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Forsberg's Focus: How high is Jayson Tatum's ceiling?

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* Each weekday for the rest of the month, we’ll put a member of the 2019-20 Celtics, and one of their most notable statistics, under the microscope while assessing their season and what lies ahead:

+11.4

That was Jayson Tatum’s net rating differential this season, more than two times better than the next closest regular (Gordon Hayward, plus-4.7). The Celtics had a team-best net rating of plus-10.6 in the 2,265 minutes that Tatum was on the court, and that morphed to a team-worst minus-0.8 net rating in the 1,221 minutes he was off the floor.

He was the only Boston player in the negative for off-court net rating, suggesting he was the one player that Boston simply could not keep its head above water without.

What went right for Tatum in 2020

To paraphrase adult Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” Tatum created a slight breach of etiquette by skipping the triple-dare-you and going right for the throat. Entering the season, we wondered if Tatum could might make a push for All-Star consideration. He didn’t stop at just earning that first All-Star nod, he had an absolutely dominant February and cemented himself as an All-NBA talent.

Forsberg's Focus: Assessing what's ahead for the C's roster

All before his 22nd birthday. It was like something clicked and Tatum operated with the swagger and killer instinct that he had lacked earlier in his career. Tatum established himself as the clear-cut best player on a championship-caliber team, opening Boston’s title window even earlier than most of us expected.

 

What went wrong for Tatum in 2020

With superstar play came superstar attention. Opponents started blitzing Tatum and giving him all sorts of different defensive looks while hoping to slow him down.

His bigger issue was simply consistency, especially in the postseason where a couple of quiet first halves left everyone wondering if Tatum was hurt because of his lack of scoring output (he wasn’t and he typically responded with strong second halves). The next step is ensuring those sort of lulls don’t occur, particularly on the playoff stage.

Early outlook for Tatum for 2021

Tatum will soon ink a maximum-salary extension and the richest contract in Celtics history, cementing his spot as the cornerstone of the franchise deep into the future. The only question now is just how good he can be. He’s already one of the best two-way wings in the NBA. Can he be one of the top 5 best players in the league and an MVP candidate? Boston’s title hopes might just hinge on it.

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