For years now Jaylen Brown has been thought of as a second fiddle. A really good one, but a second fiddle nonetheless. Jayson Tatum was in the same spot for a while, a secondary, evolving star next to Kyrie Irving. But Tatum graduated from that perception, taking his rightful conversational spot among the game's elite as an MVP candidate and worthy No. 1 on a championship-caliber team.
As a consequence, Brown has been left behind in that conversation. Like Scottie Pippen existing next to Michael Jordan, it has become too easy, too natural, for us to still think of Brown as a sidekick, as someone whose All-Star credentials still have to be questioned and subsequently defended by the likes of Tacko Fall.
Fall is right. If Brown, barring injury, isn't an All-Star this season, riots would be warranted. To even pose that question is an insult, and yet, the fact that it actually has to be asked tells you where Brown, who was snubbed as an All-Star last season, continues to be stuck in the casual NBA consciousness. In reality, Brown's play this season, so far, warrants nothing less than an All-NBA debate and perhaps even more than that.
"The things [Jaylen is] doing when he's at his best is the same things JT [Jayson Tatum] is doing at his [best]," Marcus Smart said recently. "JT's been in the talks for that MVP race, and when JB's [Brown] playing the way he's playing, at his highest peak, he's in that [MVP] race too."
Split hairs if you'd like. Brown isn't going to be a true MVP contender as long as Tatum is playing like this, but the spirit of Smart's comments stand up. You can remove the All from Brown's star qualifier. He's just a star. Through 19 games, effectively a quarter of the season, Brown is averaging over 26 points per game on better than 50-percent shooting. Only eight other players in the league can say that, and they are the biggest names in the game.
Chop it down to the guys who are putting up those numbers on fewer than 20 shots per night, and Brown becomes one of five. He is nearly impossible to keep from getting downhill, especially in transition, and every year he becomes more adept with his footwork and fundamentals in the paint even when he doesn't get all the way to the cup, pivoting, fading, for more under control than early in his career. There is such a great balance to a Brown shot chart these days: 31 percent of his shots are 3s, 31 percent come from the midrange, 38 percent at the rim, per Cleaning the Glass.
As the 3-point rate slowly rises -- 40 percent over his last five games -- Brown is maintaining his efficiency by converting five free throws per game (a career high) at an 83-percent clip (a career high, by far) and lighting up the midrange, where he's making 50 percent of his shots for the season. And he's been outstanding in November, draining a scorching 60.5 percent for the month, by far the league's highest mark among players who've attempted at least 25 such shots.
It all adds up to a recent stretch of dominance that can only be considered MVP caliber, capped by a season-high 36-point effort in Tatum's absence against Wizards on Sunday, Celtics 12th win in its last 13 outings.
Jaylen Brown’s last 9 games:— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) November 28, 2022
36 PTS - 5 REB - 57% FG
25 PTS - 5 REB - 56% FG
31 PTS - 4 REB - 72% FG
25 PTS - 7 REB - 45% FG
27 PTS - 10 REB - 50% FG
22 PTS - 5 REB - 59% FG
26 PTS - 6 REB - 52% FG
25 PTS - 8 REB - 73% FG
30 PTS - 7 REB - 58% FG pic.twitter.com/MfdRDe44jp
So what do you say we give this man his due? And by due, I don't mean an All-Star berth. That goes without saying. I mean his real due. Just because Brown has a slightly better teammate who happens to be one of the best players in the world doesn't mean that Brown isn't right there in the same company. This is the best duo in the NBA right now, and Brown deserves proper recognition for his part in that.
Boston has two MVP-level players. No, the Jays aren't in the same category as Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant when that tandem shared the court with Golden State, but it's a similar dynamic in that it can be almost impossible to tell, on any given night, who is actually the top dog. That's not a knock on Tatum, who is incredible and, to be fair, better than Brown. But to suggest that the gap depicts a Batman and Robin dynamic has become increasingly inaccurate. We can't default to that setting anymore. Brown is just too great in his own right to be kept in the shadow of anyone else's star.