The 2x All-Star has taken on a bigger role and put forth more production in each of his first four seasons. The stage is primed and ready for Tatum to take the superstar leap in this upcoming season.
The 23-year-old produced at an All-NBA caliber level last season. He averaged a career-high in points, rebounds, and assists with 26.4, 7.4, and 4.3 respectively.
The C’s star turned it up late in the year by scoring a career-high 60 points in April, and two 50 point games in May. He also shot a very respectable 38.6 percent from 3-point range on 7.6 attempts per game.
On paper, those shooting numbers are above average with room to grow but his shooting goes far beyond the basic statistics.
The wing is developing into a difficult shot master. Last season, Tatum finished in the bottom one percent of 3-point shot quality but in the top one percent of makes.
On the surface, this is a great show of skill but it is not a reliable way of scoring all the time.
The Boston Celtics ranked among the bottom in the league in assists last season with 23.3 per game. The lack of ball movement affects Tatum the most because he is left with the burden of breaking down defenders every play in order to score.
The hiring of new head coach, Ime Udoka, will be a key factor in Tatum’s development.
In his first official press conference with the team, Udoka jokingly threw his new boss and former Celtics head coach, Brad Stevens, under the bus for his low assist numbers.
“Sorry to mention this Brad, but 27th in assists last year, we want to have more team basketball there,” Udoka said.
The heavy emphasis that Boston will put on sharing the ball will undoubtedly lead Jayson Tatum to some easier looks at the basket.
This could even lead to improved defensive numbers since the C’s forward won’t need to exert himself as much on the offensive end. His tough shot-making will be crucial in crunch-time situations but his efficiency numbers and shot selection will improve with good ball movement.
There is a good chance this will also help the young forward develop into a real playmaker.
Tatum shows flashes of his playmaking ability but does not do it consistently enough. During his time suiting up in the Tokyo Olympics, he showed that his playmaking was something he was working on. He is already an elite scorer and if he can develop into an elite playmaker then he’ll truly become unguardable.
Another thing to look out for this season will be Tatum’s usage rate. The Boston Celtics dealt Kemba Walker to the OKC Thunder which will put the ball in Tatum’s hands more often.
This will be Tatum’s first time without playing alongside a high-volume, score-first point guard in Boston. Superstars in the NBA have the ball as often as possible and now Tatum will get that opportunity to show he is ready to take the superstar leap.
Kemba Walker struggled in his return from injury last season but still maintained a high volume of shot attempts. If Tatum took more shots instead of Walker, the Boston Celtics might have jumped up a few spots in the standings.
Now he will have full reign of the offense and move on from being known as the team’s best player and, instead, transition himself into a legitimate superstar.
The last reason to believe Jayson Tatum will become a superstar is the hard work he’s been putting in. It is unclear how much muscle he added to his body but workout photos have shown that he’s been bulking up. He was asked about these photos at his camp:
More Tatum: “I know people want to see me go to the basket more. I like the step-back jumper. It’s compromise. I’ll do what the people want.” pic.twitter.com/5n0yMdpTHx
— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) September 11, 2021
His added strength could be the biggest factor in his rise to superstardom.
Most superstars in the NBA get to the free-throw line at a high rate. They know how to navigate through contact and find ways to get easy points from the line.
Jayson Tatum went to the line 5.3 times per game last year. A major reason for it not being higher is because he drives with his head down too often. It seems like he relies on putting his head down to bully his defenders out of the way which limits his vision.
With his increased strength, the C’s star will be able to attack the basket with his head up and still get to his spots.
This small change will lead to two crucial improvements.
The first is that he will be able to get to the line more because if he drives with his head up, he can position himself better to draw contact on the opposing defender’s outstretched arms. If he can get to the line twice as much as he does now, Tatum will improve his 26.4 points per game to the 30 point range.
The second crucial improvement this will make will be to his playmaking. As mentioned earlier, the new style of team basketball that Udoka wants to see Boston play will help his numbers. A great way for him to improve his numbers outside of that team system is by being aware of what’s going on as he drives to the rim.
This will give him the chance to see incoming help defenders and dish the ball out to the open man.
If Jayson Tatum can put all of these things together then he will become the superstar that the Boston Celtics need him to be in order to secure nanner number 18 for the storied franchise.