Can someone show us Jayson Tatum's birth certificate?
At some point in the long line of phenomenal trades and heists Danny Ainge has pulled off in his time as Boston Celtics president, you’d think most fans would have complete faith in him. As we saw this summer with the trade of the #1 pick a week before draft night however, many C’s loyalists proved they still hadn’t completely bought in to Ainge’s master plan.
Even I’ll admit I was pretty upset at first. Trading the team’s first number one overall pick in roughly 50 years (what was it, since like ‘51?) didn’t sit very well in my stomach as it didn’t for many other supporters. Long awaiting the fireworks promised by Owner Wyc Grousbeck that were still yet to be delivered, that pick represented a light at the end of the tunnel and Danny was seemingly tossing it away much to the fan's dismay.
As dreams of Markelle Fultz sharing the backcourt with Isaiah Thomas slowly dissipated, a new reality settled in for fans. Enter 19 year-old small forward out of Duke, Jayson Tatum. And of any form of reality to this point in the 2017-18 NBA season, Ainge choose the one Celtics fans want to be living in.
What this kid has done to this point is downright freakish, plain and simple. Teenagers simply aren’t supposed to perform at this level of competition in American professional sports, never mind just the NBA. But this is the NBA and it's at the heightof it's popularity and talent. And all the while the league boasts more competition than ever, Tatum continues to play like he’s just taking a stroll through Boston Commons.
Shooting at a .508 clip from the field while leading the league with a .515 rate from deep, its undeniable how hot the former Dukie has been. What's confusing for people across the league is how someone a little over a year removed from high school can perform this well especially with the adjustment needed in terms of shooting. But even more confusing for others is the fact that despite being a few months into the season now, Tatum has still yet to regress or show any of the kinks most 19 year-old rookies would.
For the Boston Celtics, no 19 year old has any business being this good at basketball. This is Jayson Tatum. pic.twitter.com/NUBA2GW61a
Another stroke of luck for the front office or just Danny making his claim against BillBelichick as the new evil genius in town here (all right, lets not go that far just yet), who really cares how this will be chalked up? Tatum is a night-to-night highlight reel and lets remind ourselves again, he is still 19. Nineteen years old, people. He won't even be legally allowed to drink championship champagne until 2019... not that it would make the moment any less joyous for any of us (sorry, Jay Smooth).
Scoring 16 points while adding five boards and four assists last night against the Indiana Pacers, Tatum once again didn't need a lot of looks (only eight shots total) to leave his mark as his efficiency continued to prove useful for Brad Stevens' team. If you weren't impressed enough by him hitting six of eight shots from the field or going perfect from beyond the arc/charity stripe, you can just ask Domantis Sabonis how he felt about the rookie's play yesterday …
Still, as not everyone is perfect, #0 has shown a few signs of problems that could arise for him down the line. Being too passive with the ball at times on a team filled with studs who can score baskets, C's fans will tell you one of their only gripes with Tatum so far is not shooting the ball enough.
As Jayson has only taken the sixth most shots of any player on the team this year, Marcus Smart and his .332 field-goal percentage are even hoisting up more looks than him ... the league leading three-point shooter. Not that I really need to expound on this point but can we get a little role reversal here? Hey Brad (Stevens), do we have to say the magic word or something??
Tatum does struggle at times cutting to the basket, as he sports a worse shot percentage to from close more than anywhere on the floor. Sometimes a little too tepid when trying to make the drive to the basket, you'll notice he has the ball slapped away from his hands before getting his shot up a lot. There have also been a few instances where he seems to force the layup to the rim too quick as well as he tries to beat his defender too. But for the most part, these are all far cries in comparison to the nightly issues we have to endure watching with Smart and as a rookie, the Duke product should only improve.
On Tatum, he's now down to 58% at the rim and 26% in "floater range" while making 46% on long twos and 53% of threes. It seems like he rushes the final step and shot at the rim when contested. That also seems like something that will improve significantly with experience.
Coming up on the New Year, the Celtic's newest rookie stud will look to hopefully carry his incredible performance so far in 2017 into 2018. Only behind Ben Simmons in most NBA fans' opinions of the Rookie of the Year race, if Tatum keeps up his play ... the Celtics may just have their first one since 1979-80 when a 23 year-old hick from French Lick, Indiana stepped through that door. His name? Larry Bird.
Photo One Credit (LeBron and Tatum): Tony Dejak, AP Photo
Photo Two Credit (Fultz and Tatum): Bill Streicher, USA Today Sports