Jayson Tatum etched his name into the Boston Celtics' record books Wednesday afternoon, becoming the youngest player in franchise history to obtain All-NBA status as he earned third-team honors.
Tatum, having been 22 years and 163 days old on the final day of the 2019-20 regular season, joined Ed Macauley, who was 22 years and 361 days old when he first earned All-NBA first-team honors in 1951, as the only players in the organization's history to achieve such recognition before turning 23.
The 2019-20 campaign was a double-breakout season for Tatum, who emerged as an All-Star during the first half of the season, before ascending toward superstardom during the second half and into the Playoffs. He led Boston in scoring, averaging 23.0 points per game, while also posting career highs in rebounds (7.0 per game), assists (3.0 per game), steals (1.4 per game), and blocks (0.9 per game).
The versatile wing also made 189 3-pointers over the course of 66 games, which would have put him on pace for 235 triples had the regular season not been shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That would have placed him just 10 3-pointers shy of Isaiah Thomas’ single-season franchise record set during the 2016-17 season.
One of the main factors that helped to fuel Tatum’s breakout season was the growth of his basketball IQ. As he continued to improve over the course of the season, opposing teams began to defend him more aggressively. However, he learned how to read and react to any type of defense thrown his way.
“He can read every situation,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said on Monday, just two days before Tatum’s All-NBA recognition became official. “[Opponents] have run-and-jumped him, they’ve blitzed him, they’ve switched him, they’ve been back on him. They’ve done everything against him. That’s where great players are so special because they just know what’s coming. They can read what’s coming. Curveballs don’t throw them off, and they just still impact the game in a winning way.
“He’s got that ability. He’s a super quick learner. He can see something once and learn and attack it better the next time. He’s just a special player.”
Players and coaches from around the league also recognized Tatum’s special abilities throughout the season.
Following a career-high-tying 41-point effort against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 23, Tatum was declared as an “Absolute Problem,” by Lakers star LeBron James.
Two weeks earlier, prior to a Feb. 13 matchup against the LA Clippers during which Tatum would drop 39 points in a double-overtime win, former Celtics head coach and current Clippers coach Doc Rivers pondered, “Can you imagine five years from now what he’ll be? He’s one of the better players in the league and an All-Star, yet we’re still talking about how young and how much better he’ll be. He’s going to be amazing.”
Making the third team should only be the beginning for Tatum, who has continued to rise to even greater heights during the Playoffs with averages of 25.7 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.3 BPG, and 1.0 SPG. His determination to be the best player that he can be is second to none, and there is still so much left that the young star hopes to prove.
“I know what I think I’m capable of and what I’m striving for, so I think that’s the edge that I have for myself,” Tatum said on July 17, one week after arriving at the NBA bubble in Florida. “I step on the floor and I think I’m the best player every night. And I think that confidence – I’m sure a lot of guys feel that way – but I think that’s the mindset I take and just knowing that I can do it, and to just keep pushing it.”
As long as Tatum maintains such a mindset as he continues to develop, the sky will be the limit for what he is capable of achieving.
addByline("Taylor Snow", "Celtics.com", "taylorcsnow");