In a league rich with talent, there are always going to be a handful of snubs when it comes to the All-NBA teams. The Boston Celtics had one of their own fit that category this season.
In a season in which Tatum exceeded expectations — especially the back half of the season — a third-team nod at minimum was expected. That’s where Tatum landed after last season and he absolutely improved from a year ago.
It’s too bad the Celtics as a team did not, taking away from the luster of Tatum’s individual accomplishments.
A proven commodity for the Boston Celtics
Due to mounting injuries and inconsistent play from his teammates, Tatum carried this team down the stretch. The results weren’t the desired one in terms of victories, but he still did plenty to warrant an All-NBA selection.
Tatum did received two first-team votes and finished with 69 points, leading the list of players snubbed from one of the three teams. (A list that inexplicably includes Donovan Mitchell).
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In his fourth season, Tatum averaged career-highs in points (26.4), rebounds (7.4), and assists (4.3). The month of April saw Tatum nearly average a double-double with 29.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, numbers that were similar in May as well.
Six times Tatum scored 30 or more in April, including a 60-point performance against the San Antonio Spurs.
These are a few reasons while Tatum deserved to be on an All-NBA team. While he was a focal point of opposing teams all season, Tatum took on extra pressure in Boston’s short-lived playoff run. He propelled the team to a play-in victory and averaged nearly 41 points over the last three games of Boston’s first-round exit to the Brooklyn Nets.
And while the postseason isn’t factored into voting, Tatum did more than enough to earn at least a spot on the All-NBA third team.
Boston Celtics star deserved better
All three All-NBA teams had deserving players at the forward position. It’s hard to argue Tatum being placed over the two players on the first team. More debatable, however, are the four players representing the second and third team selections.
On the second team, Julius Randle and LeBron James were selected. Randle, by averaging a double-double and leading the New York Knicks back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013, is certainly deserving.
At this point in his career, James might be sliding by on reputation alone for these honors, but his stats and importance to his team gave him enough clout for an All-NBA selection.
It’s the third team where things get dicey.
Tatum, with 64 games, played in more games than both Jimmy Butler (52) and Paul George (54). Tatum also averaged more points and rebounds than both players, though each Butler and George averaged more assists.
Did voters go off shooting percentage, where Butler and George held a slight advantage? Did they look at defense? It could be argued that Butler is a better defensive player out of the bunch but all three hold similar roles in this regard.
Selecting players with so many similarities is no easy task but by virtue of leading his team in scoring plus playing in more games and his individual accomplishments, Tatum should have received the nod over at least one of these players.
It’s disappointing to not see Tatum rewarded with an All-NBA team selection for his outstanding season. He’s likely the first to tell you, however, that it’s about winning as a team over the individual accolades. And the Boston Celtics failed in that column this season, meaning this selection could have very well been an empty award for Tatum (outside his pocket book that is).
In the end, it’s still a snub to not include him with these outstanding players. There’s no doubt, though, that Tatum will use this disappointing season for Boston as motivation to keep getting better, meaning we’ll see his name on the All-NBA list for years to come.