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A tale of two Jaylen Browns

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Everything was great for Boston Celtics This year it wasn’t even. The best offense in the history of the league quickly turned into the worst offense in the league during the month of December. Overheated three-point shooting has turned into a terrible shooting slump. And now, they’ve lost four of their last five matches.

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Boston still sits well in the standings, but there are a lot more questions surrounding the team than there were just over a week ago. The scourge of shooting is one thing. It was extremely unlikely that the Celtics could keep shooting like they were from long range. But the way they respond to their shooting struggles was the biggest problem.

After their second consecutive loss to Orlando Magic at home, Marcus Smart noted They let their poor shooting affect their play in other areas of the game. And while the entire team was wrong, Jaylen Brown was the poster child for these issues.

To be completely clear, this doesn’t mean Brown has been bad this year. In fact, it was the opposite. He was the second-best player in the league and setting records for his career. He’s great at making the second All-Star team. When it’s hot, it’s hot. But when it isn’t, it hurts the way the team plays on both sides of the field.

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Photo by Michael Reeves/Getty Images

Brown has never been a better playmaker. Passing numbers per game have steadied at around 3.5 per contest over the past three years. Now, it’s not bad, but in recent matches, he seems to have lost faith in his teammates. Rather than play within the flow of the offense, Brown decided to “do it himself” over and over again.

Watch this play from December 16th against the Magic. Brown gets the ball on a fast break and speeds down the court. Sam Hauser moves into the corner and opens wide. But instead of pointing it at him, Brown takes a contested layup with multiple Orlando defenders around him.

He gets saved by a foul call and sinks two free throws, but the point is he chooses to do it all himself rather than trust his teammates. Some people would argue that getting inside is more valuable than a three-point shot, but when Hauser is open in the corner and two defenders are ready to meet him at the basket, the odds are not in the Browns’ favor.

Hauser has been in a severe shooting slump this month. He only shoots 25.7% from three-point range in December, but ignoring him while he’s wide open behind the arc in favor of a contested layup is bad basketball. Hauser still shoots 42.0% from depths for the season even when accounting for his recent troubles.

This isn’t the only time the Browns have abandoned the offensive game plan. This is a split-second decision, but when confronted, Brown makes the wrong decision. Malcolm Brogdon makes a nice pass to Brown in the corner, but instead of keeping the ball moving, he pulls up. Derek White was sitting on the wing, waiting for the ball.

Similar to Hauser, White had shooting problems in December. Over the course of the month, he shot 23.5% from distance. But then again, like Hauser, he still has an impressive deep-for-year shooting percentage of 39.4%. White would have had a free shot if the Browns had kept things moving.

The list goes on, though. This is a play that does not have a direct impact like the previous two, but it does lead to another topic for discussion. Brown starts with the ball at the top of the corkscrew and dribbles past defenders. He ends up at the elbow with Brogdon opening up behind the three-point line. However, instead of passing the ball to Brogdon, who could have kept the attack flowing, Brown latches on for a hotly contested mid-range jump.

That’s actually one of the things Brown has done very well this season. Of the 115 players who have attempted at least 30 mid-range shots this season, the Browns are fourth in the league for efficiency, at 56.0%. He’s made money from that place, and it’s been helping him post the best scoring numbers of his career.

But just as the Celtics’ shots fell at the end, so could the Browns. Throughout his career, Brown has never been a good mediocrity. His best season before that was 2020-21 when he shot 50.0% from that spot. The big difference? shot attempts. He only attempted 158 mid-range shots that year, but so far this season, he’s already caught 91. The next season was his best last year at 45.9%, and outside of that, he’s shot below 40% of the average range in three of his other four seasons.

There has been a definite improvement from him in that area of ​​his game, and there is always a chance he will maintain his dominance from mid-range, but his shooting is very likely to fall back to the middle. And if that happens, he won’t be able to continue making easy passes in favor of contested mid-range jump shots.


