The Boston Celtics continue to lead the Eastern Conference standings halfway through the regular season and Jayson Tatum is a major reason for that.
Now in his sixth year in the NBA, Tatum has blossomed into a legitimate NBA Most Valuable Player candidate with per-game averages of 30.8 points, 3.2 three-pointers, 8.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.8 blocks through 39 games in this campaign.
Tatum is putting up a career-high in points per game which has been driven largely by an increase in his shooting percentages. The third pick of the 2017 NBA Draft is shooting 47.2% from the field this season, up from 45.3% last year and his 45.8% career norm.
This is his highest field goal percentage mark since his rookie year where he made 47.5% of his attempts, though he was taking only 10.4 shots per game back then compared with 21.4 a night this year.
His true shooting numbers reflect the same trend as his 61.1 TS% this year is the highest number of his six-year NBA career.
The 6’8 forward has become so consistent that his 31-point and 10-rebound outing in their latest win over the New Orleans Pelicans could be considered pedestrian by the recent standards that he has set.
Tatum has scored at least 25 points in each of his last 13 appearances and has yet to tally below 14 in a game during this ‘22-’23 season. He already owns six 40-point games this year and it will not come as a surprise if he eventually joins this season’s 55-point club which already has six members.
The elite form that Tatum has displayed this year following last season’s NBA Finals runner-up finish has Boston in prime position for another run at the title. The Celtics are currently on a four-game winning run that has pushed up their win-loss record to 30-12. They lead the Brooklyn Nets, who recently lost Kevin Durant to an MCL injury, and the Milwaukee Bucks by two and 2.5 games, respectively, in the East standings and this will be a key race to monitor during these next few months.
The strong performance of Boston has also elevated Tatum’s case for the NBA MVP trophy. He and reigning two-time winner Nikola Jokic, whose Denver Nuggets are currently in second place in the West, are neck and neck in the lead for the league’s most prestigious individual award.
While it will be difficult to make an appeal for Tatum over Jokic on statistics alone, the potential boost that comes with the Celtics securing the best record in the league may be enough to win him the award. Another two-time NBA MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, along with the 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant and three-time NBA All-Star Luka Doncic also have legitimate chances in this race that is shaping up to be one of the most exciting ones in recent memory.
There has always been a fascination about how well Tatum plays relative to his youth since he first exploded onto the scene back in 2017 as a 19-year-old rookie. It seems like he has fully shed that tag at long last and has earned enough respect around the league to be considered a bonafide superstar. He is still only 24 years old though and it is riveting to think that the best is yet to come for Boston’s latest franchise icon.