Nitpicking Jaylen Brown’s Lockdown Defense

— December 19th 2017

Jaylen Brown is a very good defender, but he does a few things on that end of the court that are a bit unorthodox.

By Danny Emerman

By all accounts, Jaylen Brown is a star defender. Judging by the eye test, he bottles up dangerous players of all shapes and sizes, from DeMar DeRozan (24 points on 22 shots vs. the Celtics on Nov. 12) to Aaron Gordon (11 points vs. the Celtics on Nov. 24). Statistically, Brown’s opponents are shooting 37 percent overall, compared to the nearly 46 percent league average, per NBA.com.

His size, strength, and speed allow him to guard positions one through four at an elite level. But, as with any second-year player, there is still room for improvement, even if defense is his most polished skill. Opposing teams post a 1.5 percent worse effective field goal percentage when Brown is on the floor compared to when he’s sitting.

The one gripe: Jaylen Brown bites on too many pump fakes.

Whether it’s due to a lack of discipline or hyperactivity that comes with young athletic players, Brown often jumps out and past shooters who are pump-faking instead of closing out correctly.

Most coaches teach players to close out by stutter stepping and extending their hand to the sky to contest the shot at the shooter’s release point. This allows the defender to recover quickly if the shooter fakes the shot and drives and (in a coach’s dream) box out the shooter.

However, this common malpractice might not be Brown’s lack of discipline at all, it could be a product of his unique style of closing out shots, which has made him such a pest to shooters. Brown often closes out short, leaving about three feet of space between him and the shooter, and jumps straight up with both arms extended towards the sky. It’s like Roy Hibbert’s verticality, except he’s 25 feet away from the basket.

He’s basically the broomstick your high school coach held up to improve the arc on your jump shot.

Against DeRozan, who is not a great outside shooter, Brown knows he can help into the lane on Kyle Lowry’s drive. With his short recovery to DeRozan spotting up, Brown respects the shooting guard’s driving ability by giving him a considerable cushion. But even with about five feet of space, Brown still affects the shot with his pogo stick jump. He challenges shots like this all the time, I notice it at least twice per game.

This isn’t the best example, but Brown challenges Stanley Johnson’s corner three by shooting his arms straight up and jumping from a few feet away. He does not launch as high as he normally does here, and Johnson drills it.

When Brown commits to an elevated contest, that leaves him susceptible to pump-and-drives. Decisive players can take advantage of Brown’s jumpiness.

But should Jaylen Brown change his approach to closing out? Part of the reason he’s holding shooters to under 40 percent from the field is because of his closeouts, even if they’re unorthodox. It’s hard to shoot over Brown’s hands when they’re 10 feet in the air!

Brown should focus on when and who to close out on or jump to. Finding a balance will make him an even better defender than he already is. With experience, Brown will improve all aspects of the game, but this fix is an easy one that will come as his feel for the game increases.

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