The Boston Celtics are amidst a resurgence, and Jayson Tatum is at the steering wheel.
Since snapping out of his scoring slump, Tatum has been a force on the offensive end, averaging 28.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists since the turn of the year. The three-time All-Star has always raised his game for the final stretch of the season, but he’s hitting new heights this year, and that has been proven by his 54 point outing against the Brooklyn Nets on March 6 and following it up with a 44 point night against the Charlotte Hornets on March 9.
Simply put, Tatum has found his shooting form and has become a legit bucket. And it’s the offensive arsenal that the St. Louis native has at his disposal that is earning him a place in discussions surrounding the future face of the NBA.
Kendrick Perkins believes that Tatum is among the next generation of elite talent to lead the league, and while he’s currently below the likes of Ja Morant and Luka Doncic, he is well on his way to closing the gap. The difference between Tatum and some of his peers is that he’s already tasted post-season success, having been to multiple conference finals, and could potentially be the first of the group to win a championship.
Should Tatum earn a ring before Doncic, Morant, and co., he will undoubtedly be placed among the rising elite, but in all honesty, he should be ranked alongside those guys already.
Perkins Likened Tatum to Paul Pierce
The Celtics have struggled to replicate Paul Pierce’s clutch performances since trading him away to enter a rebuild. Before Tatum, Isaiah Thomas was the closest the Boston got to another iconic scorer, but the similarities were scarce even then.
However, the team might finally have their new talisman with Tatum’s continued ascension towards superstardom. Of course, people have made this comparison before, and they will do so again. But being the primary scoring threat on the Celtics doesn’t make you the second coming of Pierce – there’s more to it than that.
Pierce embodied what it meant to be a Celtic; he fought for every possession, embraced physicality, and raised his game when the lights shone brightest. Tatum is starting to do all of those things now.
It’s a Team Effort
While Tatum is currently receiving all the plaudits, tying franchise records, and earning comparisons with past NBA legends, the Celtics are handling their business as a collective. The team currently ranks first in defensive rating, fourth in net rating, second in blocks per game, third in rebounds per game, second in three-throw percentage, and 11th in win percentage – that’s an elite stat line, especially for a team that struggled so heavily to begin the season.
Boston has turned their season around due to a mentality shift in the team as a collective. The ball is zipping around quicker, players are cutting to create space for others, and everybody guards their yard on the defensive end. And then, when the chips are down, Tatum and Jaylen Brown rise to the occasion to help steer the team towards victory.
But whatever way you slice it, this is Tatum’s team now. He’s their star player, their guiding light. And the Celtics will go as far as the 24-year-old wing can take them, and if that ends in a championship, Doncic and the others should forget about being the new face of the league, which will belong to Tatum.