Jayson Tatum finished off his stellar rookie year with 24 points and 7 rebounds in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Now, the Boston Celtics must find a way to fit him into a lineup with Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving.
The Boston Celtics finished their remarkable season with a devastating 87-79 loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The team itself accumulated an abysmal 7-39 from the field, or 34 percent. On the other hand, rookie sensation Jayson Tatum assembled a 24 point game, capped off with a 9-17 shooting performance.
The Regular Season
As poor of a shooting night as Boston had in Game 7, their 2017 first round selection enters the 2018 offseason on a high note. The 20 year-old actually improved throughout the playoffs, and eliminated any nerves the fans thought he would have.
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Tatum hit the “rookie wall” midway through the regular season, specifically around the All-Star break, when his points per game dropped from 14.6 in December, to around 11 in January and February, according to NBA stats.com.
That same wall would not last long, as Tatum’s points per game skyrocketed to 16.8 for the month of March.
The rookie’s resiliency was put on full display throughout the season, which represented the team’s success tremendously. He morphed into a knock-down three point shooter, settling close to 43 percent, according to Basketball-Reference.
Tatum utilized his length and athleticism to defend bigger guards and forwards as well. He matured into a lockdown perimeter defender, and someone who Brad Stevens can turn to when the Celtics needed someone to guard the other team’s best player.
The third overall pick managed to stay healthy, which seemed unlikely since this would be the first time in his basketball career that Tatum would have to handle an 82-game season. Not only that, but Boston dealt with the injury bug all year long, continuing into the playoffs. Having Tatum around to not only develop his skills, but perform tremendously in the starting role, only improved the Celtics’ chances at a deep run.
Believe it or not, Tatum had some of his finest games during the playoffs. According to CelticsWire, JT became the first Celtics’ rookie in history to score 20+ points in five straight playoff contests.
His best single game arguably featured during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Philadelphia 76ers, where he finished with 24 points on 11-17 shooting. He helped Boston obtain a 3-0 series lead, thereby preventing any Sixers series comeback. Remember, this was a 20 year-old.
Tatum’s points per game improved to 18.2 during the playoffs, compared to 13.9 in the regular season. He accumulated 351 total playoff points, one shy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s rookie record, according to Jared Weiss. Not to mention, he was the only one who showed up offensively in Game 7 against the Cavs, scoring 24 points and grabbing seven boards. He also dunked on LeBron, making his last memory as a rookie a memorable one.
Final Grade: A
With Irving and Hayward re-entering the lineup for the 2018-2019 season, seeing what Tatum’s role will be is intriguing. Him, and second-year player Jaylen Brown took huge steps forward that probably weren’t imaginable just a year ago. Heck, even Brown managed his own string of big-time scoring games.
According to fellow writer Jason Haskins, Brown had 23 games where he scored 20 points or more (including playoffs).
Tatum already has most of the intangibles needed to become a great NBA player. Now, he must hone in on those skills, and continue to improve. The sky is the limit for the 20 year-old.