Alright, fill in the blank. Jayson Tatum is a _______ basketball player. Ask 10 people and you’ll probably get 10 different answers.
The Boston Celtics forward is a star. Some say superstar. No one has scored more points in the NBA than Tatum this season, but no one has shot more. In his sixth NBA season, Tatum is a four-time All-Star who has improved each season. He also struggled last year in the playoffs and didn’t support that playoff. So, where is Tatum? Is it overhyped, underrated, or somewhere in between?
Consistency has been an issue for Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum helped the Celtics get over a major bump last season. Prior to last year, the Celtics had reached the Eastern Conference Finals three times in the past five years. They never reached the championship round.
Tatum and the Celtics claimed the No. 2 playoff seed and battled their way through a grueling playoff run. After sweeping the Brooklyn Nets led by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, they took out the Milwaukee Bucks and then the top-seeded Miami Heat, both in seven games. They ran out of gas against the Warriors, falling in Game 6 at home.
Tatum and Jaylen Brown, arguably the best tandem in the NBA, struggled in the playoffs last year. Tatum had a game where he put the Celtics on his back. It happened on the road in Game 6 against the Bucks. With his team in an inescapable situation, down 3-2 in the series, Tatum scored 46 points and was the best player on the field. Other than that, he and Brown had several costly turnovers throughout the playoffs and just didn’t step up.
This year, it’s a bit the same for Tatum. He had 39 points in an embarrassing Game 1 loss at home to the shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers on Monday. Philly played without league MVP Joel Embiid. Tatum, however, scored a fourth-quarter field goal. In Game 2, Tatum was three more points (7) than personal fouls (4) and missed six of seven shots in a Celtics win.
Is Tatum one of the top five players?
Celtics fans will most likely tell you that Tatum is one of the top five players in the NBA. He is not at the level of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic or Embiid. It’s still not Stephen Curry, a player who can do it in record time. Is he better than Luka Doncic? What about Kevin Durant? James LeBron?
Until he shows he can still turn up when needed, he’s not in the top five. If you have it in the top five, it’s over hyped. If he’s outside the top 10, you’re underestimating him. Tatum is somewhere in between.
Tatum is a great player. He had a career-high 30.1 points and 8.8 rebounds this year, but no one in the league has shot as much as he has in the past two seasons. He carried the ball to the basket a lot more this year, but often struggled to finish on the edge.
With Tatum, the numbers are there. He will now be judged on how far he leads his team. The Celtics are the remaining seed in the Eastern Conference. Tatum said he was fired up after watching the Warriors celebrate last year’s championship on the field in Boston.
The door is wide open for the Celtics, and this is a golden opportunity for Tatum to show he can’t guide them.
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