Jayson Tatum's remarkable rookie season is hitting its most impressive phase

Jayson Tatum's remarkable rookie season is hitting its most impressive phase

Kyrie Irving’s playoff status is now in doubt. Al Horford has been –– let’s say it together now –– rather average over the last few weeks. Gordon Hayward, despite his upbeat mentality and flashy workout videos, is almost certainly not returning this season. That means Jayson Tatum, at 20 years old, might be the Celtics’ most important player in the playoffs.

It’s worth mentioning Tatum’s age whenever the opportunity arises, because it puts his rookie campaign in true context. His numbers –– 13.6 points per game, 5.1 rebounds –– are impressive on the surface. But keep in mind, he was 19 years old until two weeks ago. 

This is the portion in any Tatum story where the author feels obligated to mention what he was doing at 19. This is cliche, but again: it’s necessary to put Tatum’s accomplishments in perspective. 

I was so inept at 19 years old, I couldn’t even go to a Dave Matthews concert without getting bagged for underage drinking in the parking lot. Tatum, meanwhile, was putting together a better rookie season than Steph Curry

Tatum appeared to hit the rookie wall in the six weeks prior to the All-Stat Break. During that time span, he averaged 12.3 points per contest and was shooting 41.9 percent from the floor. But he’s turned up his performance since, just when injuries are beginning to pile up. In the last five games, he’s averaging 18.4 points on 50-percent shooting, including a cool 40-percent mark from behind the three-point line. 

Tatum’s performance Tuesday against the Thunder was maybe his most impressive of the season, given the ravaged state of the Celtics’ roster. They were playing without Irving, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. And yet, they pulled off an improbable 100-99 win over the Thunder, even though Oklahoma City was leading by six points with 24.7 seconds remaining. 

Tatum, who was an one-man highlight reel Tuesday, factored into almost Celtics possession down the stretch. He nailed a jump shot with 17.6 ticks remaining, grabbed a key defensive rebound with 8.4 seconds left and found Marcus Morris for the game-winning three (even if he says it was an accident). Oh, and Tatum also posted the first 20-10 double-double of his career. 

Paul George was definitely impressed. “It’s an honor when you see young talent,” George said after the game, per MassLive. I’ve been inspired by many great players in this league, and it’s great to re-inspire younger generations and guys coming into this league. At the end of the day, what we do as the veteran guys is for the young guys to take the game further and advance much further than what I was. So there’s going to be kids looking up to Jayson, There probably are already looking up to Jayson now. Kid’s got a bright future.”

Irving’s balky left knee may prevent the Celtics from making a deep playoff run. But Tatum’s continued development makes this season worth it. Remember, the Celtics are playing for the long haul. 

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Source: GreenStreet Blog

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