Every year in the NBA, there’s always that one young guy who makes the jump from touted prospect to budding superstar. While there were quite a few candidates in the 2019-20 season for a breakout, one stands out as maybe not the most impressive, but definitely most important.
The rise to stardom by 21-year-old Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has and will continue to have massive implications for not just the Celtics, but for the entirety of the NBA.
In the 2019-20 season, Tatum improved his stats across the board, averaging 23.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1 BPG, and shot 45% and 40% from three. Besides just his statistical improvements, his fundamental improvements, such as his emergence as a tight and fierce defender, much more efficient shot selection, the ability to take and make the tough and clutch shots, as well as his wide range, have made the young forward a treat to watch.
This enormous increase in his abilities earned Tatum his first career All-Star selection this year and earned him praise throughout the league. Even LeBron James remarked on Tatum’s performance this season, stating “That kid’s a problem” after Tatum scored 40 against the Lakers in February.
Tatum’s impact on the Celtics has been remarkable as this season, with the roster arguably worse considering the losses of Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, and Marcus Morris, Boston has held a 43-21 record through March 10, putting them on pace for 50 plus wins and likely no lower than the 3 seed in the East. Both of those expectations would’ve exceeded Boston’s marks from last year.
Jayson Tatum entering the conversation of the NBA’s elite has extreme significance for the league. Tatum and the Celtics, who boast another star in Kemba Walker, a fantastic wing in Jaylen Brown, and the defense of Marcus Smart have the ability to take on the league’s best.
If their regular-season success translated into the playoffs, Boston’s core very likely could’ve gotten them to the Eastern Conference Finals assuming they had the 3 seed (the position they were in before the season was suspended). An argument can even be made that the Celtics could get past the Bucks, having beaten them this season, and possibly even win the finals having proven themselves against the best of the west by beating both the Lakers and Clippers.
Jayson Tatum is a superstar in this league now, and his rise to the top has made the Celtics a much bigger threat to the league. He plays for one of the best-run franchises in sports, is supported by a very well put-together roster, and has all the tools athletically to continue to be a star for the foreseeable future.
The Celtics have given him the keys to the franchise into the new decade and if Tatum continues to improve, not only will he make his name as an NBA great but will keep the Celtics as championship contenders for a very long time.