Expectations are very high for the Boston Celtics with the NBA's restart taking place later this month at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
The Celtics have become a popular pick as a team that could make a deep run in the 2020 NBA playoffs, and potentially reach the NBA Finals.
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NBA legend and six-time champion Scottie Pippen said earlier this week on ESPN's "The Jump" that Celtics star Jayson Tatum already is capable of being the best player on a championship-caliber team. Tatum is in the midst of a breakout year, and he's leading the team in scoring at 23.6 points per game. The 22-year-old forward is making a tremendous impact on defense, too, which helps illustrate the exciting two-way skill set he's consistently built on since entering the league in 2017-18.
What do our experts think of Pippen's claim? NBC Sports Boston's Celtics Insiders A. Sherrod Blakely and Chris Forsberg, along with Kyle Draper, discussed this topic on the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast.
"I think he will be. I don't think he's that dude right now. Not right now," Blakely said. "I just think there are too many obstacles in his way that I think will keep him from being that guy right now.
"Let's see, some guy named LeBron James and Anthony Davis. There's this guy in MIlwaukee who I hear is pretty good. There's a couple guys in Philadelphia who -- they could make things a little complicated as well," Blakely said. "Tatum is going to be that guy. I'm not seeing he won't be that guy. I think he will. I just don't think he's that guy right now."
Forsberg had a different take.
"The last time I saw Jayson Tatum, he was that guy," Forsberg said. "Look, is it fair to think he'll pick up on quite that level, I don't know. But I think a lot of people forgot Kemba Walker was hurt with the way Tatum played over the final two months. I think it is asking a lot of him to get back to that level -- I don't think he's going to average 30 points per game and shoot 50 percent from 3-point land. And yet I do think if the Celtics are going to go anywhere, it does rely on Jayson Tatum being the best player. Kemba has to be very good, but Tatum has to be your best guy, and bring his two-way impact if (the Celtics) are going to reach those lofty goals."
Tatum proved he could be the leading player on a very good team during his rookie season when he nearly led the Celtics to an upset win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. He's a better player now than he was in 2018, but the East as a whole also is a lot stronger today.
It's probably a little too early to definitively say Tatum is already capable of being the best player on a championship contender, but if he plays anywhere close to the level we saw from him in February and early March, it wouldn't be surprising if the young star led Boston on a deep playoff run later this summer.