Jayson Tatum‘s performance halfway into the season has garnered him enough buzz to reasonably earn him a starting nod in the 2023 NBA All-Star Game. However, he’s got competition in the Eastern Conference’s frontcourt against the likes of Giannis Antetokoumnpo, Kevin Durant, and Joel Embiid.
On a January 9 episode of Road Tripping, former NBA player Richard Jefferson explained why he believes that the Boston Celtics star would be the odd man out between those four frontcourt players.
“Talent-wise, and this is not disrespect, we are talking about a two-time MVP, we’re talking about Embiid that has finished second in MVP, we’re talking about KD, and their team’s in second place right now, (Tatum) is the odd man out,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson, who won a title with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, then made it clear that even if Tatum winds up not starting, that doesn’t disqualify Tatum from winning other awards down the line this season. Moreso, Jefferson revealed what would qualify Tatum as a starter in his mind.
“He can not start and still win the MVP,” Jefferson said. “I think if his team is in first place, he should be a starter…now if they get to the middle of February and (the Celtics) are in second…” to which Jefferson then shook his head, indicating that Tatum would not qualify as a starter.
NBA All-Star voting will wrap up on January 23.
NBA All-Star Voting Thus Far
On January 5, the NBA released its most recent voting results. In the frontcourt, Tatum received the fourth-most votes, behind Durant, Antetokounmpo and Embiid in that order.
Tatum’s Celtics teammate, Jaylen Brown, was also fourth among guards, ranking behind Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell and James Harden.
Tatum has some noticeable ground to make up to catch Durant and Antetkoumnpo, but is neck-and-neck with Embiid. Now that Celtics fans can see how close Tatum is to being in the top-3, that may press them to vote more to ensure he gets a spot among the starters.
Brown on the other hand has a steeper hill to climb, as his former teammate Irving has over 1 million votes more than he does, while Mitchell has over half a million more. No matter what happens, both Tatum and Brown have played well enough to earn consideration for another all-star berth.
Kevin Durant’s Latest Injury
The Nets then confirmed that Durant had suffered an isolated MCL sprain in his knee and that he’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks, as reported by ESPN. Though Durant suffered a similar injury last season, Adrian Wojnarowski said the Nets are optimistic that he won’t miss as much time as he did then, when he was on the mend for approximately six weeks.
In the end, it may not matter if Tatum is not voted in as a starter. If Durant is voted yet unavailable by the time the all-star game comes around, Tatum could very well serve as his replacement anyway.
It will all depend on how the all-star voting shakes out over the next two weeks.