Despite only being in the NBA since 2016, Jaylen Brown has become the Boston Celtics‘ go-to player. Looking at his high school career and year of college ball, it’s easy to see how talented Brown was. However, there’s a huge gap between NCAA basketball and the NBA — a gap that Brown has hurdled and then some. And a big key to his success? Perfecting the widely underutilized midrange jumper.
The Boston Celtics’ Jaylen Brown
The Celtics selected Brown as the third overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft. The shooting guard/small forward’s high school record at Wheeler High School in Marietta, Georgia impressed them. There, Brown helped his team win the Georgia High School State Championship as a senior. He averaged 28 points and 12 rebounds and helped his team achieve a 30-3 record.
Boston was also impressed by Brown’s stat line the year he played for the Golden Bears at the University of California, Berkeley. There, he averaged 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2 assists per game over 34 games.
In the first game of the 2016-17 season, the Celtics debuted Brown. That season, averaging 17.2 minutes a game, he scored an average of 6.6 points a game. He more than doubled that average with 14.5 points per game the next season. In that year’s playoffs, he became the youngest player ever to score 30 points in a playoff game.
His average score per game dipped a bit in the 2018-19 season to 13. But in 2019-2020, his average hit new highs as he averaged 20.3 points per game and 21.8 in the playoffs. His performance had landed him a four-year, $115 million contract extension as his reliable scoring had become an integral part of the Celtic offense.
Brown’s midrange shooting
Brown has been a solid shooter at the rim and from the three-point line. But one of Brown’s most dangerous weapons is his midrange jump shot. FiveThirtyEight recently pointed out how Brown’s newfound use of, and success with, the midrange jumper is fueling a massive improvement in his scoring average. Right now, he’s averaging 27.1 points per game and is now the NBA’s seventh highest scorer, as of late January 2021. He’s scaled back on his rim shots and threes and focused on shots from midrange.
And he’s making them with elite precision. His midrange shooting percentage is 56.8%, higher than first-class shooter Kevin Durant at 55.1%. Brown has been getting the playing time necessary to perfect the shot with other Celtics shooters lost to injuries or free agency in recent months.
But that’s not all that’s improving. Brown’s entire offensive game has been steadily improving. He’s picked up a greater number of assists, reduced his turnover rate, and improved his percentage from three-point range. He’s becoming a more well-rounded player, which bodes well for the Celtics … and bad for their opponents.
Weapons in the arsenal
Brown’s increased effort from midrange also speaks to a deeper understanding of the game. Midrange shots are challenging, which is a big part of the reason why you don’t see many players taking too many shots from that area. Missed midrange shots too often become turnovers, and turnovers lose games.
But most defensive strategies are designed to limit players from taking the ball to the rim or getting three-pointers. Midrange shots can be somewhat easier to land. If you’re landing them like Brown is, the payoff is enormous.
Moreover, when you’re also perfecting other parts of your game and can now score more effectively from multiple areas of the court, the midrange shot just becomes one more weapon in the arsenal. And Jaylen Brown? Well, he’s got plenty of them.