The debate over which young star will eventually become the NBA's best player usually comes down to two players -- Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic and New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson.
And it makes sense for these players to dominate the discussion.
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Doncic won the Rookie of the Year Award last season and has emerged in 2019-20 as a top MVP candidate on a Mavericks team sitting in seventh place in a very competitive Western Conference. Williamson was the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and took the league by storm from the moment he made his debut in January. His athleticism is off the charts, and he's already averaging 23.6 points per game without a polished offensive skill set.
You couldn't go wrong predicting either of these two stars becoming the league's best player someday. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, however, wants to throw another player into the conversation, and that's Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.
Smith made his case Wednesday on ESPN's "First Take". He's very much impressed with Tatum's all-around talent.
“I love what I’ve seen from Zion (Williamson), I love what I’ve seen from Luka. Both of those candidates clearly have the potential. But I got news for you. It would be a mistake to omit Jayson Tatum from this conversation," Smith said. "He is right there, and he can overtake anybody. He’s got that kind of skill, that kind of length, that kind of athleticism. That kind of defensive prowess as well. He’s got the package, man. He’s something special.”
Check out the full segment in the video below:
Tatum absolutely belongs in the conversation, and one area where he stands out from Doncic and Williamson is his playoff success.
The Celtics star led his team to within a single victory of an NBA Finals berth in 2018. He led the C's in scoring during that playoff run while its two-best players, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, missed the entire postseason. Tatum went toe-to-toe with LeBron James and nearly beat him in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Tatum also is enjoying a breakout 2019-20 season. He's the leading scorer on the Eastern Conference's third-place team, and he also earned his first All-Star Game appearance. Tatum was the Eastern Conference's Player of the Month for February, too.
Doncic, Williamson and Tatum are three of the most talented and exciting players in basketball. Any one of them could emerge as the league's best player in the near future, and it would be wrong to leave Tatum out of the debate given his extraordinary two-way ability.