Are the Boston Celtics better off without Jaylen Brown?

Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

The Boston Celtics finally appear to be putting all the pieces together after a sluggish start to the season. They have now scored 130+ points in two straight games (on both legs of a back-to-back too nonetheless), and the team appears set to combine an awakening offense with a lockdown defense. Typically that leads to wins, unless the opposing team continually hits absurd shots like the Utah Jazz did two nights ago.

An interesting part of this development is that the offense has seemingly upped the ante without one of their stars in Jaylen Brown. Brown has experienced what head coach Ime Udoka referred to as a “minor setback” in regards to his hamstring injury, and has been missing in action from the Celtics two recent scoring outbursts.

Even when Brown returned initially for a quick five game stretch, he didn’t look like himself. He failed to reach the 20 point threshold in any of those games, and he was shooting particularly bad splits over those five games (39 percent from the field and 29 percent from behind the arc).

It might just be a cold stretch, but it is interesting to see this team find their way on offense without Brown in the fold. With all the chatter surrounding whether Brown and co-star Jayson Tatum can exist together, it begs the question; are the Boston Celtics better without Brown on the court?

Could it be time for the Boston Celtics to move on from Jaylen Brown?

I understand that the topic is extremely off-putting, and realistically, this is something that I would be quite opposed to for the time being. The Tatum-Brown duo still hasn’t really gotten enough time to fully realize their own potential, and it would be way too soon to cut ties with either one of them. Remember, they had to deal with Kemba Walker for the vast majority of last season. This is their first real shot to lead the Boston Celtics on their own.

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So far, they haven’t really gotten their shot, at least not together. Brown has already missed 11 games this season, so him and Tatum haven’t really been able to get into a rhythm together so far. The surprising piece is that Tatum appears to have found his footing without Brown in the lineup, and that could become important down the line.

It’s been well documented that Tatum has struggled pretty considerably to start the season, and his numbers with Brown in and out of the lineup are a bit concerning. Tatum finally appeared to figure things out, posting a stretch of four straight 30 point games, with the fourth game coming against the Houston Rockets, which was Brown’s first game back in action. But then Tatum went cold again, only shooting above 40 percent in one the following four games that saw him and Brown on the court together.

With Brown out the past two games, Tatum has exploded again for a pair of 30 point games, and has done so on relatively good efficiency, which hasn’t always been the case this season. Even looking back to last season, Tatum’s late season scoring splurge came without Brown in the lineup. While Tatum obviously has to carry a bigger load without Brown on the court, it is at least a little bit concerning to see this trend emerge.

Another particularly concerning development for Brown has been his seemingly stunted playmaking abilities. Brown is averaging just 2.2 assists per game this season, and he has only had one game where he has had more than three assists, which was the season opener against the New York Knicks. It’s a small sample size, but right now it looks like Brown’s passing has actually taken a step backwards.

Brown has never been much of a playmaker (he only averaged 3.4 assists per game last season), but that’s partly due to him playing much more off ball than his partner in Tatum. It really isn’t necessary considering Marcus Smart and Dennis Schroder are on the roster, but Tatum is capable of running and initiating the offense when called upon.

Tatum’s assist numbers are nothing to really write home about either (just 3.7 per game so far), but he realistically should be averaging around five per game if it weren’t for his teammates constantly missing good looks for most of the season. Tatum is beginning to realize that getting his teammates involved will help open up the game for himself down the line, which incentivizes him to move the ball a bit more. His 27 point second half against the Jazz proves as much.

On the other hand, Brown seems far too content to make possessions end in a shot when he gets the ball. Considering Brown is still shooting 46 percent from the field this season, that doesn’t really seem to be an issue. But to this point, he has failed to realize that opposing defenses are keying in on him and Tatum, making it tougher for him to score. He can still score when this happens, as can Tatum, but it’s a lot easier when everyone is firing on all cylinders.

The Boston Celtics recent two game offensive outburst has been quite encouraging, but it remains to be seen whether the team can successfully incorporate Brown into their offensive gameplan moving forward. Realistically speaking, it’s more important for Brown to figure out how to adapt to the gameplan of the team, rather than the team looking for ways to include him.

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If the Celtics can get Brown back and get him and Tatum going at the same time, the rest of the league will be in trouble. But to this point, that hasn’t happened, which is concerning. Tatum has shown that he is capable of taking charge of this offense, but that hasn’t been with Brown in the lineup.

Until these two can prove they can work together, these questions will continue to be asked, and the front office may be forced into investing in a future where these two aren’t working together. Here’s to hoping that isn’t the case.