Jayson Tatum: The Evolution of a Superstar

On June 22, 2017, the Boston Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum, a lengthy wing from Duke University, with the third overall pick. When the Celtics took Tatum he was just a confident nineteen-year-old with dreams of NBA stardom. People immediately questioned the two squads ahead of the Celtics, the 76ers and the Lakers for taking Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball over Tatum. Many experts acclaimed Tatum as the best player in that 2017 draft class and saw his potential from an early stage in his career. The stardom of Jayson Tatum did not happen all at once. Many fans gave up on the ceiling of Tatum over the past two years because he was not able to consistently and efficiently score over long stretches during NBA seasons. I think this is a flaw of many NBA fans today, judging players when they are still too young. Tatum is only 21 and is beginning to show fans why he is the NBA’s next superstar.

Fans know about Tatum’s uncanny ability to create an open shot and attack the rim aggressively, but unlike his first two seasons, Tatum is knocking down those shots and finishing those drives with consistency. The first-time all-star is currently averaging 23.3 ppg, which is almost 8 more points than he averaged last year. He is also shooting 45% from the field, but the biggest improvement in Tatum’s game is his 3-PT shot ability. Tatum is averaging 2.8 three-pointers a night while shooting almost 40% from deep. Over this past week, Tatum was forced into the primary playmaking role when Celtics’ All-star Guard Kemba Walker got sidelined with an injury. He has risen to the occasion by putting on scoring clinics against NBA powerhouses like the Lakers and the Jazz.

Not only has Tatum leveled up his plethora of ways to score the basketball, but he has turned himself into an elite, versatile defender. Tatum has great length and height for his position — at 6’8” Tatum can go out on the perimeter and defend opposing guards — along with the strength to get on the block and pick up opposing big men. Tatum has also begun to take the responsibility of guarding fellow NBA All-stars night in and night out. Just last week Tatum took the Kawhi Leonard assignment and outdueled the reigning Finals MVP in an overtime battle. Tatum forced Leonard into a turnover on the last possession of regulation and forced him to airball a key shot late in the overtime period.

Jayson Tatum’s recent ascension into superstar status has also given the Celtics a real chance at contending for a title this year. Behind his outstanding offensive metrics and remarkable defensive prowess, I think Tatum has a real shot at cracking an All-NBA team this year. I still don’t think we have seen anything close to Tatum’s ceiling and it will be very exciting to see the next level the young wing takes his game too. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Tatum, but for now, I will just enjoy watching his exceptional development and his ability to give opposing teams nightmares on both sides of the ball every night.

Sports writer at the Daily Emerald. Journalism student at the University of Oregon. NBA fan and writer.