Jayson Tatum is making the leap to the upper echelon of NBA stars during his third season with the Boston Celtics.
The 22-year-old forward made his first NBA All-Star Game appearance, he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for February and he has established himself as the team's best player.
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One of Tatum's teammates during his rookie season was Shane Larkin, who spent this past season excelling for Turkish team Anadolu Efes in the EuroLeague. Larkin knew early on the special kind of talent Tatum possessed, and he preached a message of patience to Boston's young star.
"It's unreal," Larkin said on the latest Celtics Talk Podcast. "I talk to JT all the time, and it's funny, I just saw him do that podcast, 'All the Smoke', and he was talking about that stuff with Phoenix, when he went out there, and he was like, 'Phoenix is where I want to be.' I remember having conversations with him his rookie year and I was like, 'Bro, just be patient.' He was so talented, he wanted to get out there and immediately be who he wanted to be, and I'm like, 'You're 19 years old, bro, just be patient, relax, you're time is going to come and you're going to be one of the top guys in this league.' I've been saying that for years, and now you see what he's been doing. Sometimes it takes guys a year or two years to finally get that opportunity to be who they're going to be. This year was his time, and he took it and ran with it. Now, he's well on his way to being one of the best players in this league, for sure."
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If the 2019-20 regular season does not continue, Tatum will have averaged career highs with 23.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, while also shooting 44.8 percent from the floor and 39.8 percent on 3-point shots.
How high is ceiling's Tatum, according to Larkin? Could he actually become the best player in the league?
"I don't see any reason why he can't be 'the guy' in the league. He has every single ability that he needs to have -- he has the size, he has the length, he has the IQ," Larkin said. "He can defend, he competes. He's so young, and he has so much potential that there's no reason why he can't be, and he shouldn't settle for anything less.
"The great thing about JT is I think he has that mentality. I think you saw that his rookie year. He came in with that mentality -- he was patient, he didn't force it. He was very efficient as a rookie. He gained more responsibility and took it in stride. He's just met every single challenge head on, and he's been doing great. I'm happy for him."
The Celtics will be in the playoffs if the current season resumes, and even though Boston has a deep and very talented roster, the team's postseason run likely would only go as far as Tatum takes it.