Outside of his shooting choice and apparent reluctance to take the extra pass, the Browns were also struggling with turnovers again. It was a problem that reared its ugly head in the postseason last year, and it’s back again. He’s hit 20 turnovers in his last five games, including 12 in Boston’s two games against Orlando.

Four of those 12 were flights. Brown claimed that the referees were targeting him in this regard. But more importantly, an abundance of it was due to Brown’s poor decision-making and loose grip on drives.

Take a look at this play. Brown takes the ball to a crowd of defenders before losing control and coughing it up.

Prefer another one. Brown loses the ball as he dribbles it through his legs.

Another accelerator handle here at the break as Markelle Fultz stepped in for the steal.

Then there are the poor lanes. The Browns are trying to create a signature ball play here and instead hand the ball to Orlando.

These are not new issues either. As noted, Brown’s rotational problems date back to last year’s Celtics Finals. Do these transitions sound familiar?

Brown has been making the exact same shifts for a long time, and all his mistakes seem to come when he goes downhill. He is prone to poor decision making, and his handle is sloppy. Transitions come as a result of these two problems. His recent gifts are carbon copies of his turnovers in last year’s playoffs.


And while his game management has been questionable on the offensive end lately, his defense has been a little stiff at times, too. For someone who has been widely regarded as a top-notch defender over the course of his career, Brown has been deadlocked on that end so far this season.

One of the main issues was his defense off the ball. Time and time again, Brown was caught watching the ball while corner guard. Watch Fultz get the easiest basket of his life on this play.

Brown was so focused on handling the ball that Fultz would dance around him for an easy basket. That was one of three shots the Magic Point Jars made in the game.

If this happened once, it would still be a problem, but it has happened to Brown on numerous occasions this year. Here’s another example from Boston vs Oklahoma City Thunder In November.

And it happens again here v Sacramento Kings.

The Browns are constantly knocked down by minor cuts, and this leads to easy points for Boston’s opponents. Every player makes mental errors, but Brown makes the same mental error over and over again.

Off-the-ball defense has never been the Browns’ strong suit, but it has been particularly bad this season. In previous years, the Browns made up for this with stellar defense on the ball, but even that got a hit this year. He snaps while driving a lot, and star players don’t always do that.

Don’t twist it – guys like Tea Gilgios Alexander still give it work. Look how easily Gilgos Alexander gets around Brown in this play.

This was a common occurrence in Boston’s only game with the Thunder this year. Gilgios Alexander shot 5 of 8 when guarded by Brown – on all two-point looks.

Again, though, it’s not just the superstars who are outshine the Browns this season. This play is a little trickier, but Brown barely fights around the screen, and when Tobias Harris got into the paint, it looked as if he just conceded the attempted shot.

Harris shot 4-for-4 when guarded by the Browns in the season opener, though three of his shots were three-point attempts.


Brown is an exceptional player. He’s an obvious All-Star this year, one of the league’s leading scorers, and a top 20 player in the NBA. Along with Jason Tatum, he helped lead the Celtics to two NBA record highs. And by the end of the year, he’ll earn serious consideration for the All-NBA Team.

Pointing out Brown’s shortcomings is not an attempt to bury him or prove he’s not great. is great. But his shortcomings have cost the Celtics this year, and they’re perfectly in line with the team’s core problem at the moment — letting their shots dictate their play on both ends of the floor.

Brown has scored 20 or more points in all but two games this season, shooting 49.6% from the field and a career-high 58.4% on two-point field goals. His scoring dominance this season cannot be denied. But for all the amazing combos he’s scored, it’s equally important to acknowledge the issues.

Turnovers, poor decision-making and sub-par defense have plagued Brown this season. This does not mean demolishing a star player in the middle of what is arguably the best season of his career. Instead, it should indicate all areas where it can (and needs) to improve.

The ceiling is too high for Brown, but he needs to clear the floor first.

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