As a touted NBA rookie, it’s custom to experience a fair amount of pressure to perform right away.
Of the top three picks in the 2017 NBA Draft, Jayson Tatum is really the one who needs to be the readiest to go right away.
Sure, Markelle Fultz has a great task of being the final puzzle piece for the beloved process in Philly, and Lonzo Ball was given the keys to the Laker franchise by Magic Johnson himself, but unlike the Celtics, the Lakers and Sixers are still working their way back into playoff relevance.
Boston had the no. 1 pick in the draft before trading down with Philly for the no. 3 pick, where they selected Tatum. They were in the unique position of having the no. 1 pick after finishing as the no. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference in the regular season.
The pressing challenge at hand for the Celtics, of course, is being formidable enough to compete with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jayson Tatum will have a role to play in that effort.
Tatum’s immediate duties are definitely relieved after the signing of Gordon Hayward and even the trade for Marcus Morris. Boston’s wing versatility is now loaded, with Hayward, Tatum, Morris, Jae Crowder, and Jaylen Brown as swing forwards who can all be used at the three or four.
Brown and Tatum are the young reserves of that bunch, and outside of Hayward, they’re the purest and most versatile scoring threats. Together they offer Boston a dynamic of depth that could make for a real advantage against Cleveland.
Boston’s Offensive Rating dropped from 113.6 to 99 with MVP candidate Isaiah Thomas off the floor last season. They finished 22nd in the league in bench points per game (32.6). The Celtics have added weapons to help rectify those issues this offseason, but none as significant as drafting Tatum, whose weaponry was on display in the Summer League. He averaged around 17 points and eight rebounds per game.
Because of that stockpiled forward depth, Tatum’s minutes will be limited. In one sense that’s less pressure on the rookie — he’s not yet in the same position as his contemporaries to shoulder the rebirth of his team’s franchise. At the same time, in that 10-20 minutes of action I expect Tatum to earn right away, he’ll be expected to produce that coveted instant offense he was drafted for.
In that vacuum, there exists a dose of pressure, which then magnifies if he’s able to play his way into the playoff rotation.
Tatum’s instant teenage offense isn’t just some luxury for the Celtics, it’s a necessary component in their recipe to compete with Cleveland and battle for the East.
Being a contributor on a conference contender in Tatum’s rookie season can help prepare him for bigger stages down the road in Tatum’s career. This can make Celtics fans happy about his maturity for the future, but those who want to see their team take a shot at LeBron in the short term need for Tatum to be ready now.
Boston is currently the only legitimate challenger to Cleveland in 2017-18. The pressure on Tatum isn’t such where the fate of the team rests on his shoulders. But even if it’s only in spurts, he’s still be being thrown into a fire where he’ll be instantly be called upon to perform in significant situations.