Once Uncertain Jayson Tatum Has Shown He Is Man For Job For Celtics

Once Uncertain Jayson Tatum Has Shown He Is Man For Job For Celtics

Updated: 5 months, 1 day, 20 hours, 24 minutes, 23 seconds ago

Jayson Tatum is the guy. 

This term has many different meanings, but for the Boston Celtics it means that he is the best player on a championship-contending team. In the wider context of the NBA, it means that Tatum is one of a handful of players who single-handily can put a team on his back and lead them towards their goals. 

While the Celtics don't necessarily need Tatum to be that guy every night. Boston is one of the deeper teams in the league with the likes of Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Robert Williams, and Al Horford rounding out the starting lineup when all healthy. Many bench players on the Celtics would be starters on other teams with the most obvious being 2016-17 Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon. 

Boston is extremely deep, but still sometimes needs Tatum to take over and he has earned the respect of the league that he is one of the top players in the league. He's still just 24-years-old, but to this point already has racked up three All-Star appearances, 2 All-NBA nods and took home 2021-22 Eastern Conference Finals MVP trophy after leading the Celtics to their first NBA Finals appearance since losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2010. 

On paper, the 2021-22 season was spectacular for the Celtics but it doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. Boston at one point looked destined for the NBA Lottery rather than two wins away from a championship. The Celtics held a disappointing 18-21 record nearing the midway point of the season and looked all sorts of out of whack. Before putting together one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA history, there were many questions surrounding the team and even its best player. 

Some wondered if Tatum was the right guy to lead the Celtics to Banner 18. There were questions floating around talk shows or social media about whether or not he could be the best player on championship-level team. These questions even crept into his mind as the Celtics struggled. 

"I was 23, playing for the biggest franchise in the NBA, with the expectations of being the best player, being the best leader, being the best teammate and being the guy that can take a team to a championship," Tatum said on the latest episode of "In Depth With Graham Bensinger." "Everything that I have I'm giving it to this game and my team. And we were like four games under .500 and it was just like the toughest start to a season that I've had. I think part of our profession is being honest and being candid: There are times where I doubt myself in those moments. It's not long.

"You think about,‘Can I be the best player on a championship team?’ because not many guys can. It's only the best of the best of the best, but that is where I aspire to be. And there were moments at the games where I was like, ‘This is just not working.’But I think I've always stayed with it."

Tatum certainly answered all questions surrounding him and then some. The young wing was impressive to open the season, but took his play to a different level as the team began to turn things around. From Jan. 8 through the end of the regular season, Tatum averaged an eye-popping 28 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game while shooting 37% from beyond-the-arc on 8.6 attempts per contest. 

Over that span the Celtics went 33-10 to turn their season around and put themselves in position to make a deep playoff push. Tatum continued his brilliance throughout the playoffs while battling through injuries and led the team to the NBA Finals.

Although the Celtics didn't take home the Larry O'Brien trophy, any questions surrounding Tatum's leadership or play have been silenced. This respect has carried over and Boston opened the 2022-23 season as one of the favorites to win the championship this year. 

Boston has unsettled business and Tatum is the man for the job to help them finish it. 

Further Reading

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Here's What Stood Out in Celtics' Loss vs. Bulls: Poor Play and Frustration with Officials Headline Boston's First Loss

[Film Room] Malcolm Brogdon's Fitting in Seamlessly with Celtics, but What's More Exciting is on the Horizon

After Opening Night Win, Celtics Express Their Belief in Joe Mazzulla and His Collaborative Approach

Grant Williams on Not Getting a Contract Extension from Celtics: 'it doesn't mean that a deal won't get done in the future'