Can Jaylen Brown fill Avery Bradley's shoes next season?
Will Jaylen Brown take on Avery Bradley's role? Could he possibly start at the two? Both compelling questions that will be answered soon enough this season.
As you may already know, Avery Bradley is one of the top defensive dogs in the league. A 2016 All-NBA Defensive First Team member (should've been awarded the same honor in 2017 as well, but that's another topic for another day), Avery has been harassing guards for the past seven years.
Tough. Mature. Hard-working. Selfless. And clutch. Avery is one of the main reasons the Boston Celtics avoided an Eastern Conference Finals sweep to the not-so-beloved Cleveland Cavaliers, hitting a game-winning triple as the buzzer sounded in Game 3. Sadly, however, Bradley is now a member of the Detroit Pistons, thanks to a last-minute salary cap adjustment that required the Celtics to cut salary in order to clear enough cap space to sign the guy with arguably the nicest hair cut in the league (sorry, Jonas): Gordon Hayward.
At least Danny acquired another junkyard dog -- or as he calls himself, a "Beantown Bully" -- Marcus Morris in the deal. And now, as we say goodbye to Avery and say hello to Morris, the question remains: what happens to the Celtics without one of their key contributors -- and best defender.
Enter Jaylen Brown.
Six-feet seven-inches of athleticism and IQ, Jaylen is part Dominique Wilkins, part Bobby Fischer. But can he take on Avery's role? This guy (points two thumbs at himself) says "absolutely."
Now, we all know what Avery brought to the parquet table: feisty, hard-nosed defense and some clutch shooting. But the same can be said for the second-year man out of UC Berkeley, despite the fact that he's inexplicably dubbed as a guy who "can't shoot." However, Brown has proven otherwise.
Per basketball-reference.com, here's what Jaylen averaged in his rookie campaign:
Field Goal %: 45.4; 3-pt Field Goal %: 34.1; Effective Field Goal %: 50.8; Free Throw %: 68.5
That's pretty damn solid if you ask me.
Yeah, Jaylen needs to work on his free throws and improve his overall three-ball percentage (which, if you follow him on Instagram you know he's doing religiously), but the potential for growth is there. Look no further than the first game of Summer League when he checkmated the hell out of the Philadelphia 76ers for 29-points and 13-rebounds, not to mention three deep triples from Steph Curry range.
Offense aside, Brown's defensive prowess and potential have got a lot of Celtics fans excited for next season. Check this out, keeping in mind he's only 20-years old.
After dissecting some footage, Jaylen seems to initially get beat off the dribble, but he quickly recovers. With increased foot speed, size, and strength, I have no doubt he'll be beating defenders to the spot, drawing charges on the regular like his fellow green-and-white warrior, Marcus Smart, in no time. I truly believe Jaylen is ready to take the reigns Avery once held. Coach Brad Stevens agrees. Here's what he said, per masslive.com:
...the more positions that he can guard the more flexible we can be. He didn't spend a ton of time on 1s this year, but certainly he guarded 2s quite a bit as the season went on. And he had that stretch in the middle of the year where he was starting that we were just throwing him on guys just to throw him on guys and give him experience. So, hopefully all that stuff pays off. he's a good enough athlete to guard a number of positions, and now he's a year in. He should be more familiar with how our defensive system works and those types of things.
As far as Brown playing the two is concerned, based on Stevens' comments (and my personal, season-long "eye-test"), I'll just vaguely say, "yes." After all, the avant-garde Celtics commander isn't really about the traditional 1-5 positions. To Coach Stevens (or "Gregg Popovich Jr." as I call him), the game is now positionless, with either ball-handlers, wings, guys who can play the three or four, or bigs.
Coach Stevens has plenty of confidence in Jaylen, as evidenced by placing him against some of the toughest players in the league: Lebron James, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, to name a few. I love "Waltahh" Walter McCarty, Head Coach of the Summer League Celtics squad, even had Brown guarding the oppositions 1s and 2s, prepping the young stud for next season. Per Providence Journal's Scott Souza, here's what Jaylen makes of all this:
It was all by design...we were trying to pinpoint how to get better with different aspects of my game. I wanted to use the Summer leagues to work on my game.
Bottom line: Jaylen has all the tools to take over Avery's role. The athleticism, the physicality, maturity beyond his years, the never-say-die attitude, and an insatiable hunger for his own personal growth, on and off the court. Now, it goes without saying the Celtics will undoubtedly miss Avery, but we could be in store for a Jimmy Butler-esque youngster on the rise.
A chess savant in his own right, Jaylen Brown, as far as I'm concerned, is no longer a rook. He's a knight -- and he's making a beeline straight for the King. The sky's the limit, young sir. Go get it.
What do you think about Jaylen taking Avery's role? Do you think he can succeed playing the two? Let us know in the comment sections below.
Photo credits: Getty Images; Mark J. Terrill