Shareef Abdur-Rahim’s highest scoring season in the NBA was 23.0 points per game in 1998-99. Phil Chenier averaged 21.9 points in 1973-74.
Until this season, no former Cal player ever had a higher-scoring season in the NBA. Jason Kidd, who brought other skills to the table, never scored more than 18.7 points per game.
Jaylen Brown re-wrote the list this season, delivering the highest-scoring season ever by a former Golden Bear. Brown, who played for Cal in 2014-15 before jumping to the pros, averaged a career-high 24.7 points this season for the Boston Celtics.
Brown’s scoring numbers rank him 17th in the NBA right now, with days to go in the regular season.
But for Brown, the season is over. He suffered a wrist injury that will require surgery, and he won’t return as the Celtics attempt to mount a run in the postseason.
With or without Brown, the Celtics don’t seem destined to go far this postseason. They are 35-33, seventh in the Eastern Conference and have won just four of their past 10 games.
Dan Shaughnessy, respected columnist for the Boston Globe, this week called the Celtics “one of the truly unlikable teams in Boston sports lore.”
Referencing the team’s loss Sunday to the Miami Heat in which the Celtics allowed 79 first-half points, Shaughnessy called it “a disgraceful effort on national television in the most important game of the season.”
The problem, Shaughnessy explains, is the team has talent but no leadership.
We all know the M.O. of this team. They are talented, but not “engaged.” When their shots don’t fall at the start of games, they lose motivation to play defense. They fall too far behind. Then their shots start falling, they “get engaged,” and they play lockdown defense. They come back, but usually it falls short. And still they expect credit for not quitting. It’s absurd.
And he doesn’t let Brown off the hook, even while labeling him “probably their best player.”
Brown, whose body language sometimes appears non-commital, is tough to read, Shaughnessy wrote.
“From our social distance, it’s always been hard to tell whether he wants to lead this dysfunctional bunch,” Shaughnessy said. “None of that matters now that he has been subtracted from the mix.”
Brown, still just 24 years old, has dramatically improved his game since leaving Cal as a raw player with little shooting range. Off the court, he has shown great passion, intelligence and commitment to important social issues, so it’s reasonable he could grow into a leadership role with the Celtics.
In his fifth NBA season, Brown had a career year and made his first all-star team. He is a good defender and assembled 11 games of at least 30 points.
Is he a finished product? Probably not.
But no Cal player ever scored at a higher rate in an NBA season than Brown did this season. Here’s how the top-10 stacks up:
1. Jaylen Brown (2020-21): 24.7 points
2. Shareef Abdur-Rahim (1998-99): 23.0
3. Shareef Abdur-Rahim (1997-98): 22.3
4. Phil Chenier (1973-74): 21.9
5. Phil Chenier (1974-75): 21.8
6. Shareef Abdur-Rahim (2001-02): 21.2
7. Shareef Abdur-Rahim (2000-01): 20.5
8. Jaylen Brown (2019-20): 20.3
9. Phil Chenier (1976-77): 20.2
10. Shareef Abdur-Rahim (2003-04): 20.1
Cover photo of Jaylen Brown by Winslow Townson, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo