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Is Jaylen Brown Actually Better Than Jayson Tatum?

"Well, Jaylen's their best player," Kidd said on Saturday. "Just looking at what he does defensively. He picked up Luka full court. He got to the free-throw line. He did everything, and that's what your best player does. Just understand he plays both sides defensively and offensively at a high rate, and he's been doing that the whole playoffs.


Most onlookers took Jason Kidd’s remarks about Jaylen Brown before game two to be nothing more than needling, an attempt to bother Jayson Tatum and disrupt the team’s seemingly fluid chemistry at this point in time.


But what if he’s actually right? Whether he really meant it or not, it’s beginning to look like a real possibility. 


Zooming Out For A Minute


Jayson Tatum has long been presumed to be the team’s best player if not one of the best in the league. While both Brown and Tatum came out of high school and college as highly touted prospects, Tatum’s offensive prowess combined with his height and athleticism had many of us drawing “mini-KD” comparisons, and understandably so. 


Upon entering the NBA, Tatum also took off quicker on the offensive end as expected, averaging 13.9 and 15.7ppg in his first two seasons before jumping to 23.4 in year three. Brown was a bit slower, playing 13 fewer minutes per game in year one and averaging just 6.6. He caught up with Tatum in year two, and the pair of stars have pretty much aligned on performance since then. 


Their shooting percentages have also remained strikingly similar over the years, including the 2023-2024 season. If anything, this seems to be one of the most well-balanced duos of stars in the entire league—at least on the surface. 


Zooming Back In 


The narrative around Jayson Tatum has largely stemmed from lackluster performances in big games. If you’re chronically online like some of us, you might have even seen Tatum referred to as nothing more than a “Kyle Kuzma with aura,” which…we have to admit, is pretty funny regardless of your opinion. 

 
 

In this series against Dallas, he’s averaging just 17ppg, which isn’t that bad when you consider Boston’s all-around team effort, but the paltry 32.4% from the field is most concerning. 


Ironically, this most recent series of performances vastly contradicts Tatum’s career averages against the Mavs, which is a stellar 35ppg.  


The Takeaway


Ultimately, it comes down to this—great players can often be perceived as “worse” than their counterparts due to the high expectations that are (often subconsciously, too) placed on them.


For most of their careers up until now, Jaylen Brown has been perceived as kind of a “bonus” great player who didn’t have the offensive expectation of Tatum despite the fact that he’s consistently been a “pleasant surprise” in that regard. 


Without a doubt, Brown has been the Celtic’s most consistent player throughout this year’s playoffs, and that’s certainly a noteworthy comeback from the “Jaylen Brown can’t go left” memes we were flooded with earlier this year. 


At the end of the day, the Celtics are now up 2-0 against a Mavs team that was white-hot heading into this matchup, and they seem to have Kyrie’s number on defense, essentially taking away their secret weapon. 


The way things look, Tatum may only have two more games to change the narrative.


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