The improving game of Cal alum Jaylen Brown could decide the 2022 NBA Finals
Brown and his Boston Celtics will take on the Golden State Warriors starting on Thursday night
Cal Men’s Basketball has not been the same since Jaylen Brown left the program in 2016 after one year in Berkeley.
Also not the same (but for the better in this case) is Jaylen Brown’s game. Drafted as a raw talent as the No.3 overall pick, Brown has grown to be a much more complete player. While I would not say Jaylen Brown is a superstar yet (even if he just signed a deal with Kanye West’s Marketing firm), that is a status that he can earn in these next two weeks.
Jaylen Brown and fellow under-25 superstar Jayson Tatum have carried the Boston Celtics to the 2022 NBA Finals. Brown and his Celtics will take on Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors with Game 1 beginning on Thursday night from San Francisco.
Jaylen Brown gave a shoutout to the Bay Area ahead of these biggest games yet of his career.
The NBA also put up a highlight reel on YouTube of Jaylen Brown’s best moments from this past season.
One can compare that to his highlights from the one season at Cal.
From the highlights above, Jaylen Brown has always been a great dunker and unafraid, though also kind of reckless, in attacking the rim. Yet his game made a significant change starting in 2021 when he was named to the NBA All-Star Game, hosted in his home state of Georgia.
Check out Jaylen Brown’s shot charts (regular season only) from 2017 to 2021 from StatMuse.
Clearly, the 2021 chart stands out as different from the other three. Jaylen Brown has started to take a lot more midrange shots as well as making them at an above-average rate. By the way, I do not think those are the jumping-off points of his dunks, although he can probably dunk from beyond the free-throw lines. Settling for the mid-range jumper or simply a layup have the unlocked new skills for “NBA All-Star” Jaylen Brown. By mixing up some of the drives, Brown actually gets easier paths to make more spectacular dunks for his highlight reels.
The 2022 shot chart looks fairly similar to the 2022 version with the distribution. However, for 2022, Jaylen Brown is not quite as efficient from the free-throw line area but had a better field goal percentage from either side than the top of the key, likely pull-up shots from slashing toward the basket from an angle. Interestingly his eFG% remained pretty steady from 0.554 in 2019-20 to 0.558 and 0.541 in 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, respectively.
The advanced NBA stats show that his usage rate has gone way up and Brown has turned those extra touches effectively into assists. Some of the increase in usage is due to personnel changes on the team, but Jaylen has also stepped his game by making better passes and improving his playmaking skills.
Usage Rate: 24.7 (2019-20) → 29.7 (2020-21), 30.5 (2021-22)
Assist %: 9.7 (2019-20) → 16.5 (2020-21), 17.9 (2021-22)
These improvements are also obvious in the regular stats.
Points: 20.3 (2019-20) → 24.7 (2020-21), 23.6 (2021-22)
Assists: 2.1 (2019-20) → 3.4 (2020-21), 3.5 (2021-22)
The increase in production for Jaylen Brown has also stayed fairly steady in the playoffs. In this 2022 run, Brown is averaging 22.9 points per game with 3.5 assists.
Dating back to his Cal days, Jaylen Brown has always had the ability and desire to attack the basket. His game is much better built for the NBA though, both due to how offensive fouls are called much more often in college and how a player can often “Euro-step” in the Association without being called for a travel.
His ability to create shots does set him apart from some of the other wing players in the NBA and give him the higher ceiling of being a NBA superstar. Yet, turnovers from either poor passes or those dreadful offensive fouls does plague him from time to time. To his credit, Jaylen’s turnovers per game has only increased slightly from 2.2 to 2.7 with the jump in usage, but they are a bit higher still at 3.0 for the 2022 playoffs.
Jaylen Brown’s improving ball handling skills as well as his comprehension of the Celtics system have raised his game from an athletic but raw player to a borderline NBA All-Star (Brown received votes for the All-NBA team this season but did not make the three teams unlike teammate Tatum who was named to the First Team). Further improvements in this area, which should also couple with his scoring efficiency, can take him to that next level.
Looking ahead at the 2022 NBA Finals
2022 marks a huge breakthrough for Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and the Boston Celtics. They have finally made it out of the Eastern Conference Finals. Celtics also took out some big names along the way in Kevin Durant and the Nets, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending champs Bucks, and a hobbled Jimmy Butler and the Heat. Celtics played a great second half and have the top rated offense AND defense to give them the love of the computers.
But it would be very unwise to think that the Celtics actually got an 86% chance to win this NBA Finals.
Early in the season, the Celtics were really struggling and Jaylen Brown was even rumored to be on the trade block because some people believed that it would be impossible for the Celtics to win with a core of two similar wing players (this sure worked for Jordan and Pippen but that was a different era). Brown acknowledged hearing those rumors in an interview with Yahoo! Sports.
The Celtics got off to a slow start this season and Brown said he couldn’t help but hear the calls to have him traded.
“That trade talk was loud, and most of it came from Boston fans,” Brown told Haynes. “It’s a city that doesn’t tolerate excuses. But in reality, early in the season we had a new coach, we had a new front office, I missed about 15 games early in the season and that caused us to not be clicking on all cylinders like we wanted to be. People were impatient, so I understand. But fast forward, we got healthy, we got everybody back and now the sky’s the limit.”
Assuming that the Golden State Warriors put their best perimeter defender Andrew Wiggins mostly on Tatum, Jaylen Brown could pick up the scoring slacks and average 30+ points per game in this final. Brown got a big 50 points game earlier this year. He might need to replicate that effort in a couple of games for the Celtics to win their first title since 2008, when they had another Cal alum in Leon Powe.
With their experience and three recent championships, Golden State is the heavy favorites according to Vegas. While the Warriors should be able to get their shots at will thanks to their undefendable system, the Celtics do have the top rated perimeter defending team thanks in part to Brown, Tatum, and Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart. One does have to give the Dubs the big edge in making the plays at the end of tight games, however.
The availability and effectiveness of Oregon State alum Gary Payton II might have a lot of say in how Jaylen Brown fare offensively in this series. Couple this with how Celtics should have the edge with sizes inside the paint, it is not a matter of if but simply how many spectacular dunks will Jaylen Brown have in this series.
Ultimately, the NBA Championship often go to the team with the best player on the floor and that is clearly Stephen Curry. Warriors in six is the most plausible outcome, but do not be shocked if Jaylen Brown pulls a Leon Powe in the 2008 NBA Finals Game 2 but for the whole series. Jaylen Brown going supernova in this NBA Finals is the Celtics’ most likely path to upset the Warriors.