Sometimes when you hope for something for so long, you get jaded and start to doubt it ever happening even as you continue hoping for it. Sometimes you even start to see signs of that thing happening and wonder, “is this real, or is it a mirage?”
You’ll have to forgive some Celtics fans of being cautious with Jayson Tatum. All the signs seem to be there. He looks the part of a superstar coming into his own. It feels kind of like a superhero movie where the hero is just realizing how amazing their skills really are and how to use them for good.
But what if this is just a prolonged hot stretch? What if he’s really, really good, but not actually superstar great? Or what if this is one of those peaks before the valleys and we’re still a way off from him being a consistent top 10 player?
Personally, I tend to lean more on the side of optimism even if it means getting my heart hurt occasionally. But I can understand if some are still in a wait and see mode.
For now, all we can go on is the evidence before us.
FiveThirtyEight took a look at Tatum in a recent profile.
He’s working on career-best averages in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, free throws and threes per game and per 36 minutes, as well as high marks in more advanced measurements like player efficiency rating and rates for usage, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. In his last 14 games prior to the break (and specifically in the first half finale against the Clippers), Tatum seemed to reach even greater heights: He averaged 26.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 steals and one block per game during that stretch, scorching the nets to the tune of 50 percent from the field, 44.5 percent from three and a 61.8 true shooting percentage.
Our own Adam Taylor broke down his season and concluded with this.
All things considered, Tatum is having an exceptional year which has seen him firmly rise into the status of star player. He has achieved that first All-Star appearance, with many more to come. It now comes down to just how much he wants to be great, if he continues to put the work in all year round he will take that next step into the realm of a super star sooner rather than later.
So what do you think? Has Tatum made THE Leap? What does that even mean? Top 10 player in the league? Top 5? MVP candidate (maybe starting next year)? How high can he go? Or is he still a few steps away? Discuss.