BOSTON – The Jayson Tatum hype train has shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon, not with the soon-to-be second-year player doing what young stars on the rise do in the offseason.
MORE CELTICS QUESTIONS:
- Who will C's turn to besides Kyrie in the fourth quarter?
- Who will be this season's breakout performer?
In between continuing to perfect his killer perimeter game, playing pick-up with some of the game's best players, such as Kevin Durant, Tatum has become a stronger player both physically and mentally.
Still, as talented as Tatum has shown himself to be and with his potential to be a star in the NBA, his days as a superstar in this league are probably a year away and here are five reasons why:
As long as Kyrie Irving is around, he’s going to be the top dog on this team. His proven track record of impact and elite play in the NBA is unquestioned. Only 26, Irving’s a five-time All-Star and arguably one of the league’s top 10 players who is an Olympic gold medalist and an NBA champion. Talent has never been a question when it comes to Irving. His health? That’s another story. Boston spent all of last season managing his playing time; Irving averaged 32.2 minutes while scoring a team-best 24.4 points per game. The only player to average as many points as Irving in fewer minutes per game was Golden State’s Steph Curry, who averaged 26.4 points in 32.0 minutes per game. Irving missed the Celtics' entire playoff run last season after undergoing a surgical procedure on his left knee to remove hardware from a previous surgery in 2015, that had become infected. Because it was a clean-up procedure rather than repairing an injury, there’s a strong belief that Irving will be as good or better than we saw last season. If that’s the case, Tatum will remain an on-the-rise talent on a Boston team that will continue to be led by Irving.
IMPLEMENTING GORDON HAYWARD
Gordon Hayward was going to be option No. 2 for Boston prior to suffering a season-ending injury. It’s a role that he won’t assume from Day One, but Hayward and the Celtics will be working towards re-establishing him as one of the better small forwards in the NBA. Tatum will still play major minutes for Boston. He’s that good. But the return of Hayward will have an impact on Tatum's minutes and in doing so, affect his overall impact.
THE JAYLEN BROWN FACTOR
There’s no getting around the importance of Jaylen Brown to this team. At 6-foot-7, he has the length, strength and mental toughness to defend both backcourt positions as well as small forwards. Despite defending so many different types of players, Brown was still among Boston’s top defenders. His defensive rating of 100.3 ranked fourth on the team last season. Tatum has shown himself to be a solid defender, but he doesn’t have the kind of defensive versatility that Brown brings to the floor.
There is a very high probability that the players Tatum has around him next season won’t be the same as the guys he is playing with now, with the biggest question mark being Kyrie Irving, who will be one of the NBA’s most sought-after free agents next summer. In fact, more than half of Boston’s top 10 players will be free agents -- or in the case of Al Horford, can opt out of their contract and hit free agency. Regardless of how the roster shakes down next summer, Tatum will be counted upon to be one of the team’s top two or three players.