December 02, 2023

Is the Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown experiment about to end for the Celtics?

Is the Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown experiment about to end for the Celtics?
Eric Hartline / USA TODAY Sports

Having a pair of athletic wings who stand at least 6-foot-6 and can practically do it all—shoot, attack the basket, rebound, and defend—is a luxury in today’s NBA.

The Boston Celtics, who recently lost to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, have two such players in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Not that it mattered, as both played horribly yet again.

And so, six years into the Tatum-Brown experiment, all the Celtics have to show forth are an NBA Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors last season and three Eastern Conference Finals defeats—including this one against the Heat. That is a bit underwhelming for a team led by two wings who are, based on pure talent alone, among the best players in the NBA.

So, that begs the question: Has the Tatum-Brown partnership run its course?

Tatum does not seem to think so, telling reporters after the game that the Celtics need to resign Brown, who has one year remaining on his contract but is already eligible for a five-year extension worth $295 million.

“It’s extremely important,” Tatum told reporters in the aftermath of Game 7. “He’s one of the best players in this league, plays both end of the ball and still relatively young. He’s accomplished a lot so far in his career so I think it’s extremely important [to resign Brown].”

That is a ringing endorsement from Boston’s franchise cornerstone, but Brown’s body of work seems to suggest the Celtics might be better off moving in another direction.

Brown’s Game 7 stinker against the Heat is nothing new (19 points on 8-for-23 shooting, with 8 turnovers), and it again exposed his biggest issues: a penchant for taking ill-advised shots, a tendency to dribble into traffic and turn the ball over, and some seriously poor defense. In a game with historic implications no less.

But Tatum is right. Brown is only just 26 and is about to enter his athletic prime. Meaning, he might still turn out to be a true cornerstone of a championship team. Then again, it is also possible that this is the peak version of Brown: good but not alpha-level great.

Boston’s higher-ups will have to figure that out soon—as in this coming offseason.