Just how good is Jayson Tatum right now and how good can he become? Is he already a top-10 player, or just knocking on the door?
Well on Sunday Tatum looked like best player on the planet as he dropped 54 points in a 126-120 win over the Brooklyn Nets, out-dueling Kevin Durant who scored 37.
Tatum has received the highest praise from some of the NBA’s elite talent, including Durant who called the young Celtics star an “elite shot-maker” after Sunday’s game at TD Garden.
Celtics play-by-play announcer Sean Grande believes Tatum should strive for more than just the approval and adulation of players he may have looked up to earlier in his career.
“The next Tatum thing to me is, and I’ve seen it start to vanish, is that little brother thing that comes with young players,” Grande said appearing as a guest on the Celtics Beat Podcast on CLNS Media. “And it’ll happen when it happens, and it’s going to, is when Jayson Tatum realizes that those guys I looked at, those elite players in the NBA, the best players in the world that I patterned my game after, that I watched, that I studied, whose praise means so much to me – I’m one of them now.
“And when that happens, and it will happen, it’s just a matter of when. That’s when it’s a matter of, lookout, I’m not subconsciously different from the great players, I am a great player. And, at the end of the game, I’m not interested in praise from Kevin Durant, I’m interested in beating Kevin Durant.”
This wasn’t Tatum’s first dominant performance over an opposing star, either. Just a few days before the win over Brooklyn, Tatum went head-to-head with Ja Morant. The 22-year-old sensation has the Memphis Grizzlies fighting for a top spot in the West.
Grande saw this contest as another important milestone for Tatum. While Morant kept it close, he said that it’s important to note that Tatum was the one making winning plays in the second half.
“Jayson Tatum was making winning plays, and Ja [Morant], who has made a ton of them this year, was not. There was a difference in the way they were scoring and what they were doing for their teams in the second half. That’s the subtle difference that we’re talking about here with Jayson.”
Tatum notched 21 fourth-quarter points against the Grizzlies, leading his team in crunch time. And while Morant had 14 points in the fourth as well, the only stat that matters is the one in the wins column.
After a slow start to the season, Tatum has the Celtics rolling right now. They are peaking at the right time, and according to Grande, it’s only a matter of time before Tatum takes that next step, too.