It’s only Dec. 25, but because of some unfair version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” the Boston Celtics have two green Jays.
Behind its current big three of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, Boston is grooming its bright core of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to take the reins once LeBron James and Golden State finally loosen their grip on the NBA. Right now, the team is competitive, but once it is fully healthy and just a little bit older, Boston may just have its new championship squad.
The two Jays have quickly become fan favorites across the NBA. Both are extremely versatile wings who can slot up or down a position. Two-way players have become a premium in today’s NBA, and the 3-and-D role player has become an especially valuable commodity. Luckily for the Celtics, both Brown and Tatum are projected to become two-way studs.
In his second season, Brown has become the team’s most important wing defender. While Horford is the defensive anchor, Brown is the one chasing down guards and forwards all across the court. Last year in the Eastern Conference Finals, Brown, as a rookie, was tasked with trying to stop LeBron. While he was a tad overmatched (given that LeBron averaged about 30 points on 58 percent shooting), Brown’s elite athleticism and length leave a lot for the Celtics staff to salivate over. Combine that with his 40 percent shooting from three this season, and Brown has become one of the league’s brightest young stars.
While Brown makes his name defensively, Tatum’s calling card has been his offensive game. Danny Ainge took a gamble when he traded down to nab Tatum, but Tatum’s recent success has done nothing but prove all of Ainge’s doubters wrong. Tatum, in his rookie year, is currently shooting close to 50 percent from three, on three attempts a game. Combine that with his solid defense, and Tatum is looking more and more like this generation’s “The Truth.”
Both of the Jays have been huge surprises for the Celtics this year, and given the fact that neither of them is above the age of 22, the Celtics have been given a golden opportunity. Brown and Tatum are the poster boys for the new NBA. Both of them are multipositional wings who can guard multiple positions and knock down threes. But with all of these results, their potential has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Tatum and Brown are the two luckiest rookies in their respective classes. They’ve been drafted to a winning organization with a fantastic coach. Most teams with the opportunity to pick up players of their caliber in the draft are usually the teams who are finishing at the bottom of the NBA and have below-average front offices. The Celtics are neither of these things, giving Tatum and Brown the chance to develop successful habits and learn from elite veterans.
But that remains the problem. The success that Brown and Tatum have had must be taken with a grain of salt. Because Brown and Tatum are playing with players like Horford and Irving, offensive and defensive pressure is automatically shifted away from them. For both players, more than 90 percent of their three-pointers have been assisted. On any other lottery team, the Jays would be labeled as surefire stars, but with the Celtics, it still remains to be said whether these two are the real deal or just high-level role players.
Role players or not, the duo is extremely important to the Celtics’ future and current success. Right now, Boston is the clear second-best team in the Eastern Conference. Irving runs the offense, Horford anchors the defense, and the Jays are the perfect role players for Brad Stevens’ system. In the next few years, a starting lineup of Irving, Brown, Tatum, Hayward and Horford may just be the best team in the NBA, if the Jays can finally make that leap.
Harshil Desai covers cross country. Contact him at