Since midway through the 2022 NBA playoffs, Jaylen Brown has emerged as the best play finisher on the Boston Celtics. Now, former Celtic Eddie House thinks the best is yet to come for Brown.
“He has a chip on his shoulder, and I’m gonna go out on a limb and say I have Jaylen Brown as being one of the top five players for MVP this year,” House said during an October 17 appearance on NBC Sports Boston. “If he’s going to win MVP, he’s gonna have to be the leading scorer.”
It appears that Brown has fully bought into the role as the team’s best scorer and play finisher, someone who can attack all three levels and does most of his scoring off the catch, allowing teammates to initiate plays and generate scoring opportunities.
“Look how fast he starts quarters,” said House, who played for the Celtics from 2007 through part of the 2009-10 season. “Jayson Tatum usually starts games slowly and finishes. If [Brown just starts] the game with 12 points in the first quarter — 15, 16, points in the first quarter — think about all you have to do the rest of the game to get an easy 26 points, 27 points.”
During the Celtics’ NBA Finals series against the Golden State Warriors, Brown was clearly Boston’s best offensive threat, averaging 23.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 34% from deep and 43.1% from the field.
Suddenly, he looks like he could take on the world, carrying his postseason scoring form into the Celtics’ preseason competition. “He’s in midseason form in the preseason right now,” House said.
Jayson Tatum Played With a Fractured Wrist
As Brown emerged as the Celtics’ most potent offensive weapon in the finals, Tatum was trying to find his rhythm while playing through injury.
Speaking to Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks in an exclusive August 21 interview, Tatum revealed that he was nursing a non-displaced wrist fracture throughout the entire postseason, perhaps explaining his stuttering performances against the Warriors.
“I had a non-displaced fracture in my wrist. It was small, but it was a non-displaced chip – I had chipped the bone, but it didn’t leave the surface. It showed the bone had grown over and it had healed, but it would still hurt because I kept getting hit and falling on it,” Tatum said. “So, I guess I played with somewhat of a fracture for two months, and then in the playoffs, there was a play against Milwaukee in Game 3 — I dunked it, Giannis [Antetokounmpo] chased me down and I fell into the crowd and that was the most painful it’s been since the day that I hurt it. … After each game, I had to wear a brace, but I would take it back off before the cameras saw me.”
Against the Warriors, Tatum averaged 21.5 points, seven assists and 6.8 rebounds per game on 45.5% shooting from three and 36.7% shooting from the field.
Joe Mazzulla Wants Focus on Offense
Last season, the Celtics became synonymous with defense, courtesy of their “double big” lineup and Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart roaming the perimeter. However, that was head coach Ime Udoka’s vision for how the Celtics were going to play. With Udoka suspended, it’s possible interim head coach Joe Mazzulla will have his own ideas.
Mazzulla told reporters on October 16 he wanted to keep a defensive identity but also wanted his team to double down on offensive execution so they can finally make good on their embarrassment of attacking riches.
“I think last year we thought defense first, and obviously you have to do that. But now, with our skill, we can kind of think offensively as well. So, just a bit more balance and what gives our team the best opportunity to win,” Mazzulla said.
Fans will get their first look at Mazzulla’s vision when the Celtics open the season October 18 at home against the Philadelphia 76ers.