The Boston Celtics have benefitted tremendously from Jaylen Brown’s and Jayson Tatum’s fast development since they drafted one of the most exciting young duos in the NBA.
But there’s still work to be done, as noted by new coach Ime Udoka on a recent appearance on ESPN’s “Jalen & Jacoby.”
“We have multiple handlers, multiple playmakers, and that’s the area we need to see growth with Jaylen and Jayson,” Udoka said. “It’s not just scoring the basketball, it’s those guys initiating offense and being better playing because that’s the next step in their evolution.”
They’re already on their way, it appears.
Both Brown and Tatum averaged career-highs in assists during the 2020-21 season for Boston.
Brown averaged 3.4 assists per game, above his career average of 1.8. Tatum, meanwhile, put up 4.3 assists per game for a career average of 2.7. Both players have improved in this area year after year, but most noticeably this past season.
That was in large part due to Kemba Walker’s limited availability, as Tatum and Brown were called upon to take on more responsibility facilitating as the starting point guard was saw less action in back-to-backs after finally returning from injury.
After the Celtics traded Walker this offseason, that opportunity for improvement and team-play only gets bigger.
“They’re gonna have the ball in their hands a ton,” Udoka assured. “They scored a lot individually last year. I felt like at times it was your turn, my turn. And we have a lot of good young talent on the floor, a lot of playmakers around them, and we’d like for them to initiate offense. Whether it’s, you know, not just looking to score the basketball — Jayson took that role with the Olympics this year and he came off the bench, something’s probably never done, and he had great games. The second-leading scorer behind Kevin (Durant) but he was also a playmaker as well and (Coach Gregg Popovich) is gonna preach that so that’s something that he saw a little bit this summer and something can continue to grow on.”
As a team, Boston averaged 23.5 assists per game, ranking 25th in the league, and some games saw a truly depressing effort in that facet.
With Brown and Tatum’s continued growth, Marcus Smart (probably) claiming the job as starting point guard, and the additions of Josh Richardson and Dennis Schröder, hopefully those numbers improve tremendously.
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