The Celtics played a horrible game of basketball Thursday night. They got absolutely demolished on the offensive glass 18-3 (oof), they weren’t prepared for the Bulls, and specifically Dwyane Wade, to shoot 44% from outside the arc, and Isaiah Thomas going 2-6 from the free throw line certainly put them in a tough spot. They deserved to lose that game. Despite all the things that went wrong for the Celtics, I think the most important play of the game came from rookie Jaylen Brown.
With 43 seconds to go, Jaylen Brown went into the post, went up for the fadeaway, and never put the shot up. Jaylen Brown, after deciding he had a bad look mid shot, panicked and got called for the travel after he came back down without releasing the ball. Down the stretch of an NBA game you need to be confident or smart, Jaylen Brown was neither against the Bulls, and it cost the Celtics a game. Brown would have been better off just shooting the bad shot, which he conceded after the game.
“I should have just shot the ball, but I was thinking it was a bad shot.” Brown explained. “I just saw Mirotic on me, slower feet. Coach told me to drive him so I tried to be aggressive.”
Despite the mistake made by the rookie, don’t expect a complete loss in trust from coach Brad Stevens going forward. Playing the rookie in crunch time just 2 games into his NBA career shows us one important thing: The Celtics will prioritize development of their young players over putting the best lineup on the floor night in and night out. Going forward, this means if the Brooklyn picks are used and are high lottery picks, you’re going to see a lot more rookie mistakes over the course of the next few seasons.
Whether it costs them a few games down the stretch or not, you should want the Celtics to play young talent like that of Brown. Getting reps is the only way you can hope for Jaylen Brown to fulfill his all-star potential, and clearly Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge have seen something in Jaylen Brown that tells them he can be a very good player in this league.
Most teams that pick in the top 5 of an NBA draft have no problem playing their young prospects and letting them make mistakes because they aren’t contending for anything. The Celtics on the other hand, have to learn to balance winning and development evenly, because they can’t go all in on one or the other with the roster as currently constructed.
What you should expect from Brown this season is some amazing plays, and some head scratching ones. So far, his poster-fail and his ill-timed turnover are two examples on one end of the spectrum, but before the season’s over, Brown will have had a few plays that get you up out of your seat. His driving ability, defensive instincts, and athleticism are all next level for an NBA prospect, and he’s generally an intelligent player to boot. Honing in on those strengths will be something he’ll have to get better at over the course of his career, but for now you’ll have to be okay with flashes of greatness.
The option of trading the picks for someone like Demarcus Cousins is still on the table, but unless that trade happens, rookie mistakes will be a theme in Celtics games for years to come. What the players turn into will ultimately be the only answer to whether the mistakes were worth it in the end. Jaylen Brown has been decent so far, but he’ll have to take his game up at least one more level to make his minutes useful in the here and now. In the meantime, no more travels as bad as that one will have to do.