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CelticsBlog roundtable: when will Jayson Tatum be the face of the franchise?

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics - Game Two Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

How long until Jayson Tatum is the 2nd best player in the Celtics? Follow-up: (gasp) how long until he’s the best?

Sam Sheehan: Normally this is where I would step in and tell us to pump the brakes, remind everyone that he is a rookie and that his very likely to regress to the mean. That said, it really looks like he’s just going to keep getting better. With some natural regression from an aging Al and Hayward trying to re-establish a post-injury groove, I really think that it’s possible Tatum could be the Celtics second best player as soon as next year.

I don’t think that’s likely though, both Al and Gordon are true All-Star talents and without regression on their part, Tatum would need to make a massive leap. I’ll say he’ll be the 2nd best player on the Celtics by 2020-21. Best by 2022.

Alex Kungu: This is a tricky question. I think Tatum is very close to being the second self-creator on the team. Outside of Irving, he might be the best at just being able to get the ball and make something for himself. But the overall offensive versatility of Hayward and Irving has him behind them both for now. For Tatum to make the leap over one or both of them he’ll need to show a higher ability to create for others, shoot the 3 more comfortably, and more comfortability finishing with both hands. A lot of that will come from just becoming stronger and getting more experience because he has the skills to do so. If I had to put a date on when he could become the second best player I’d say by his third season.

Andrew Doxy: *looks around nervously* Isn’t he already? *ducks*

In all seriousness, I think that whenever Hayward’s contract is up, that’s when Tatum becomes the second best player on the roster. I am of the belief that Hayward’s signing with the Celtics isn’t a long-term thing. From the jump, I always believed that he would play out his contract, establish max value, and then get his 10-year veteran max contract elsewhere, especially with Jaylen Brown and Tatum on the roster. When that happens, Tatum will join Kyrie as the top-2 on the roster, and as time progresses, that’ll be Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum at the top together. As it stands now, I’m of the opinion that the order is Kyrie Irving->Hayward->Horford->Tatum->Brown, and in 3 years, it’ll be Irving->Tatum->Brown->Horford and the rest. This is all assuming that Horford and Irving re-sign, of course. That’s where I stand currently.

Daniel Poarch: Coming into this season, I have Tatum fourth on the Celtics after Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford, and I think that’s most likely how he’ll finish the season as well. That said, there is a realistic timeline where he jumps to second as early as this season, depending on just how quick his growth is, how rusty Hayward is returning from injury, and how well Horford fights off Father Time. Either way, I think we’ll see him established as top-two player on the Celtics by the end of the 2019-20 season at the latest.

As for when he’ll become the *best* player in Boston, I think that will depend on whether or not Irving sticks around once he can opt out of his current contract next summer. If he does, I believe Tatum may have to wait a few years more -- Irving is one of basketball’s elite scorers, smack in the middle of his prime, and Tatum will still only be 21 years old when the first year of Irving’s presumptive new deal begins. Tatum’s ceiling is certainly the highest of anyone on this roster, but if he sticks around, this will be Irving’s team for the immediate future. I’ll ticket Tatum for #1 by the 2021-22 season.

Bobby Manning: It’s hard to imagine what the Celtics’ own death lineup will look like after a season where they only played six minutes together. It was a far cry from LeBron James stuffing Jayson Tatum’s first shot in October to Tatum yamming on LBJ in May’s Game 7. Within the context of the latter team — with no Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward — Tatum looked prepared to take over the Paul Pierce role on the wing creating shots for himself and leading the offense. Yet even he fell victim to the offensive collapse of the final six minutes of the season, he still hit the rookie wall and despite leaps and bounds on the dribble, better facilitators still play on the roster.

Last year Tatum admitted that his job was to play off what Irving and Al Horford get him, and while that allowed him to master his three point stroke on an abundance of good looks outside it relegated his scoring further down the roster. It wouldn’t be stunning to see him buy into a similar role next year despite his ability to claim the second role on the team but given an opportunity to step up the roster like last year’s string of injuries he’s more than prepared to exceed last year’s expectations.

More time playing the 4, an increased rebounding load and more ball-handling tests will provide Tatum with another adjustment curve next year. If he bursts in those three factors, he’ll be the second best overall player on the roster next season. Despite the massive cast of talent around him, I wouldn’t be the one to bet against it.