6. Jaylen Brown, block-by-block
Brown cemented three things as a rookie: He could defend almost every position, hit corner 3s, and post up smaller guards. Those ingredients alone make for an exciting modern NBA wing.
Brown has built atop that foundation. He's letting fly from above the arc, dusting dudes rushing to close out on him, cramming on fools in transition, and dipping his toes into secondary pick-and-roll duty:
Brown is 16-of-37 on shots out of the pick-and-roll after venturing just 18 such attempts last season, per Synergy. He's tentative and robotic, as you'd expect. He has coughed up the ball at an alarming rate. Even that floater above is a little awkward. Brown pauses early, forfeiting a chance to accelerate at Jonas Valanciunas, and almost bumps Aron Baynes. He ends up shot-putting a weird, long-distance runner.
But Brown is trying the right stuff, and you see some nascent feel -- the instinct to change pace, keep his defender on his hip, Chris Paul-style, and manipulate the defense. That floater is a handy break-in-case-of-emergency weapon.
Most players don't develop a bunch of high-level offensive skills at once. They build brick-by-brick, using one skill to enable another. Once you can shoot 3s, you can drive around defenders who run you off the arc. The leap from there to functional pick-and-roll work might be the hardest for wing players. It can take years. Some guys never make it. Brown entering the early stages already is a huge win for Boston.
Psst: Boston ranks 28th in points per possession since Jan. 1. They are 29th in the league during that stretch in shot attempts within the restricted area, and dead stinking last in field-goal percentage there, per Cleaning The Glass. Only Sacramento has generated fewer free throws per shot attempt.
Boston will rebound. The Celtics always surge after the All-Star break under Brad Stevens. Tatum will hit 3s again. But it's fair to wonder if these guys can squeeze out enough points against dialed-in postseason defenses.
I love how Jaylen has looked this season. He's still terrible at reading a defense and knowing which move to go to in a given situation but he's developed some real moves and as the game continues to slow down for him, he could still develop into a very special player.
Mock Trade Deadline Trailblazers and Knicks Rosters:
G: Lillard, McCollum, Curry, Simons, Baldwin, Stauskas, Trent. F: Aminu, Turner, Harkless, Leonard, Swanigan, Layman. C: Nurkic, Collins,
G: Hardaway, Lee, Mudiay, Nitilikina, Trier, Burke, Dotson. F: Porzingis, Thomas, Hicks, Hezonja, Knox, Kornet, Vonleh. C: Kanter, Robinson