger duo collectively for a lot of this decade.