When NBC Sports Boston play-by-play announcer Sean Grande called Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum “best player on the planet,” during the team’s 117-108 victory over the Detroit Pistons, it was no overstatement.
Call him a homer or whatever, but in watching Tatum erupt for 28 of his 43 points in the second half of the game, it was tough for anyone to debate the announcer. Well, fans in Dallas, Milwaukee, Memphis, Cleveland and Denver may argue, their MVP candidates don’t have the complete game Tatum has.
While Ja Morant, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Donovan Mitchell have dominant aspects to their game, Tatum is showing the NBA that he can do it all. Whether it’s scoring, dishing the rock, defense and getting to the foul line, that young talent Celtics fans have watched and admired is now turning into a pure stud right before our eyes.
Boston Celtics: The maturation of Jayson Tatum on full display
One may argue that Tatum has a great supporting cast, but with the team down five rotational players against the Pistons on Saturday night, Tatum took the team on his back by impacting the game in different ways. He was a facilitator, took over the scoring when the team needed him, and he crashed the boards with 10 rebounds.
The scary part of Tatum’s rise in the early MVP race is that he is still just 24 years old. A difference-maker…check, an explosive scorer…check, motivated and hungry…check. If there is any flaw in Tatum’s game to start the 2022-23 season, it is his inconsistency knocking down 3’s, but as we saw Saturday night, when he gets in that zone, he can deliver dagger after dagger.
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Has the game slowed down for him? Well, you can see the confidence in his eyes and the killer mentality in his smile while he is out there on the court.
"“The game has slowed down a lot for me,” Tatum told NBC Sports Boston postgame. “From this year to last year, the year before that. As it should. I put a lot of work in. I’m growing. I’m playing more games. I’m just learning each and every time I play. You should get better with time.”"
That is the advantage Tatum has over players like Morant, Doncic and even Jokic. At such a young age, he has emerged through success but has also grown through failure. On a Celtics team that has gone deep in the playoffs before finally getting over that hump and playing for a championship last season, Tatum has seen firsthand what it takes to deliver a championship to Boston.
Yes, he has the supporting cast to get that deep again, but when the game is on the line, he is showing he can be the best player on the court whether at home or on the road. While he is doing it in the regular season, the true test for Tatum will be the playoffs.
Actually, that’s when the mission of the Boston Celtics superstar will truly begin.