Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Jayson Tatum: Stepping Up for the Contending Celtics

Leading up to the 2017 NBA Draft, three names stood out from the rest, and Jayson Tatum was not one of them.

Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Jackson dominated the headlines as the draft approached and it seemed as if Jayson Tatum was a mere afterthought. It was a shame because Tatum just had himself a great season at Duke and had no reason for people to believe he wouldn’t be this good, this fast.

It seemed as though few were that high on Tatum during the draft process, with many thinking he didn’t have as high of a ceiling as his contemporaries. When the former Duke Blue Devil was selected No. 3 overall by the Boston Celtics, many questioned it and weren’t too high on the pick.

To refresh your memory: Boston traded out of the No. 1 overall pick to draft Tatum, so many saw it as Boston thinking that Tatum was a better prospect than consensus No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz, which, at that time, was silly to say.

Nonetheless, Tatum was the perfect piece for the Celtics.

Even before the Celtics made the selection, Tatum to Celtics was a great fit given that they already had the perfect piece to slot next to Tatum in Jaylen Brown. The potential dynamic between the two had people believing that it would be a great move to draft Tatum, and it definitely was. At that time, the Celtics lacked a wing scorer and what better way to fill that void by bringing in a player like Tatum? Boston picked the player that best fit their team and they are now reaping the benefits.

Flash forward to a couple of months in the season.

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Photo via: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

One can argue that Tatum has been playing the best basketball out of anyone in his draft class, which says a lot considering how deep of a class this is. On the season, Tatum is averaging 14.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Given that he is a rookie, it is impressive, but what is even more striking is his shooting efficiency. Tatum is shooting 51.2% from the field, 83% from the line, and wait for it, a whopping 47.5% from three. To do this as a rookie is incredibly impressive especially given the fact that Tatum wasn’t really an outstanding three-point shooter at Duke, as he shot 34.2% from beyond the arc in his lone season with the Blue Devils.

Anyone who really watched Tatum before the NBA knew how gifted he was offensively. He is what some might call a “professional scorer.” There isn’t a way he can’t score and with his improved perimeter shooting, he is the perfect wing in the modern NBA. The success Tatum is having this early in his career should come as no surprise, and it’s time people start to take note that he is something special.

In a season where the Celtics lost their star SF for probably the year, Jayson Tatum has stepped it up.

Gordon Haward figured to be the star wing for the championship hopeful Celtics but unfortunately, Hayward went down with a season-ending injury against the Cleveland Cavaliers on opening night. Once Hayward was lost for the year, the Celtics’ championship aspirations took a pretty sizable hit. Without their new All-Star wing beside Brown, the Celtics were going to have trouble. 

That problem is now somewhat solved thanks to Tatum. Not only does he fill the temporary void left by Hayward, but he’s been doing it at a grand rate. Tatum’s impressive shooting is forcing teams to be honest and defend him, allowing the likes of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford to do what they do best for the team. The Celtics outside of Jayson Tatum are stout enough as is, but Tatum makes life even easier for them.

He has been a big reason why the Celtics are still one of the top teams in the East, despite the absence of a player of Hayward’s caliber. It says so much about how well Tatum has played not only as a rookie but as an important piece in a team hoping to make a deep playoff run.

 

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