Jayson Tatum’s ‘Leap’ Is Only A Small Sample Size of What’s to Come

Within two months, Jayson Tatum went from a player who we questioned would be an All-Star to a straight-up star in the NBA. The jump that Jayson Tatum made from last season to now is unlike anything we have ever seen in basketball. Especially from January to March, he was playing like a top-5 player in the league.

Throughout the season, Jayson Tatum averaged 23.6 points (45 FG%, 40 3PT%), 7.1 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game, which are all increases from last season. After he was named an All-Star for the first time in his young career, Tatum could not be stopped. Post All-Star break, Tatum was averaging 29.9 points (47 FG%, 47 3PT%), 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1 block per game.

Jayson Tatum also went on to win the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for the month of February. Tatum averaged a team-high 30.7 points (49.4% FG, 48.1% 3PT), 7.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game while leading Boston to a 9-3 record. Tatum scored 30+ points in four straight games from Feb. 23-29, which is the longest streak of his career. He became just the fifth player in Celtics franchise history to average at least 30 points in a month.

His play on the court has been so incredible this year that he has Brian Scalabrine thinking he’s already a top-10 player in the NBA. Although I don’t agree with that statement, it’s insane to think he’s starting to get people to think that way.

It’s fair to say that Jayson Tatum “arrived.” Even after being named an All-Star, Tatum didn’t want to stop there. He kept going and wanted to be considered more than an All-Star. His teammates had high praise for Tatum, both with how he performed after being named an All-Star and how he handles himself as a leader on the team.

Enes Kanter points out Tatum’s confidence after being named a first-time All-Star.

“I remember him coming into the league, I knew he was a very skilled player. But now, this year, after I signed with the Celtics, I saw how good of a teammate he is, not just on the court but off the court, too,” said Kanter. “Some players go out there and score 30 points but they’re not leading their team. Tatum is doing an amazing job, on and off the court, keeping the team together. Just seeing him grow like that … Obviously, he’s got so much confidence after being named a first-time All-Star. It’s amazing to see him grow that way.”

Daniel Theis loves how far Tatum has come in his career so far and believes being named an All-Star was “an extra push.”

“He’s still so young but he went to the Eastern Conference Finals [in 2018], played basically an amazing playoff series, scoring-wise and everything, so he learned so much,” said Daniel Theis. “He’s been through so much in his young career. Then, this year, Tatum getting voted an All-Star, it was an extra push, motivation to just stay hungry and keep going.”

Daniel Theis would go on to say that Tatum is one of the greatest weapons that Boston has on their team.

“Maybe some guys would say, ‘I’m an All-Star now, I can relax and chill a little bit more.’ He kept going. That stretch he had when he scored, what, [nine] games of 30 points? He’s a scorer and he knows he’s one of the greatest weapons we have on the team.”

Jayson Tatum’s teammates know just how special of a player he is and how much more room there is for him to improve. That’s why it’s insane that he’s doing all of this at the young age of 22. In his three-year career, he’s made the playoffs twice, with another postseason run on the way, and made the Eastern Conference Finals as a rookie while being the top scoring option on the team. Not many players can say that they’ve done that in just three years.

Besides being named a first-time All-Star this season, Tatum positioned himself to be named to an All-NBA team as well. Between how Tatum has been playing all year long and that the Celtics are one of the top teams in the NBA, Tatum should make the All-NBA third team, if I were to make a prediction. Not only does he deserve it, but I also can’t think of any players who should be placed over him.

With the regular season and playoffs on the horizon, we get to see if Jayson Tatum will pick up right where he left off. Don’t expect him to be dropping 30 points right out of the gate, because I’m assuming most NBA players will be pretty rusty when the season resumes. Hopefully, after eight regular-season games, Tatum will be warmed up and ready to take over in the playoffs.

This is only the beginning for Jayson Tatum. With so much more room to improve, not only on offense but on defense as well, Tatum will become a two-way superstar in the blink of an eye. All I can say is thank God Jayson Tatum is a Boston Celtic.

Photo: Getty Images

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