To appease all the hardos that I'm sure we'll see in the comment section, yes we all know this is a small sample size. I feel like we shouldn't have to say that any time we talk about what we're seeing to kick off this NBA season. It's early, everyone gets it, but that doesn't mean certain trends we are seeing are totally insignificant. It also doesn't mean that everything you see in the first two weeks of the season is how things are going to shake out. Whether it's a team's early record, or how certain players look, everything is fluid as we march on.
But let's make one thing very clear. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are playing as well as any duo in the entire NBA at the moment. not just the East, but the entire NBA. Their start is better than any Celtics fan could have dreamed of as we prepared for this upcoming season. It's no secret that for this team to be successful, both of these guys were going to have to take another leap. That's especially true with Kemba sidelined for what might be forever, who knows.
Heading into the season, I wrote this blog
and even I didn't see this type of start coming. This is a version of Jaylen we've never seen before. Not just from his production, but how he's being used. If you could dream up your best case scenario for Jaylen's development, I still don't think it would be as good as what we are currently seeing.
It's pretty common knowledge that to win in the NBA, I'm talking winning titles, you need at least one and probably two top 10 players. As of the writing of this blog, the Celtics do not have that. You most definitely need at least one top 10 and one top 15 guy to build around. NBA history has pretty much told us that. The Celts were pretty much banking on the fact that the two Jays could one day develop into that caliber of player. Well, here's how they are doing.
Jaylen Brown: 28.0/4.6/3.1 with 1.7 steals on 59.8/42.5% shooting
Jayson Tatum: 24.3/7.9/4.3 with 1/1 steals on 45/40% shooting
Remember back to what we were hoping to see in terms of the development of both guys. With Jaylen, we needed to see if he could elevate into a legit All Star/All NBA caliber player with his new role as the clear #2 option. No Hayward, no Kemba, this was the first time in Jaylen's career where he was truly given the keys and challenged to show us that he could handle it. So far? Career highs in points, FG%, 3PM, 3P%, assists, steals, and blocks. The encouraging part isn't just the scoring or the efficiency, but it's his advancement as a playmaker. You'll see that's a common trend.
With Tatum, the questions were more around could he be the guy that takes the leap into a top 10 player with all signs pointing to one day being top 5. He's not there yet, but he's getting damn close. Remember how good his season was last year and the leap he took into becoming an All NBA player? Well, he's shooting better from the field, making more threes, scoring more points, rebounding better, and has a career high in assists. Essentially, he's been even better than the All NBA player we saw last year. Given the fact that Tatum is used heavily as a primary playmaker now, his ability to read the defenses and make the right passes is probably more important than his offense. With all the attention he'll be getting from defenses, that area of his game becomes even more important. After a slow start, he's beginning to look more like the player we saw in the bubble that took a big leap as a passer.
Now that last night's games are done, there are currently four teams in the NBA that have two players in the top 17 in scoring. Those are the Rockets, Blazers, Nets, and Celtics. The closer you look, you see one of those duos is not like the other.
Rockets: 31 and 30 years old
Nets: 32 and 28
Blazers: 29 and 30
Celtics: 24 and 22
So yeah, it's a big deal. When everything relies on your two young cornerstones turning into one of the best duos in the NBA, to see it actually happening is pretty fucking wild. These two players are nowhere close to their prime yet and look at what they are doing. We're seeing why Ainge was so protective and never traded these guys for rental players. I get it, everyone wants RINNGZZZZZ and all that bullshit, but take a minute and realize what you're watching. You're seeing two players who are in their early 20s develop into one of the most lethal one/two punches in the entire league. That's not just my homerism talking either.
What makes the Jays so devastating is the work they put in on both ends. Tatum is turning into one of the best two way wings in the entire league. Jaylen is 2nd in the NBA in total steals and I'd say this has been the best start he's had defensively in his career thus far. For them to truly take the leaps we need them to take, it has to come on both ends.
I don't think your crazy if you think that Jaylen's leap so far this season has been larger than the one Tatum took last year. It's been that good. I'm not sure people realize Tatum has been even better than last year with all the attention Jaylen is deservedly getting.
There are still a ton of questions in regards to the Celts and their ultimate ceiling this season. Kemba's knee tops the charts, but I also have questions about their defense, their bench showing up in big moments, Brad's in game coaching, bad offense at times, etc. But the MOST IMPORTANT piece revolves around the two Jays, and they are currently passing that test with flying colors. If they weren't going to take the leap we are currently witnessing, well then this entire approach was doomed.
Instead, they are thriving in these new roles and it is fantastic to watch.