When Gordon Hayward went down with a season-ending injury minutes into the first game of the NBA season, it was a hard blow for the Celtics. Not only did the Celtics lose out on one of their most significant free agent acquisitions in team history, but they also lost out on a 22 point-per-game scorer. Guys had to step up, there was no question about that. You can’t just replicate what Gordon Hayward does for your team. For the team to be successful moving forward, it was all about stepping up. That’s precisely what happened and look at where the C’s are now: first seed in the Eastern Conference without one of their All-Stars.
Guys like Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and even Kyrie Irving had to all step up. They did, and play their roles on the team well. But there’s one player that has done more than step up and has truly exceeded everybody’s expectations this season. That man’s name is Jayson Tatum. The rookie, Jayson Tatum, has flourished the most after Hayward’s injury. We’ve seen Tatum’s game improve night in and night out. He quickly became one of the more beloved members of the team, and team leaders as well.
As a rookie, you have a job. That job is to just be a rookie and know your role. Rookies tend to play second fiddle to their teammates and not get nearly as many opportunities as their more experienced teammates. Jayson Tatum isn’t just an ordinary rookie, though. Jayson has become one of the leading focuses on the team’s offense and has made big plays that many rookies don’t get a chance to make. This is because he is respected, and pushed by his teammates to continue making big plays and taking over games. Although Jayson is in a great situation where he’s getting a lot of playing time and finding opportunities to shine, he must demand to become a more prominent part of the offense.
On the season, Jayson Tatum is averaging 14 points and nearly six rebounds per game. He’s shooting 51% from the field and 48% from three. These are great statistics to have your rookie year, especially being surrounded by all the talent the Celtics have, but here’s the kicker: Jayson Tatum is shooting less than ten times a game. As a rookie, this makes sense, but like I said before, Jayson isn’t an ordinary rookie. Jayson needs to be shooting the ball more. He needs to DEMAND the ball and shoot closer to 13 shots per game.
Kyrie Irving is obviously going to get the green light to shoot whenever he pleases. He’s the best player on the Celtics and one of the best players in the league. That’s acceptable. Jaylen Brown will be taking more shots simply because he’s a year ahead of Tatum and has earned the right to shoot the ball more. When Marcus Smart is in the game, he needs to have the ball in his hands at all times. Although many people may not like this, he will shoot and continue to shoot whenever he pleases. Marcus Morris takes some shots away when he’s healthy and playing. Morris can shoot from anywhere on the court and make big plays, so it’s understandable why he shoots a lot.
All those players that I briefly discussed above shoot more shots per game than Tatum does, and that’s a crime. 38 games into the season we’ve learned that Jayson Tatum is a talented offensive weapon but isn’t being used the way he should. Personally, I believe Tatum is the second best offensive player on this team currently. I didn’t forget about Al Horford, either. Horford is very unselfish and is willing to risk his field goal attempts per game for the sake of the team’s success. Kyrie deserves to take all the shots he does, but Tatum needs to be the second man up on offense. He should be shooting more shots a game than all those guys, excluding Kyrie.
Brad Stevens needs to focus the offense more on Tatum. His shooting stats are fantastic for a player as young as he is, but don’t you think that means he needs to shoot more? Shooting 51% from the field and 49% from three screams “shoot the ball more” to me. Tatum’s shooting percentages are so good because he doesn’t shoot that much per game. But if he’s this efficient shooting limited shots per game, why isn’t he shooting more? He’s improved his shooting percentage every month since the season started, but yet his shot attempts have stayed consistent. It makes no sense to me. On offense, you want your best players shooting the ball and creating points for your team. Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and Jayson Tatum all fit the mold of that type of player. Brad Stevens needs to get Tatum more involved in the offense.
With Hayward out, Tatum needs to gain as much experience as possible in his absence because when he comes back, that’s at least 15 shots per game that needs to be sacrificed for Hayward. Give Tayum the green light to shoot, drive, and create more. He can drive, kick, create, shoot, and do nearly everything. Give him the chance to do much more than he’s doing now. He’s capable of being a top-3 player on this team, even as a rookie. He’s capable of being a top player on the number one seeded team in the Eastern Conference. That’s how damn talented he is. Now it’s time to let him shine.