Everybody in the national media has been “oohing” and “aahing” over Jayson Tatum’s newfound rise to stardom. February saw the young forward average just under 31 points per game as well as 8 rebounds a night. In this same span, the Celtics have gone 9-3 primarily against the Western Conference. The most interesting aspect of all of this is the absence of Kemba Walker. Walker missed 8 of the 12 games and the Jayson Tatum-led Celtics still won 6 of those 8 games. Everyone is having fun now, but this could lead to issues down the road.
The first obstacle Tatum and the Celtics must get through is the return of their star free agent signing Kemba Walker. If he can return and Tatum continues to put up great numbers that lead to wins, everything will be golden. Walker has been known as the great unselfish leader, but he was the great unselfish leader who still acted as the team’s leader. Kemba’s return is anticipated to be here soon, so Celtics fans will know exactly how the dynamic will turn out shortly. If both Tatum and Walker have no issues giving up some of their shots to each other, there won’t be any issues whatsoever. I could see Tatum struggling to give up some of his iso opportunities in hopes to be the undoubted Celtics superstar player.
The Other Guys
Kemba and Jayson are the two best players on the Celtics, but this team is stacked with talent beyond those two. Gordon Hayward recently signed a max contract to Boston and is a 1 time All Star. Jaylen Brown is another rising star who until about February, many believed was just as good as Tatum and maybe even better. Marcus Smart is the third of the “other guys”, but luckily, he’s not famous for his scoring. And since he takes the occasional horrendous shot, I do not think Tatum taking shots away from him will hurt the team too much. Hayward and Brown have been allowed their own opportunities to run plays and score without Kyrie holding them back. They might be a little bothered if Tatum begins taking as much of their shots as Irving did last season. This team is drama-free, but for how long?
Jayson Tatum’s Isolation Scoring
As I have mentioned many times in this article, Tatum is new to the talk surrounding his name. This attention has given him a confidence I have never seen before. Tatum is schooling defenders with very impressive resumes. Shooting deep threes over them and driving by them for crafty layups. His success has him shooting at will. The loss against Houston in Boston was the first time this concerned me. Jayson ended the game with 32 points so you might be wondering why I am upset with this. Well, the young stud shot 9 for 27 on the night (an atrocious 33%). Also, since he decided to go for a bunch of isolation scores, he ended the night with 5 turnovers. Nobody is mentioning it, but Tatum is the biggest reason Boston lost the game.
The Brad Stevens era has been highlighted by the Celtics consistently being the underdog and overachieving. Last season the team did worse than expectations, but once Kyrie left, Boston went straight back to the being the team everyone slept on. The rise of Tatum has national sports media outlets picking the Celtics as a real championship contender. To get to the NBA Finals, Boston will likely have to go through the Pacers/Nets, Raptors, and then the Bucks. The same Bucks who may very well end up having a top 3 season in NBA history. When expectations are low, making the Eastern Conference Finals is simply a win for the Celtics. When people are split when picking against you and the top seed, anything less than a series win is a letdown.
If we see Jayson Tatum repeat the performance he gave us against Houston, Boston is in trouble. The Celtics climb to success is prided on being incredibly efficient and making the extra pass. Tatum’s new confidence has him playing in a way that goes directly against those two principles. His playstyle may upset those I have mentioned before and issues in the playoffs could stem from that. Even if no issues arise, Tatum trying to do too much will cost the Celtics their season. He needs to use his confidence to the team’s advantage. The way to do this is to keep hitting his shots but while playing the Celtics way. Jayson Tatum is undoubtedly ready to be a superstar, but will he go the superstar path of Kyrie Irving or Lebron James?
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Brandon Black (Follow @bhblack02)