After the Gordon Hayward injury, Brad Stevens knew he would have to rely on a lot of younger players. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum would have to grow up and contribute in a big way. We knew that Tatum and Brown had a chance to be great. Nobody could have predicted how quickly these two would acclimate and exceed in their new roles. The ceiling is the limit, and Stevens expects that much:

Brown started the game on fire, scoring 13 of his game-high 23 points in the first quarter. His aggression and willingness to go to the basket have been on display since day one. Brown is exceptional at getting to the hoop and has shown the ability to break down defenders and finish around the rim. After some shaky shot making last season, Brown is shooting 62.1 percent in the restricted area and 65.1 percent on all of his two-point shots. He’s also been dynamic inside the three-point arc. Adding even a league-average three-point shot will make him very difficult to stop.

Jayson Tatum

Tatum took the increased role with the team and ran with it. Understandably, Tatum was hesitant on the offensive end early in the season. He passed up open shots and deferred to veterans like Kyrie and Horford. Tuesday night against the Knicks was Tatum’s coming out party. It may have been Brown’s 21st birthday, but Tatum shined just as bright. He scored in a variety of ways, including knocking down four out of six shots from beyond the arc. He showcased his midrange game, blew past slower defenders, and threw down a hellacious put-back dunk on Tim Hardaway’s head.

Tatum’s offensive game has been even better than advertised. He is in the top-five for the rookie class in points (4th), rebounds (5th), three-point shooting (2nd), steals (3rd), and blocks (2nd). His numbers have been far more than what was expected at this point in his rookie year, but Tatum is proving to be a potent scorer who can also impact the game in a handful of different ways.


The offensive numbers are great, but Brown and Tatum have held their own on the defensive end. Before the season started, Stevens harped on how important Brown’s defense would be to the Celtics. Brown has all of the tools to be an elite wing defender, and has shown signs of taking that next step.

Brown was thrown into the fire on defense early in the season. Guarding LeBron and Giannas on back-to-back nights is near impossible, but Brown held his own. He has also been able to switch on to both point guards and power forwards seamlessly. He will draw the assignment of every team’s best wing scorer, and his ability to defend will dictate the team’s success.

Tatum’s defense, something that was seen as a work-in-progress before the season, has been a pleasant surprise. While his athleticism doesn’t compare to Brown, Tatum’s length allows him to recover and challenge shots. Tatum still has trouble guarding bulkier post players, i.e. Dario Saric, but his ability to switch and play team defense unlocks lineups that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

There will be bumps along the road. Not every night will result in historic scoring from Brown and Tatum. But these two are stars, and the sky is the limit for their potential. If there is a silver lining around the Hayward injury, it’s that fact that the youngsters will get a chance to expand their game and dominate.