Jaylen Brown’s Starting Experience Can Propel Boston over the Cavaliers
On January 6th, Avery Bradley, the Boston Celtics’ starting shooting guard, strained his Achilles. His injury was expected to keep him out of action for a week at most, but now he is expected to be out until after the All-Star break. Bradley has missed 18 of the last 19 games, and will be sitting out three more.
Bradley is having a career year, posting career highs in points, assists, rebounds, three point percentage, and field goal percentage. Losing Bradley for this long should have been a substantial problem for the Celtics, but the emergence of rookie forward Jaylen Brown in the starting lineup has given Boston a new outlook on the season.
While Bradley’s injury is unfortunate given the season he was experiencing, it could be the reason the Celtics triumph over the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs. Younger players on the Celtics have stepped up for injured starters, which will eventually give the team extreme depth. Sitting 2 games behind Cleveland, Boston has a real chance to become the East’s representative in the NBA finals.
On the season, the Celtics rank 6th in the league in efficiency, and 9th in the difference in efficiency over their opponent. In the last 10 games, with Brown as a starter, Boston is 5th in the NBA in both.
The decision to start Brown was a genius move by head coach Brad Stevens. The popular choice to replace Bradley as the starting shooting guard was Marcus Smart, but Stevens wanted to keep his playmaking skills with the second unit. Now, both Brown and Smart have progressed significantly after taking on larger roles for the team.
Once Bradley comes back, Brown will join Smart on the bench, where the two dynamic players will terrorize opposing second units while their starters take a break. Gerald Green and Kelly Olynyk have been playing some of their best basketball over the last week, so their contributions will add to the bench’s effectiveness.
The Celtics can beat the Cavaliers. Cleveland has had a rough season, and if they don’t figure out their “playmaking” issues, I don’t see them being able to repeat. LeBron James is playing far too many minutes for fatigue not to set in by late May.
While it looks like the Cavaliers are regressing, the Celtics just keep improving. The popular opinion on Boston is “a good young team that needs a superstar.” Young teams like the Celtics only improve as a season goes on.
Three of their best young players are having breakout campaigns. Here are Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and Isaiah Thomas’ numbers this year.(*=career high)
Marcus Smart: PPG-10.3* APG-4.6* RPG-3.9 SPG-1.6*
Isaiah Thomas: PPG-29.8* APG-6.4* FG%-46.8*
Avery Bradley: PPG-17.7* APG-2.4* RPG-6.9* 3P%-40.9*
The Celtics have a lot of young talent, and they are in a great position to take out a fatigued LeBron James, who leads a Cavaliers squad filled with one dimensional players. The fact that Boston is in second place in the Eastern Conference while only having their full roster less than half the season so far is more than impressive.
Record When Healthy: 17–6
Boston has the deepest roster in the Eastern Conference, and it will pay dividends going up against Eastern foes with top-heavy roster’s like the Cavs, Raptors, and Wizards.
Jaylen Brown starting was originally just an idea for Brad Stevens in order to maintain his team’s success while Bradley was out. Now, it could put his team on another level. This move could catapult Boston towards the NBA finals once Bradley’s steady play returns to the starting lineup, and Brown’s developed game is coupled with Smart’s winning style of play.