Has Malcolm Brogdon become the most underrated Boston Celtics player?

Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

A year ago, around this time, Malcolm Brogdon symbolized the embarrassment of riches the Boston Celtics seemingly had in 2022. His resume included being a member of the ultra-exclusive 50-40-90 club, someone who not too far back averaged over 20 points per game, was very much in his prime, and, most stunningly of all, was practically gift-wrapped to the Celtics right after a finals appearance. Sure, his addition came with a “Fragile: Handle With Care” label, but that was a risk worth taking, given what the Celtics traded away to get him.

Fast forward to a year later, and the talk around Brogdon has done a complete 180. Now it’s all about the prospect of trading him and his $22.5 million contract to stay under the second tax apron ASAP or how awkward things could very well be between him and the Celtics now after they nearly traded him to the Clippers, as Shams Charania first reported on June 21, before the Clippers balked.

The Brogdon hype dying down can also be partially attributed to the honeymoon phase being over, which is how it usually works. However, keep in mind that once the Kristaps Porzingis-Marcus Smart trade was completed, how that factored into Brogdon’s role on the court didn’t come up much. In fact, the questions that came out regarding their backcourt situation centered around whether Derrick White could handle filling in for Smart or if Payton Pritchard was ready to take on a full-time role on a contender for an entire season.

Another reason why Brogdon has been largely forgotten is based on his unfortunately abysmal playoff performance during the Eastern Conference Finals. A badly ill-timed elbow injury in his shooting arm sustained in Game 2 sapped his scoring abilities. Though Brogdon valiantly tried to play through it, anyone with two eyes could see that playing hurt was, by extension, hurting the Celtics.

It’s fair to say that Brogdon’s last couple of performances in 2023, combined with all that’s happened in the preceding offseason, have made him fall a little under the radar. One could argue that those who are focused on Brogdon’s exit from the Boston Celtics have memories of a goldfish. Because Malcolm Brogdon was everything the Celtics could have realistically hoped for.

Warts and all, Malcolm Brogdon was and still is worth the risk for the Boston Celtics

Does it bear repeating that Brogdon is the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year? And that he won the award by a pretty fair margin, per AP News? Brogdon was the best bench scorer the Boston Celtics have had since the early days of Isaiah Thomas and was pretty much everything the Celtics hoped Dennis Schroder to be – an efficient scorer capable of taking some of the scoring load off Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown while playing within the offense.

Brogdon may not be the guy on a title team, but he is the guy that you put next to the guy on a title team. Case and point – in his last season with the Pacers, he shot 31.2% from the 3-point line, per Basketball-Reference, and that shot up to a career-high 44.4% in his first season with the Celtics. That’s not a coincidence. While Brogdon didn’t do a bad job when the Pacers counted on him to be their guy, Brogdon fit much better as a complementary piece in Boston.

Fans may brush off that Brogdon embraced his bench role since he got the opportunity to play for a contender, but that is not easy to do. It’s not that simple for players to easily transition to the bench. Especially in Brogdon’s case, knowing that he started every game in the last four seasons before coming to Boston.

There were some warts, like Brogdon’s individual defense noticeably paled in comparison to the likes of Smart and White, and his playmaking – 3.7 assists a game – left much to be desired. However, the Boston Celtics added him to be a bucket-getter, and that’s exactly what he was. That came in handy in the playoffs, as Brogdon shot a blistering 52.3% from three against the Sixers on 6.3 attempts a game, per NBA.com, which played a hand in how the Celtics fought them off.

The reason why not much has been said regarding what Brogdon’s role will be is because Celtics fans know exactly what he’s going to be. Injury risks and all, Brogdon’s responsibilities as Boston’s sixth man will more or less remain the same unless Joe Mazzula makes any unforeseen changes. Now, there is the added wrinkle that, with Smart gone, Boston will likely depend on Brogdon to fill the playmaking void, which is something that he’s proven to be capable of in past years.

Alas, there is a harsh reality that Boston Celtics fans probably know all too well by now. With the injury concerns about Brogdon turning out to be more than justified at the worst time, giving Brogdon a bigger role is definitely a scary thought. Even if Brogdon gave the Celtics his healthiest season in years, he still couldn’t escape the injury bug. With a bigger role, they may have to load manage him more than they did last year, or will they?

But here’s something else to consider. With Porzingis onboard, the Celtics now have four players on the team capable of scoring 20 points on any given night. They haven’t had a quartet of such scoring potency since the days of the Jays, Kemba Walker, and Gordon Hayward. If Brogdon thrived scoring-wise playing off of Tatum and Brown, imagine what he’ll look like with Porzingis suddenly added to that. The Boston Celtics wouldn’t have to rely on Brogdon to put up the points he did last year.

Last year, Brogdon proved that the Celtics got exactly what they paid for when they acquired a player of his caliber for a bag of potato chips. Even if the Celtics got to see the very best and worst of Brogdon, what he brought to the table and should bring again must not be slept on.