On this episode of Green With Envy, hosts Will Weir (@willbon13) and Greg Maneikis (@miniminoe / @maneikis_music) break down Jayson Tatum’s MVP weekend in Charlotte (0:00-19:00) and what can be learned in Jaylen Brown’s absence (19:00-44:00). Comment below for what you think the Celtics need to do to continue their dominant play as the schedule gets tougher over the next four games.
Jayson Tatum is ridiculous
It’s tough to imagine Jayson Tatum improving on his current form, but performances like today’s against the Hornets are evidence that JT is close to realizing that there is no spoon. The raw numbers are straight out of a video game, but it’s the ways in which Tatum is doing it that have me wondering how much better he could get and how soon it could happen.
His improvement as a screener is creating easy opportunities for him at the rim, but even when he’s not rolling into space, Tatum is becoming a master of setting a screen to force a mismatch onto a smaller defender. The Celtics were able to get an All-Defense candidate, Jalen McDaniels (who by the way, would look great in green), off of Tatum by utilizing him as the initial screener. Going from McDaniels to Lamelo Ball turns a frustrating puzzle into a drill session with Drew Hanlen. It’s almost like you can see Tatum appreciating the in-game reps he’s getting for future matchups against teams with similar defensive liabilities (coughcoughJordanPoolecoughcough).
If they switch, JT can get easy buckets with his lightning quick spin move and extendo-arms. Forcing a switch to an empty side is a death sentence for the proverbial mouse in the house. Tatum is dunking on heads every single night, but sometimes he’ll settle for the easy layup.
The book on Tatum says to get underneath him and force him off his spots — play with physicality and Deuce’s dad will settle for jumpers or complain to the refs looking for a whistle. That book might need to be rewritten.
When guarded by smaller players, Tatum has learned how to use his increased strength and guile to create contact and draw fouls at an elite rate. And when teams are in the bonus? Tatum’s “Chris Paul” rip through is a guaranteed two points (ask Dennis Smith). One fun stat from the Hornets broadcast: pick any three Hornets players and they won’t have as many made free throws as Tatum this year.
Teams might double on the switch, which will create 4-on-3 opportunities with the ball likely back in the hands of Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon, or Derrick White. The Celtics superstar knows that all he needs to do is get rid of the ball, and his teammates will manipulate the defense for a lob or a corner three. This play starts with Tatum as the ball-handler, but the result is what matters here.
Thursday’s matchup against the Warriors will be another step on this learning curve for Tatum. The Warriors will be prepared for him, just like the Nets were in his first game without Jaylen Brown. It’ll be interesting to see how the defending champs have game planned for him, and even more interesting to see how quickly Tatum recognizes the plan and finds the flaw in the foundation. Regardless of this singular outcome, it seems inevitable that Tatum is approaching the moment he seems destined for.
Tatum: “Are you telling me I can score on double teams?”
Morpheus: “No, Jayson. I’m trying to tell you: when you’re ready, you won’t have to.”
Tune into the rest of this episode of Green With Envy for an extended discussion on Tatum’s MVP performance and how the Celtics can survive without Jaylen Brown.