A look at Boston with and without Jayson Tatum

Matt Slocum/AP Photo

Jayson Tatum has been out since January 8th against his pal Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards, after which he tested positive for COVID 19, the second Celtics player to do so after Rob Williams. Luckily Boston had it's next three games postponed, otherwise Tatum may have missed eight games instead of five. Tatum will once again be sidelined today (his fifth straight) as he continues to ramp up conditioning to be ready for his return, possibly tomorrow night against the Chicago Bulls. During that stretch of games, Boston went 1-3 dropping two games to Philly and an embarrassing loss to the New York Knickerbockers. 

Lets get into the scary differences in numbers for the Celtics with Jayson Tatum active versus with him inactive. First off, the one two that will stand out to everyone are their offensive and defensive ratings. With Tatum playing, Boston ranks 14th in the league with 113.0 ORtg and are a still an unimpressive 19th in the league with a 110.8 DRtg. Conversely, with Tatum sidelined, Boston ranks an egregious 27th in both categories with a 104.5 ORtg and 116.2 DRtg. That is about a -14 point swing with Tatum off the court. That isn't going to cut it. 

I am in no way putting the performance on Brown, but I will just say that this is the difference between Jaylen and Jayson right now and why Jayson has more importance for the rest of the team. Tatum draws more attention from defenses (and very soon so should Brown), and right now Brown doesn't demand the ball enough to get all that attention from opposing defenses even though he's been torching them. The Celtics are almost across the board better in every statistical category with Tatum active. When a player drives typically you'll have one defender on the weak side help the on ball defender gets beat but when Jayson drives there are times he has two guys crash to help which leaves two guys with open shots or a potential for fouls. One thing we've seen a lot this season is Tatum being trapped on pick and rolls at the top of the key as far out as the hash which means the the roll man should be open and if he can find a hole in the middle that could draw another help defender from the weak side meaning now a quick swing to the middle and over to the corner should create an open corner three opportunity. The corner spot up guy tends to be Semi and Grant and at time Javonte Green. At the beginning of the season Tatum struggle with that play but has progressively gotten better with it. The play doesn't exist with Jaylen as the main man which is why they need to work much harder to get open shots during his hiatus.

In the last four games without their young superstar, Boston has posted 41.3reb 21.3ast 14.5tov 7.5stl and 2.8blk. On the flip side, in the first ten games of the season with Tatum, they posted 45.2reb 23.2ast 15.7tov 9.1stl and 6.6blk. In every major category besides turnovers, Boston has been more efficient with its star as you would expect. They also have slightly better numbers in terms of "open" shot attempts and percentage with Tatum present, which is a direct result of him drawing more attention and creating more opportunities for catch and shoot opportunities and cuts to the basket as they also post about five more "open" paint opportunities with Jayson on the court. 

It's not all doom and gloom in Boston though, as this stretch is coming to an end quickly. Kemba Walker will play in his fourth game back since returning from injury and he looks a bouncy and explosive as he ever has in Boston. That is something to be excited about especially when you combine it with the fact that Brad Steven's just provided an update stating that Jayson Tatum will be back on the court tomorrow night against Chicago. If Kemba plays (he may not since it's a back to back) it would be the first time we will see the Celtics three best players all on the court at the same time since the Eastern Conference Finals in the dreaded "bubble". The Celtics take on the HOT Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden tonight at 7pm.