Besides Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown Has Been the Celtics’ Best Player

Who would’ve thought that 12 games into the NBA season the Celtics would be sitting atop of the Eastern Conference with a record of 10-2? Who would’ve thought that the Celtics would have the second-best record in the NBA only behind the Los Angeles Lakers? The Celtics have shocked a lot of people so far this season, but it shouldn’t have been much of a shock.

Boston is coming off a very forgettable year. After having such high expectations and not reaching them, the team had a different approach this year: have no expectations and be the team that shocks everybody.

Nobody was talking about the Celtics in the preseason like they’re talking about them now. Who would’ve thought that the Celtics were going to be better off with Kemba Walker instead of Kyrie Irving? Even without defensive juggernauts Al Horford and Aron Baynes, everybody has stepped up and has been able to benefit from playing alongside Walker. That includes Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, and Jaylen Brown.

Jayson Tatum is finally making that jump that a lot of people were expecting to see last year. He’s leading the team in field-goal attempts and is averaging barely under 20 points a game. He’s grabbing over seven rebounds a night, which also leads the team.

His shot selection has been shaky and has had a handful of poor shooting games. He’s had more games where he shoots over 45% than less, so it’s not like he’s struggling every night. But there are some shots that he takes that makes you scratch your head. He kinda/sorta/does make up for it when he comes out in the fourth quarter hitting clutch shots.

Gordon Hayward was the team’s second-best player when he was healthy. Before he got hurt, he was averaging over 20 points, 7 rebounds, and nearly 5 assists a game. Hayward was shooting 55% from the field and 43% from three. He began to look like his old self before injuring his hand. He was returning to All-Star form.

When one player goes down, another has to step up. And while Gordon Hayward has been out, Jaylen Brown has been that player to step up. He’s stepped up BIG TIME and is showing everybody why he deserved that $115M contract he signed right before the season began.

After opening night against Philly, Jaylen has been on a tear. He missed a few games due to an illness but has shown up to play nearly every game. He only has three games this year where he shoots below 50%. He’s averaging over 20 points on a career-high 15 FGA. He recorded four straight 20 points games and was only two points shy of making it a fifth against Sacramento.

He’s averaging the second-most rebounds on the team (7.1), and his free throw shooting has looked tremendous. Free throws were never Jaylen’s cup of tea, but he’s getting to the line a career-high 4.1 times a night and is hitting them at 78%.

He’s driving to the basket without fear and has been crafty with his finishes. He’s been using his left hand quite frequently when finishing at the rim, and that’s something we’ve rarely seen from him before.

In games where the Celtics have needed somebody to step up, Jaylen’s been there. Kemba Walker has been doing amazing things for Boston, but Jaylen is right up there with him. Gordon Hayward has been better than amazing, don’t get me wrong, but Jaylen’s stepped up when Hayward went down.

Jaylen Brown is playing the best basketball of his career, and this is what the Celtics needed from him if they wanted to be contenders in the Eastern Conference. He still has some work to do on his three-point shot (although he’s shot 7-10 from three the past two games), but he’s been fantastic at everything else. He’s finally stepping out of his shell and turning into the player we always knew he could be.

Honestly, everybody has been playing great for the Celtics this year, for the most part. Walker, Hayward, Tatum, Brown, Smart, Theis, Williams, hell even Wanamaker have all played great basketball this year and should be credited for how well this team is performing so far.

There are still 70 games to go, and if the first 12 have shown us anything, it’s that this year is going to be very exciting. Hopefully, the team can keep up this level of play moving forward, especially with Hayward out for a few more weeks. When this team is healthy, and everybody’s killing it like they have, they will be able to compete with just about anyone.

(Photo: Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images)

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