Good Things Happen For the Celtics When Jaylen Brown Gets Into the Paint

Jaylen Brown finishes over Norman Powell
Jaylen Brown finishes over Norman Powell / Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Jaylen Brown has come a long way since he was selected No. 3 overall in the 2016 NBA draft. Coming out of Cal, Brown was an elite athlete. That was about it. He was a below-average shooter and passer who relied on his athleticism too much on both ends of the floor. One could see the makings of a good basketball player among his positives, but he had a lot of work to do after arriving in Boston.

Brown has done all the work. He's a more cerebral defender and has demonstrated impressive progress passing the ball, especially this year Most importantly, he's now one of the NBA's best spot-up 3-point shooters, especially from the corners. A two-way wing is only so useful in this version of the NBA if he can't shoot. Brown's emergence in that department was the key to unlocking his full potential, and at only 23-years-old, he still has a ways to go.

But one of the downsides about that newfound shooting prowess is that Brown tends to get away from his original skillset that got him to the NBA in the first place: getting to the rim over, around, or through anybody in his way. It makes a certain amount of sense. Three points are better than two, after all, and if Brown has both the confidence and statistics to prove it's a good shot, why not go for it more often than not? But Brown's bread-and-butter ability to get into the paint results in winning basketball, and he'll need to do it more often if the Celtics want to stick around in the bubble for much longer.

You need look no further than Game 3 against the Miami Heat for proof of that. Brown spent the first two games of the series spotting up in the corner and was generally uninvolved in Boston's offense. That changed in Game 3 as Brown ratcheted his aggressiveness up several notches and was a constant presence around the rim. He scored five of his 26 points on jump shots. Everything else came in the paint. It opened up the Celtics' offense and kept the Heat on their heels, helping lead to a season-saving win.

If that's not enough evidence for you, how about this: in games the Celtics won this season, Brown attempted 209 shots at the rim and made 152 of them. In losses, he attempted only 95 shots in the restricted area, making 61. To back it up a bit, Brown took 132 field goal attempts in the paint and made 53 of them in Boston victories. In losses? He put up only 71 and made 26. There's a direct correlation not only between games the Celtics won and how many shots Brown puts up within 10 feet of the basket. There's a correlation between those wins and how successful he was in scoring through the teeth of the defense.

He needs to keep it up. The Celtics can't live and die by their jumpers. That's the Heat's MO as one of the best shooting teams in the NBA and by far the best remaining in the playoffs. Getting into a war of three-pointers with Miami rarely works out. But if Brown stays aggressive and doesn't settle for jumpers, the offense hums like a finely-tuned machine.