By Jack Ezold
With Kemba Walker out with injury most of the month of February, The Boston Celtics needed their young rising stars to show up. Two words: Jayson Tatum. Tatum has gone beyond expectations and has been on a tear the past 3 weeks, putting the rest of the league on watch. With confidence and efficiency oozing out of him, he has shown the world what we can expect in Boston from now on.
Averaging well over 30 points this month, Tatum is destroying some of the best defenders the league has. All Stars like Anthony Davis (Lakers) and Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) had no answers for the 21-year-old. Going off for 39 on Kawhi’s Clippers and then a week later dropping 41 on Lebron and AD, Tatum is going toe to toe with some of the game’s greats, again at only 21 years young.
While the young star is certainly ascending in the right direction, his first couple years have not been as glamorous as the past month has. Being streaky to say the least only averaging about 14 points per game in his first two seasons. Efficiency on the offensive end was not present in his first two seasons. Granted he was playing with ball centric Kyrie Irving (who we will not discuss). Now with Kemba Walker at the helm, Tatum has been able to flourish on the offensive end with more opportunities to look for his shot. This season, Tatum is on pace to surpass his shot total from last year, within the next couple games. More opportunities have given us a glimpse of how special Tatum can be with more experience.
Being a superstar in the NBA is not just about scoring, shots, and efficiency. Tatum is also a strong presence on the defensive end. Averaging the most rebounds (7) and steals (1.3) of his career, he is getting it done on the other side as well. A combination of his length and strength is why head coach Brad Stevens trusts his young stud with guarding the other team’s best scorer night in and night out. Going toe to toe with players like Kawhi, Lebron, and James Harden has helped Tatum grow and mature quickly which frankly, he had to. With Gordon Hayward not himself anymore after his devasting foot injury two years ago, and Kemba and Enes Kanter out most of the past month and a half. Tatum has been Boston’s saving grace, giving the city championship hopes as Walker and key bench spots get heathy again.
Boston currently sits at third in the Eastern Conference at 41-17, one game behind the second place Toronto Raptors (42-16) and 9 games behind Giannis’s Milwaukee Bucks (50-8). With 24 games left in the regular season, the Celtics will look to make one final push towards the first seed going into the playoffs in April. Getting past the Greek Freak and company in Milwaukee will not be an easy task, but with Jayson Tatum playing at the level he is, and with the rest of the pieces of the puzzle coming back from injury, Boston is a team to look out for going forward.