Monday, January 30, 2023
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Jaylen Brown is developing into a superstar, so it’s time to stop considering him to be the Celtics’ backup player.

Jaylen Brown has been viewed as a supporting actor for many years. Exceptionally good, but still playing second fiddle. Next to Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum occupied the same position for a while as a developing secondary star. However, Tatum outgrew that impression and earned his rightful place in the game’s elite as a legitimate MVP candidate and No. 1 on a championship-caliber team.

Brown has therefore been excluded from that conversation as a result. It has become too simple, too natural for us to continue to think of Brown as a sidekick, as someone whose All-Star credentials still need to be questioned and then defended by people like Tacko Fall, much like Scottie Pippen existing next to Michael Jordan.

That’s right—fall. Riots would be justified if Brown, barring injury, does not make the All-Star team this season. That question is insulting to even ask, but the fact that it must be does reveal where Brown, who was passed over for an All-Star spot last season, still stands in the general NBA consciousness. In actuality, Brown’s performance this season thus far justifies no less than an All-NBA debate and possibly even more.

Marcus Smart recently noted, “The things [Jaylen is] doing when he’s at his [best] are the same things JT [Jayson Tatum] is doing at his [best].” When JB [Brown] is performing at his highest peak, he is also in the MVP race, according to JT, who has been in the running for the award.

If you want, you can pick apart the smallest details. Tatum’s performance will prevent Brown from being a legitimate MVP contender, but Smart’s sentiments remain valid. The All can be taken out of Brown’s star qualifier. He is merely a star. Brown has played 19 games, or around 25 percent of the season, and is averaging over 26 points per game on shooting more than 50 percent. Only eight other players in the league—all of whom are household names—can make that claim.

Brown becomes one of five when the field is reduced to the men who are producing such stats on fewer than 20 shots per game. He is almost tough to keep out of the paint, and he grows more confident every year without overdoing it. A Brown shot chart today has such a fantastic balance: According to Cleaning the Glass, 31% of his shots are threes, 31% are from the midrange, and 38% are rim shots.

Brown is maintaining his efficiency by making five free throws per game (a career best) at an 83-percent clip (a career high, by far), slowly increasing his 3-point percentage (40 percent over his last five games), and lighting up the midrange, where he is making 50% of his attempts for the season. Additionally, he has been terrific in November, hitting 60.5 percent of his shots, by far the highest percentage in the league among players who have attempted at least 25 such shots.

It all adds up to a recent run of domination that can only be described as MVP-caliber, which was highlighted by a season-high 36-point performance against the Wizards on Sunday while Tatum was out, giving the Celtics their 12th victory in their previous 13 games.

What say you about giving this man what is due? I don’t mean an All-Star spot when I say that you’re due. That should be obvious. I refer to his just due. Brown is right there in the same company, just because he has a slightly better teammate who also happens to be one of the best players in the world. Currently, this NBA team is the best, and Brown should be properly credited for his contribution.

Boston has two players with MVP caliber. No, the Jays aren’t comparable to Curry and Durant when they played alongside Golden State, but the dynamic is similar in that it may be difficult to determine who is truly in charge on any given night. That’s not meant as a criticism of Tatum, who is amazing and, to be fair, superior to Brown. But it is increasingly incorrect to claim that the divide represents a Batman and Robin relationship. We can no longer set that as the default. Brown is simply too outstanding on his own to remain in second place to anyone else’s star.


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