The complex Jaylen Brown awards case

The complex Jaylen Brown awards case

In volume two of predicting Celtics individual awards, we check out the total enigma of Brown’s award cases. Buckle the heck up.


Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks

Don’t look now, but we’re having a Jaylen Brownassaince.

If basketball was played on a spreadsheet, it’d be easy to think this was just a slightly average-to-below-average season for Brown, complete with a diminished scoring average due to the arrival of Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis but increased overall efficiency.

Brown is shooting par in all major statistical categories while taking around two fewer shots per game. Nothing to write home about… unless you actually watch Celtics games.

Brown has uncorked his two-way upside in a real way since the All-Star break, brazenly taking on the toughest defensive assignments night in and night out. Not that I’ve measured this scientifically, but Brown is probably the physically strongest player on the team, and has the most “I will literally get up in your face” edge by a California mile.

That’s no offense to the rest of the guys. Jayson Tatum has shown tremendous defensive ability late in games—particularly against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on January 3rd (go watch the last five minutes of that one to see what I mean)—and the Jrue Holiday-Derrick White backcourt is basically like having two T-1000 Terminators grabbing and whacking every floating orange orb they come across.

But Terminators aren’t emotive, and sometimes you need a guy who’s up for all the smoke the other team is blowing. That’s Jaylen, and he proved it in a recent contest against the Pelicans, guarding human bowling ball Zion Williamson from sun up to sundown. It was a tough assignment, and he took it right on the chin.

That grindset will be invaluable in the playoffs, so to celebrate society advancing another stage with this year’s Brownaissance, let’s check out the awards the man himself could be up for.

Jaylen Brown

Possible Awards: MVP (no, but also awesome that it’s on here), All-NBA Second Team (perhaps), All-NBA Third Team (very likely), All-Defensive First/Second Team (probably not but who knows)

Likely award coolness ranking: A Tier (Used to win arguments about if a player is actually good or not)

You’re probably thinking one of two things:

1. Why the heck is MVP on here? Didn’t you say that Tatum had “nO cHaNCe” of winning the award? How does this work, huh smart guy?

2. What do you mean Jaylen will “probably not” make All-Defensive Second Team? Didn’t you just spend 300 words explaining how good a defender he is?

To address question one, you are correct. Brown has no chance of winning MVP whatsoever. However, I thought it would be fun to put it on here to commemorate the fact that he does have a chance to receive at least one 5th Place MVP vote. I don’t know if that’s awesome, funny, or somewhere in between.

In Tim Bontemps’ latest MVP straw poll—in which the actual voters are polled for their current ballots while the season is still on, intending to characterize the race before it’s finished—Brown received one single 5th Place vote, meaning there is a non-zero chance that he gets that vote when ballots are actually cast. I have no idea who that voter was, nor if they were just trying to make a mockery of the whole process. In any case, it compelled me to put my tongue in my cheek and include MVP here.

Side note: these straw polls are a silly, unnecessary, and ultimately negative device for driving MVP discourse. It makes the discussion about media narratives rather than the players themselves, and makes people who have divergent opinions look defeatist before votes are even cast. What are we running here, the US Presidential election? Get these straw polls out of here and return fun and mystery to the NBA’s highest honor. Thank you.

Question two concerning Brown as an All-Defensive player has been a hot button issue here at CelticsBlog. Several of us are adamant that Brown is obviously that caliber of a defender, spearheaded by the brilliant analytical mind of Michael Spooner. If you want the only guide to this effort you’ll ever need, check out his breakdown here.

The reason I said “probably not but who knows” on the All-Defensive teams is because the actual voters simply do not take the time and care that Michael did to evaluate every eligible player in the NBA. Nor could they if they tried. Even the ever-analytical Zach Lowe at ESPN gave up his awards ballot, claiming he was uncomfortable influencing player contracts. If he felt he couldn’t reliably predict this stuff, how can everyone else?

Voters—as anyone would—rely on heuristics, narratives, and implicit biases to decide their All-Defensive teams, and I honestly don’t think most people think of Jaylen Brown and go “oh yeah, that elite defensive wing on the Celtics.” It’s just not his usual calling card.

Instead, guys who make their entire living on defense usually populate the teams, such as Alex Caruso, Jalen Suggs, and Jonathan Isaac. It’s going to be difficult to hem Brown in, however deserving he is.

The real meat and potatoes here are the All-NBA teams. Brown made every headline in Boston last year for making the All-NBA Second Team, both because it was a tremendous accomplishment and that it all but guaranteed the Celtics would sign him to the richest contract of all time. This time around, no extension is at stake. We’re just playing for pride.

Since the Jaylen All-NBA situation isn’t as dire as it was last year, we’re going to have some fun with this conversation. Imaginary Q&A session, I choose you!

Q: Is Jaylen Brown one of the best 15 players in the NBA?

A: Sometimes, but not if the whole league is healthy. But that’s a really problematic quest-

Q: (interjects) Oh, really? Name 15 better players.

A: It’s obviously dealer’s choice, but I think…

…Nikola Jokic, Luka Donic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Stephen Curry, Devin Booker, Anthony Edwards, Jalen Brunson, Victor Wembanyama, Donovan Mitchell, and Zion Williamson…

…are all better when healthy. Even still, Brown is still one of the best players in the league, and trying to put him at a specific rank is kind of silly considering the amount of external factors that affect player performance.

Q: (scoffs) Didn’t you say it was very likely he would make at least the Third Team though?

A: (sarcastic smirk) Correct.

Q: (Disappointed glare)

A: Not all 15 of those guys are eligible for All-NBA honors due to the NBA’s new 65-game rule. Additionally, there are other things voters consider when deciding who makes the teams, something I went into with Tatum’s case yesterday. Team success is one of those that the stars can’t always control, and that’s majorly tilted in Brown’s favor this year.

Q: But he still deserves it, right?

A: Absolutely. Since mid-February, his plus/minus has ballooned from +6.4 to +9.9, good for fourth in the NBA behind Nikola Jokic and two teammates in Tatum and White. Not bad company. Brown also ripped off a crazy run of nine games between games 61 and 70 where he was by far the Celtics’ best player, averaging just under 30 points per game and infusing more edge into his game than I’ve ever seen.

Q: Why not Second Team?

A: He could definitely get there, but it will all depend on how voters prioritize Celtics representation on the teams. It’s entirely possible that voters think the Celtics’ historically great season should be memorialized with a First and Second Teamer, but that’s almost impossible to predict. He has a perfectly reasonable case for either squad, so it’ll come down to personal preference.

Q: I feel better now.

A: That’s not a question, but I’m glad to hear it.

This is obviously all just conjecture, so feel free to sound off in the comments below. None of us have votes, so we can kind of say whatever we want. Is Jaylen your personal MVP? If so, more power to you!

Next time, we’ll take a look at the Stock Exchange—also known as Derrick White and Jrue Holiday—and see if they’ve traded enough blocks and steals to earn All-Defensive nods. I still am not sold on that nickname. Sorry,Richard.

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