Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown continue to split opinions around the NBA as a duo. Some see the pair as the keys to the future of the Boston Celtics, while others believe the team won’t raise a banner with the talented wings leading the charge.
Against the Milwaukee Bucks on Christmas Day, both the supporters and detractors of the young Celtics duo were given reasons to support their arguments. The game started with Brown unable to miss a shot and Tatum finding the open man with consistency. But in the second half, neither wing could recapture their first-half performance, and Boston ultimately lost the contest.
“It’s not just one guy or two guys who will try to do it on their own a little bit, so we’ve got to trust our guys,” Ime Udoka said following Boston’s loss.
Tatum and Brown trusting their teammates have been one of the most central questions surrounding the Celtics for the last two seasons. Far too often, one of the All-Star wings will look off an open teammate to take a shot with a higher degree of difficulty.
“Every team is programmed and studied to stop Jayson and Jaylen. I think everybody’s scouting report is to make those guys pass the ball. They don’t want to pass the ball,” Marcus Smart told the media after the Celtics’ November 1 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
Of course, you also have the issue of the pairing rarely dominating games together. Usually, if Tatum gets hot, Brown will struggle, and if Brown gets hot, Tatum will struggle – but if the Celtics wish to be the best version of themselves, both of their star wings need to co-exist at the same time.
Ex-Coach Sam Mitchell Doesn’t Think the Pairing Works
As a longtime NBA veteran with 13 years of playing experience, Sam Mitchell knows something about what it takes to be a star in the NBA. Sure, Mitchell may not have been a star himself, but he competed against some of the greats, and since hanging up his boots, has been a head coach for the Grizzlies and Timberwolves. He is currently an analyst with Sirius XM’s NBA Radio.
So, when Mitchell discusses basketball or basketball players, you listen. He’s been around the league in numerous capacities for over 30-years, and you don’t get that sort of longevity in the league if you’re not exceptional at what you do.
In a recent appearance on NBA Radio, Mitchell shared his thoughts on the Tatum and Brown pairing, and what he had to say may surprise some sections of fans.
They just can’t play together. Watching them the other night, it just don’t fit. It doesn’t feel right watching them play together on the floor. But the way those two guys play, it’s like no one ever taught those guys to play basketball with others. It’s weird.
You never see them pass and cut and move, get a screen down, come off, make a hard drive to the basket, defense step up, they hit somebody with a pocket pass, throw it to the corner for a 3, or kick it when the weak side defender steps in. It’s always, let me exhaust every move to see if I got a shot. Then I will pass, and then it’s too late.
If you put them together, I am just going to load up three guys and make you pass and then I’ll rotate and live with the results. Especially if who is on the floor with you can’t make shots or can’t make plays. When you got two players like that, you just gotta play basketball. You gotta use these guys—they gotta move without the ball, play without it. You just can’t play your turn, my turn.
While Mitchell’s remarks may be seen as strong, he’s not saying anything that hasn’t been said before, usually by the team’s own players or coaching staff. Yet, the message doesn’t seem to be getting through to the All-Star pairing.
Celtics All-Star Wings Have Been Successful Before
When you win as a young player in the NBA, expectations quickly increase, and you’re held to a different standard than you once were. And that’s what’s happening to Brown and Tatum.
Boston’s young wing pairing has helped lead the Celtics to three of the last five NBA Eastern Conference finals. While the team has never progressed past that hurdle, there’s hope that as Tatum and Brown develop, they will lead the team to the promised land.
“What I’ve seen is that this duo works,” Celtics insider Chris Mannix recently said during a Celtics post-game on NBC Sports Boston. “You can’t really put your finger on one thing specifically over the course of five games, but you go back the last four seasons and look at what they’ve done as teammates.
“They’ve been to conference finals. They both made All-Star teams last year. You can’t throw all that out based on some injuries to Jaylen Brown early on, and some inconsistency with this team.”
It would seem that opinions will continue to differ for as long as the Celtics continue to struggle and hover around the .500 mark. Sure, it’s fair to point towards the current Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the NBA as a mitigating factor for Tatum and Brown’s struggles. Still, it’s also fair to note that they should lead Boston to additional wins against injury-hit teams as budding superstars.
Both arguments have merit if you look hard enough.
Still, the Celtics and their star duo will have another chance to change the current narrative when they face the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 27, as the team looks to get back in the win column following their Christmas Day collapse.