Not only does he want to make the players around him better with his playmaking skills, he also wants to be a force on the defensive side much like teammate Marcus Smart. If he becomes elite in those two facets of his game, it will make him an even more dangerous scorer and launch him into the realm of elite players in the NBA, if he is not already there.
Coming off another All-Star year in which he averaged 26.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists, Tatum showed glimpses of a two-way player who can impact both sides of the floor. In the upcoming season, he is focused on his playmaking which can and will make the role players around him even better.
Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum with elite goals
While the emphasis on this Boston Celtics squad is eventually adding another All-Star to the mix with Tatum and Jaylen Brown, those two players still have room for growth which should be helped with the addition of veterans like Al Horford, point guard Dennis Schröder and Josh Richardson off the bench. Those players should take some of the pressure off a player like Tatum that will ultimately open things up for him to be a more effective all-around player.
It is really Horford’s return that will really help Tatum evolve as an elite playmaker. While he has already proved he can score 60 points on any given night and score in many different ways, knowing when to pass the ball and set up his teammates will make him that much more effective.
Much of the criticism on Jayson Tatum during the 2019-20 NBA season was that he didn’t have that Alpha Dog mentality. Despite the career highs in all three categories, he wasn’t really making the players around him better. Expect that the change in the upcoming season.
Following the team’s second preseason game against the Toronto Raptors in which Tatum flirted with a triple-double, Horford noticed the signs of a player prepped and focused to take that next step in his game.
"“His feel on reading the defense — you know, he’s getting a lot of attention and obviously he’s getting the ball in his hands a lot and Toronto likes to double — so time and time again he just did a good job of getting rid of the ball, and in those times, I just happen to be at the top there and I just knew I had to be ready to shoot,” Horford said after the game via Zoom. “He’s doing a good job of feeling that out, knowing when to be aggressive and go score and knowing when to pass it. It’s a fine balance but I feel like that’s one of the areas he’s going to take a big step this season.”"
Like the great players he models his game after like the late Kobe Bryant, Tatum’s rise into eventually a top 5 player in the NBA will depend on that balance Horford is talking about. He has to know when to take over a game and when to get the players around him involved which will only make them a better overall team.
With a veteran like Horford back in the mix, the trust to do so will open up for Tatum as well as Jaylen Brown. Both of those players have the ability to impact both ends of the court due to their athleticism and room for growth. If some of the pressure is taking off them to score, the value in other facets of their game will rise.
In all, the Boston Celtics have less expectations entering a new season with new head coach Ime Udoka and several new players. At the same time, expectations are high for a players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown because of the career seasons they are coming off of and they have not even come close to reaching their prime yet, which makes Tatum and his ability, in particular, even more fascinating for Celtics fans.