Celtics’ Jayson Tatum Predicted to Become Top-Five Player in NBA

Jayson Tatum defending Jimmy Butler for the Boston Celtics

Getty Jayson Tatum defending Jimmy Butler for the Boston Celtics

Jayson Tatum has become the Boston Celtics‘ clear-cut best player in recent seasons. The 6’8” forward is one of the best scorers in the NBA and consistently improves as a floor general.

Defensively, Tatum is one of the most underrated stars in the NBA, as he consistently undertakes tough assignments and rarely makes egregious mistakes. As such, Bleacher Report’s Adam Fromal believes the St. Louis native has the potential to become a top-five talent in the NBA over the next five years.

“Tatum is a phenomenal scoring talent capable of putting up points in a wide variety of fashions. Should he put together a high-volume season in which he cans his triples at over a 40 percent clip, a scoring title likely awaits,” Fromal wrote. “Plus, the Duke product has become increasingly comfortable shouldering high-volume scoring responsibilities while still involving his teammates and conserving the energy necessary to play effective defense.”

Tatum shoulders a heavy load for the Celtics, both as a primary initiator and the featured scorer, yet with the addition of Kristaps Porzingis this offseason, there is potential for a slight role change. Should Tatum get more opportunity to find his offense off the catch rather than off the dribble, he could potentially take a bigger leap into the MVP discussion.

Jayson Tatum is More Efficient Off The Catch

The problem when operating as a point forward is that you’re often tasked with generating your own offense. That type of creation often comes via dribble penetration followed by a counter to how the defense looks to contain the drive.

However, in recent years, Tatum’s shooting efficiency tells the story of a player who is better served when having opportunities created for him rather than when carving out his own scoring chances.

Tatum averaged 4.6 field goal attempts per game in catch-and-shoot situations last season; he converted 41.1% of them. However, 4.2 of those attempts came from three-point range, where he shot 40.5%, per Second Spectrum.

Things get interesting when we peel back another layer to see how Tatum’s shooting numbers look via pull-up jumpers, which are generally self-created shots. Tatum averaged 6.9 pull-up attempts per game, shooting 30.2% from the field and 29.1% from deep.

Of course, there are wrinkles to these numbers. If Tatum receives a pass and then attacks by driving a close-out or hitting a rip-through, his shot attempts are tracked as drives or floaters — both of which he shoots at a high clip.

Nevertheless, Tatum has consistently provided better efficiency when letting his shots fly off the catch rather than his self-created attempts. With Derrick White being moved to the starting guard position, one can only hope Tatum has more freedom to work off-ball and lean into the more efficient aspects of his game.

Jayson Tatum Becomes Extension Eligible in 2024

Earlier this summer, Jaylen Brown signed a ‘Designated Veteran Player Extension’ (also known as the ‘Supermax’) with the Celtics, worth $288.2 million over five years. Brown’s contract extension will become active at the start of the 2024-25 season.

However, Brown won’t be the only ‘Supermax’ contract on Boston books in the near future. As of June 2024, Tatum will be eligible for his own ‘Supermax’ deal after being named to the All-NBA First Team on two consecutive occasions.

Tatum’s impending extension projects to be worth more than Brown’s due to the expected salary cap increase and is currently expected to fall within the $318 million range, per Front Office Sports.

Brad Stevens will surely need to get creative to keep the Celtics under the second tax apron, yet having two of the best wings in the NBA under long-term contracts bodes well for the Celtics franchise and their hopes of a sustained period of dominance.


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