Jayson Tatum is in the middle of it all
Just about everyone (with the possible exception of Lakers fans) agrees that Jayson Tatum is one of the next stars in this league. He’s a hard working kid with exceptional skills, a modern NBA body, and a calm but determined demeanor. About the only thing lacking for him is time and experience at this point.
He still has lapses (as Zach Lowe points out here) and he still makes the mistakes that are common in second year players. There have been times when he’s looked like he took a step back from his rookie season, but that’s mostly because he was relied upon so heavily in the playoffs. His role has changed and he’s adjusted and he seems to be progressing normally.
His goal is to become an All Star (not just the winner of the Skills Challenge as he was this year). As he tells Shams:
“I know I’m going to be an All-Star,” Tatum told The Athletic. “It wasn’t this year, so it will be next year. There are definitely certain guys that are able to achieve things at faster rates than others, and I know I can be one of them. Nobody puts higher expectations on me than myself.”
A complicating factor has been the Anthony Davis saga. Normally a talent like Tatum would not have to deal with seeing his name in trade talks. The team and city would be focused on locking him up for a lifetime in Celtics green. Davis and his trade demand changed that narrative.
Adam Himmelsbach has an interesting story about a time before Tatum even arrived at Duke where he impressed members of the Pelicans.
“He immediately stood out,” Holiday said. “He could do everything. You saw how he could shoot if someone at the next level was guarding him. He could make a play. He pretty much had all the talent and ability, so everybody pretty much knew he was going one-and-done.”
For his part, Jayson is taking it all in stride with the right attitude for himself and his career.
“I’ll play basketball anywhere,” Tatum told The Athletic. “I’ll play for whoever wants me. That’s my job. I know I can’t control any of that stuff, so I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Trade talk doesn’t bother me.
“I’ll play for anyone.”
That doesn’t mean that he’s looking past this season or turning the page on the Celtics though. He knows how fast the market can change and he knows that he has a job to do in the here and now. He’s said multiple times that the Championship is the goal this year and that’s his focus.
How much he contributes to a long playoff run may very well determine what his value is to the Celtics and to teams around the league. He’s already seen as a can’t-miss prospect. Is he going to develop into a true superstar or is there enough reasonable doubt to make him expendable for the right current superstar piece? It is going to be an interesting year for Jayson, no matter how this all plays out.