Chris Forsberg

Will Jaylen Brown use All-NBA snub as further playoff motivation?

The Celtics star is going head-to-head with one star who edged him in All-NBA voting.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Despite producing the most efficient two-way season of his eight-year career for a team that raced away from the rest of the NBA, Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown did not earn any postseason hardware for his 2023-24 season.

Just hours after being denied a spot on the All-Defense team, Brown forced a late-game turnover that saved the Celtics from a Game 1 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. Just hours after hitting the biggest shot of his career, a 3-pointer that forced overtime in Game 1, Brown was snubbed from the 15-man All-NBA team.

The only real question isn’t if Brown, an All-NBA Second-Teamer one year ago, deserved greater consideration for both awards. It’s will he take out any frustrations on opponents for the rest of Boston’s stay in the 2024 playoffs?

Brown making the All-Defense team was absolutely a long shot, even if teammate Al Horford was adamant that Brown deserved a spot on that squad. Still, Brown routinely took on the challenge of defending the opposing team’s best scorer and produced his most consistent defensive season. He was an afterthought in voting.

Being left off the All-NBA team feels far more egregious. Brown was a key part of Boston’s regular-season domination in which the Celtics finished 14-plus games ahead of every team in the Eastern Conference, and seven-plus games ahead of everyone in the league.

Boston finished 15 games ahead of the Phoenix Suns, and 17 games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers. Both those teams placed two players on the All-NBA squads, including Suns guard Devin Booker, who snagged the final spot in media voting.

Brown was the first man out, totaling 50 points while landing on roughly half of the 99 total ballots submitted (all third-place votes). Booker spotted on 56 ballots, including seven second-team nods, helping him total 70 points. The Suns were bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

When Brown takes the floor for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night, he’ll look across the court and see Tyrese Haliburton, who secured another of the Third Team nods that evaded Brown.

The snub is all the more flummoxing given the ways that Brown elevated his game this past season. Despite signing the richest contract extension in NBA history, Brown supersized his efficiency. He tightened up the turnovers that diminished his play last season, and made it a point to routinely finish with the left hand that had become a punchline at times.

Brown’s scoring dipped with Boston’s influx of talent but his efficiency spiked. He shot a career-best 49.9 percent from the floor and his 3-point shooting bounced back closer to his career average (35.4 percent this year, up 1.9 percent from 2022-23). Brown’s rebounding went down, but that happens when you add a 7-foot-3 center to the roster.

Ultimately, it feels like Brown was punished by voters because Boston added talented pieces in Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. But for stretches of the season, Brown was Boston’s most efficient player and routinely brought the energy on both sides of the ball.

Before the postseason, we sat down with Brown, who shrugged off anyone who failed to notice his progress this season.

“For me, I've always been about winning and I think that's what the organization trusts. From Day 1, Jaylen is a team guy,” said Brown. “It’s always been a balance, kind of trying to decipher how to be the best version of you, and be the best version of you that's needed for this team. Sometimes those things are not always aligned. That was a balance.”

It's a balance that Brown perfected. He sacrificed shots in Boston’s new talent-filled starting five, but that gave him more energy on the defensive end. Boston’s efficiency once plummeted when running mate Jayson Tatum, an All-NBA First Team selection, went to the bench. But Brown lineups thrived this season, particularly when paired with Porzingis in those non-Tatum minutes.

Defensively, Brown wanted the toughest assignment.

The list of players who Brown spent the most time per game guarding this season reads like the All-NBA team. Booker, Anthony Edwards, Luka Doncic, Dejounte Murray, Jamal Murray, Kawhi Leonard, Zion Williamson, and Donovan Mitchell take up eight of the top nine regular-season spots for Brown. He limited his opponents to 44.8 percent shooting for the season, a top-20 mark among the 156 players who defended at least 10 field goal attempts per game. Brown held opponents to 2.4 percent below expected output overall.

Hey, maybe Tatum was right. We can’t call the Celtics a superteam because the awards suggest they are anything but. The Celtics won 64 games on the strength of one All-NBA player, two All-Defense guys (Jrue Holiday, Derrick White), and an Executive of the Year (Brad Stevens).

Brown deserves more credit for his part. Alas, he might just have to settle for simply being a huge piece of a championship team.

Contact Us