12 Players – Heroic Labors: Jayson Tatum

With the NBA season back in full swing, the challenge that the players will face in their quest for a championship becomes clearer. While it’s foolish to argue that this restart will decide the legacy of an NBA player or organization, it certainly can help to build up one should they go the distance.

Just as Hercules had to overcome 12 challenges or labors in order to prove himself to be worthy, NBA superstars will be taxed in a way they never have before. Superstars will be responsible for carrying their teams on the court like usual but they will also have to keep their groups focused, engaged, and united in their quests for a championship. Here are the biggest challenges that 12 NBA superstars will face as they seek to win the title. Here we look at…Jayson Tatum.

Jayson Tatum had the breakout season Boston Celtics fans have been looking forward to since they drafted him 3rd overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. It didn’t take long for Tatum to get comfortable in the NBA as he averaged 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists as a rookie and helped bring the Celtics within a game of the NBA Finals. After a middling sophomore season and a (somewhat) slow start this season, Tatum took off. After a 15 point — 4/13 from the field loss — against the Sixers on January 9th, Tatum only scored under 20 points 4 times in the next 23 contests. So he REALLY TOOK OFF. This season he’s averaged a career high in points (23), rebounds (7), assists (3), steals (1.4), and blocks (.9). Most importantly for his game is that he was able to shoot 40% from 3 while doubling his volume from 3 to 7 attempts per game.

With Tatum leading the offensive charge the Celtics have solidified themselves as the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics “first 6” of Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis, and Marcus Smart is as tough as they come. Largely because they have elite, two-way wings that pose matchup problems across the board and above average shooting from all their premiere perimeter players. Head coach Brad Stevens also has a lineup card he has yet to unveil. The Walker, Smart, Hayward, Brown, Tatum lineup has only been on the floor 18 minutes this season. In the small — sometimes super small — 2020 NBA this lineup has the potential to cause major problems for opposing defenses.

Despite this dynamic on paper depth chart the Celtics have several cracks in their championship armor. Kemba is still nursing a sore knee despite the 4 month layoff. Hayward — since his return from that horrific injury — has a tendency to float through games. Brown — whose development has been tremendous — still isn’t an elite go-to scorer. And Smart’s value comes from his defense and hustle plays, not from his offensive prowess. It’s for this reason that Tatum will need to be “the guy”.

Due to the aforementioned “cracks” the offense flows through Tatum. He will need to be the elite scorer he was from mid-January onwards. Tatum has definitively answered the question regarding his ability to shoot it from beyond the arc. The area he will need to step-up if the Celtics hope to emerge from the Eastern Conference will be his finishing at the rim. Per Cleaning the Glass, Tatum only converted 59% of his shots around the rim (31st percentile for his position). At 6’8″ and with his athleticism, he needs to be a stronger at rim finisher. Especially considering that the is 2nd on the team in drives per game (10.9). Of their key offensive weapons only Brown and Hayward converted at the rim above 60% of the time, per Cleaning the Glass. Neither of them have the offensive talent or skill set that Tatum does. And with a first round matchup against the Sixers — albeit without Ben Simmons — and the 7’0″ Joel Embiid looming Tatum will need to be able to finish at the rim if the Celtics hope to get out of round one and deeper into the playoffs in 2020.

by Frank Greco (@fgreco12)

Pascal SiakamNikola Jokic — Giannis Antetokounmpo — Kahwi Leonard — Lebron James

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