Boston Celtics: Ben Simmons is great, but Jayson Tatum is special

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 25: Jayson Tatum
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 25: Jayson Tatum /

Philadelphia 76ers rookie Ben Simmons may be frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, but the Boston Celtics have their own special rookie in Jayson Tatum.

Boston Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum and Philadelphia rookie Ben Simmons have stood among the best in the 2017 NBA rookie class.  Not only have both players lived up to expectations, but they both play with a maturity that has elevated each team.

When it comes down to which of these young, emerging stars is better or will be better depends on who you ask.

After missing an entire season, Simmons is proving exactly what many believed he would do.  He is a 6-foot-10 generational type player who has unbelievable court vision and an ability to create his own shot.

Two young talents

So far, this season, Simmons is averaging 16.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game.  Impressive no doubt, but those types of numbers were expected. This 76ers rookie will not be a bust and is certainly proving to be the real deal.  He is also playing on a team where he has more of an opportunity to be the man.

PHOENIX, AZ – DECEMBER 31: Ben Simmons
PHOENIX, AZ – DECEMBER 31: Ben Simmons /

That’s where my Jayson Tatum argument comes in.  Both of these young talents are special and great in their own way.  Where they differ is Tatum’s ability to create his own shot in multiple ways. He can drive to the hoop or he could shoot mid-range shots as well as shots behind the three-point stripe consistently.  He is also a defensive force that has helped a Boston Celtics team emerge as the best overall defensive team in the league.

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What Tatum has also done at just 19 years of age is take big shots during crucial times in the game.  Unlike Simmons, the former Duke standout does not have the same pressure to put a team on his shoulders.  On a team with stars like Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, Tatum is allowed to grow on the court.

The “it” factor

It is the way he has grown on the court that makes him a special talent in the NBA.  His 13.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 45.9 percent three-point shooting was not expected this quickly in his career.  Which is why former NBA star Rip Hamilton has given Tatum more praise than Simmons.

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"“I think I’m more impressed by Tatum than Simmons because when he came in everybody assumed he would have the impact of a gay like a LeBron James,” Hamilton told Express sport.  “Expectation wise, I expect him to do what he was been doing.  Tatum I was like ‘alright Danny Ainge gave up the No. 1 pick.’“He said that even if he had the No. 1 pick he would have still picked the guy they chose at three and then when Tatum came out I was like ‘Oh my goodness, I think he was the No. 1 pick in the draft’”"

Hamilton went on to describe both players upside as “neck and neck,” but labeled Jayson Tatum a “game changer,” and a “franchise-changer type of guy.”


While players like former Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce and current stars like teammate Kyrie Irving and Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal have praised Tatum’s game, Hamilton’s observation is what Celtics fans have witnessed on the court all season long.

The scary thing about this kid is that he hasn’t been as assertive offensively as many fans want him to be.  Again, on a team with a scoring star like Kyrie, he doesn’t necessarily have to be right now.

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As far as Ben Simmons goes, these two players will draw comparisons for their entire careers, which should elevate the Celtics-76ers rivalry to new heights.  It may not be as intense and league changing as Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird, but these two players will be the next chapter of the league.