Last year at this time we said that Jaylen Brown had the potential to be the next Kobe Bryant. That dabbling in hyperbole could soon turn into a legit conversation as Brown has jumped from a reserve who showed flashes, to a top-level NBA starter in just 365 days.
Last season, Brown averaged 6.6 points per game and this season he’s more than doubled that so far, averaging 14.8 points per game through 12 games played. His rebounding totals have nearly tripled – from 2.8 per last season to 6.8 per this season.
That leap from Year 1 to Year 2 in the NBA was similarly dramatic for Kobe, who averaged 7.6 points per game in his rookie season and then averaged 15.4 points per game in his second year.
It wasn’t until Year 4 of Kobe’s career that he averaged over 20 points per game. But based on the tremendous growth by Brown this year, few would be surprised if he averaged around 20 ppg as soon as next season.
On the flip side - maybe, just maybe, Brown is already plateauing as player. Maybe he’s destined to be the next Jeff Green instead of an all-time great. But at 21-years-old, there seems to be an obscene amount of room for even more growth in the coming years from the riveting Brown.
Before using the eye test on the second year man out of Cal, we’ll throw the analytics folks a bone first. Brown was top three in the NBA in plus/minus just last week before having a minus-2 outing against the Hawks on Monday. He bounced back on Wednesday against the Lakers with a plus-11, however.
Brown actually scored more points in the Hawks game (11) than he did in the Lakers game (9), but we’ve already seen multiple times this season that if Brown is having an off-night shooting, he’s more than willing to make up for it in other areas.
Brown pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds in the win over the Lakers Wednesday night (key with Al Horford out) and grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds against the Thunder last Friday night in the Celtics’ most impressive victory of the season.
The numbers are impressive, so how about what the eyes are telling us?
Brown looks to be entirely more aggressive this season, consistently looking for his own shot – something that Celtics coach Brad Stevens has encouraged. He might be the best dunker in the league (much like Kobe was at age 21), and his outside shot is steadily improving.
If Brown can ever figure out a way to finish at the rim like Kobe, then he’ll be well on his way to becoming a top 10 NBA talent. Yeah, that’s a little like saying if Rajon Rondo could shoot he’d be Magic Johnson – but Brown has repeatedly shown the ability to fine-tune his game. He practically begged Danny Ainge to be a part of the Celtics’ summer league roster despite having finished playing in the NBA playoffs just weeks prior, and he played in the NBA Africa Game and dominated.
Brown clearly has an appetite to be great and relentlessly works at his craft.
One other Kobe comparison: Brown is eccentric. From an Undefeated piece this past summer: “[Brown] is an avid chess player, loves vegetarian food, is learning Spanish and how to play a guitar, interned with a venture capitalist while preparing for the draft, is a fan of NBA history and writes advice he receives from mentors in a journal. Hingeto, a website that enables fashion brands to crowdfund designs, is aiding Brown with starting an online hoops gear store with his own brand, a source said.
“Brown has dreams of being a future president of the NBAPA. The position is currently held by Houston Rockets veteran guard Chris Paul.”
There's more than a few of these Kobe Bryant highlights from his sophomore season in the NBA that reminds you of Brown.