Jayson Tatum was recently named the No. 11 player in the NBA according to ESPN (so it’s a good thing we have a fire flames JT t-shirt you can buy) with three of his teammates also landing in the Top 50. Jaylen Brown was ranked No. 32, Marcus Smart No. 37, and Kemba Walker No. 48 to round out the list.
I would expect Kemba to be ranked higher, buttt he did deal with a knee injury before returning to the bubble last season and looking less than 100% and now he’s out until at least January so I’m sure that knocked him down this list a bit.
Jayson Tatum was ranked No. 35 by ESPN before the start of last season so it’s a substantial leap for the young forward prior to his fourth NBA season. It’s not like Danny offering the deal was ever in question, but all this talk of Tatum knocking on the door of becoming a Top 10 player in the NBA makes his recent 5-year $195 million max extension look even better.
Tatum also came in at No. 2 on Complex’s Top 24 Players 24 and Under list (Jaylen Brown was No. 12) behind only Luka Doncic. Here’s what Complex had to say about Tatum, which has me looking like the Three Eyed Raven (or an overly optimistic Celtics fan).
“We all thought Tatum would be pretty good coming out of Duke when the Celtics made him the third pick in the 2017 NBA Draft because Danny Ainge usually knows what he’s doing up in Boston. But if you saw Tatum elevating his game to All-NBA status in three short seasons you need to play the lottery because Tatum really burst onto the scene last season. “
Roll the tape from Dec. 18th, 2017:
I don’t think it was a stretch to assume the No. 3 overall pick was going to become a very good player, but not many people expected such a meteoric rise for Jayson Tatum. I know they lost the series and there’s no moral victories in sports, but Jayson Tatum ended his rookie season by dunking over LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals.
If that didn’t tip people off to greatness bubbling under the surface then you just weren’t paying attention.
Depending on where you fall on the blind optimism meter, Danny Ainge is either a so-so GM whose won just one title in nearly 20 years on the job and is a terrible drafter OR he’s a master chess player that turned a bunch of scrubs and Al Jefferson into Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and a Larry O’Brien Trophy and THEN turned those guys in their late 30s into Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart (and Kyrie Irving). I fall somewhere in the middle because Danny obviously orchestrated the Brooklyn trade and has nailed his picks when the Celtics get that high up in the draft. BUT he has also had some horrific misses like trading up to draft Kelly Olynyk over Giannis Antetokounmpo as well as some really bad draft picks like Guerschon Yabusele, RJ Hunter, James Young, Fab Melo etc.
As we all know Danny has borderline fetishized acquiring assets and stockpiling draft picks, so much so that he often hurt his own leverage because teams knew he couldn’t actually use all the picks he had. Thats how you build the best G-League team in the entire NBA! But seriously, this led to years like 2016 when Danny drafted 6 players + two more guys that he traded away. So my point is, over the years I have seen A LOT of Danny’s crappy draft picks playing meaningful minutes for the Celtics and none of them ever had the potential that Jayson Tatum had on Day 1. Again, obviously he was the No. 3 overall pick so he should have great potential, but even Jaylen Brown was a No. 3 overall pick and for the first few years of his career he was looked at as a jack of all trades, athletic, defensive specialist type player. Marcus Smart was the No. 6 overall pick and is the heart and soul of the team, but I still cringe when he pulls up for a 3 in a big spot. Tatum though, from Day 1 you could see they had something special, and he’s only gotten better ever year.
He’s improved in just about every statistical area significantly including Points, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, and Blocks per game. Even the nerds love him as Tatum’s advanced analytics have improved substantially from Year 1 to Year 3 including his PER (Player Efficiency Rating) and his VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). Thats the full package, folks.
Tatum is now signed through 2026, which means the Celtics are married to him and are quite frankly dependent on him turning into a Top 5 player if they have any hope of winning their first title since 2008. Top tier free agents never have and never will make Boston a destination so the Celtics are all in on Jayson Tatum being that piece. The way things are looking now, so far so good.