Before you ask - Yes, I do promise to return back to my scouting roots and provide some updates on rookies. But now, in the fashion of Sauron's Eye in Middle Earth, we must shine our attention on Jaylen Brown.
The fourth year Celtic has had an odd journey throughout his time in Boston. After selecting him over players like Dragan Bender and Kris Dunn, many fans were eager to write off Brown as a Danny Ainge bust. His first season showed promise, however. Boston fans appreciate his hustle and noted athleticism.
Then came his sophomore year. "Soph," meaning wisdom as determined by its Greek etymological roots, helped described Brown's second season. Injuries to bot Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving forced the wing to grow up quickly. Surely enough, Brown proved why he had taken graduate classes as a freshman at Cal. He looked like a veteran and it was evident in his statistical leap.
His third season, however, seemed to be a setback of sorts. Brown was relegated to a bench role due to his poor play to begin the year. Although he thrived in that role, his third professional campaigned left fans not only wanting more but, wondering how much Brown should be paid for his upcoming rookie extension.
As we now know, Brown got the bag. Considering bags cost 10 cents a piece in Connecticut grocery stores, this is a major deal (pun intended.) Many questioned if he was worth all of that money, Nick Wright being the most notable and expected critic. Turns out, this contract looks like it could be a steal.
The season is still young but Brown has put up some impressive numbers. There are four players in the League who are shooting at least 61 percent on two-pointers while taking a minimum of 10 per game. Three of them are the reigning MVP, a future MVP (Luka Doncic) and Montrezl Harrell. The fourth and final player on that list: Jaylen Brown.
Want more nerdy stats? For all players logging at least 30 minutes per game, Jaylen ranks 17th in effective field goal percentage. Using the 30 minute marker as a qualifier separates the rotational players from the starters. For anyone who has followed Brown throughout his young career, this statistic should be as surprising as it is encouraging.
Numbers are not enough, though. So, can we combine some data with eye-test details to explain how Brown has taken the step forward? Let's dive into his free throw stats. During his first three seasons Brown averaged 2.5 free throw attempts per game and sank only 65 percent of them. This year that number more than doubled (5.2 FTAs per game) and he is sinking 77 percent of them. Is there more to observe?
The table below is the most important one to take note of. Brown's 2-point percentage has skyrocketed. Look at his shot distances, however. He is making career highs from every distance. Will this last? Probably not. Yet, when coupled with his rising free throw percentage, these numbers are indicative of a player who has learned how to finish at the rim with greater touch and hit jumpers consistently.
How is Brown doing this? His handle has greatly improved. No longer is he frequently dribbling balls off of his legs during behind the back moves. The game seems slower to Brown because of his tightened ballhandling. Therefore, it makes his explosiveness and strength work to his advantage much more.
Apparently, Jaylen also spent the summer working on finishing drills. He used to be miserable at finishing through contact, especially with his left hand. Now, Brown's enhanced dribble makes it easier for him to maintain his balance and collect himself before going to the rim. The results speak for themselves.
Take a couple minutes and watch some game film of Brown's skill development. You will see improved creativity, body control and decision making as well. After that, pray that his 3-point numbers come back to normal. If they do, the Celtics could have more than just a Most Improved candidate on their hands.