It’s awards season at Celtics.com! We’re handing out six awards throughout mid-October as we roll through this year’s Celtics.com Awards Series. We may not have trophies or acceptance speeches, but we do have some top-flight Celtics performances to outline. Here we go...
Of all the strong individual performers that the Celtics had this season, there was one that stuck out among all others in his ability to carry the team on his back night-in and night-out.
That is what made Jayson Tatum a shoo-in for Boston’s 2019-20 MVP, as shown by his earning of 72.4 percent of your 23,964 votes cast on our MVP Twitter poll earlier this week.
At only 22 years of age, Tatum was the driving force behind Boston’s success this season. He rapidly transformed into a superstar right in front of our eyes, while gaining league-wide respect in the process.
From a team perspective, Tatum was without a doubt the most impactful all-around player on the Celtics’ roster. He led the team in scoring (23.4 points per game), was second in both rebounds (7.0 RPG) and steals (1.4 SPG), third in blocks (0.9 BPG) and fourth in assists (3.0 APG), making him the only member of the team to finish among the top five in those main statistical categories.
Tatum also led the squad in 3-point efficiency, connecting on a team-high 189 3-pointers at a 40.3 percent success rate. Most of those triples were made in pull-up fashion, as he made 124-of-307 such shots for a 40.39 percent clip, which led the league among players who attempted at least 200 pull-up 3s.
It didn’t take long for Tatum to gain star status, as he earned his first All-Star nod Jan. 30. At 21 years and 333 days old, he became the second-youngest player in franchise history to make an All-Star team behind Antoine Walker (21 years, 180 days).
However, it wasn’t until after earning that recognition that Tatum evolved into a superstar.
During February, the third-year wing averaged 30.7 PPG (49.3% FG, 48.1% 3PT), 7.9 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, and 1.3 BPG, all while guiding Boston to a 9-3 record for the month. For the first time in his career, he earned the Eastern Conference Player of the Month award. In doing so, he became the only player in the East to win the award this season other than eventual back-to-back league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
When it came down to the MVP voting, Tatum was one of only 12 players in the league to receive a vote. But, if his play inside the NBA bubble had factored in, he likely would have ranked even higher in the voting.
In the Playoffs, Tatum was nothing short of magnificent. He averaged 25.7 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.0 SPG and 1.2 BPG, a combination which no other player in the league was able to accomplish. He led the team in scoring, rebounding, shot-blocking, and was just one-tenth of an assist behind Kemba Walker (5.1 APG) from leading the team in assists.
Tatum also delivered in areas that didn’t appear in the box score. He was one of the team’s most versatile defenders, he was its go-to scorer in crunch-time situations, and he also developed into one of the most instrumental locker-room leaders.
On top of all of that, Tatum had the tendency to step up in the biggest of games, like when he scored 39 points over the star-studded LA Clippers during a double-overtime win, or when he dropped a career-high 41 points against the Lakers at Staples Center, or when he tallied 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists during a Game 7 win over Toronto during the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Players from around the league, such as LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and many others have recognized how impactful Tatum has become and have publically praised his emergence into stardom. The media has also taken notice as they voted him onto the All-NBA Third Team, making him the youngest player in franchise history to achieve such an honor.
Putting all of that together made Tatum into the clear-cut MVP of this 2019-20 conference-finalist Celtics team, and it likely won't be the last time he earns it.