Rookie and third overall pick Jayson Tatum has been making a name for himself these past couple weeks in the NBA Summer League.
The 6’8 small forward averaged a solid 18.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game during his Utah Summer League stint and in his first outing for the Las Vegas Summer League, Tatum scored a cold 27 points and also had 11 rebounds to match against fellow rookie rival Lonzo Ball. While some may think his play in his second game on Sunday night fell after totaling just 11 points and 7 rebounds, just his presence on defense was enough to help push the Celtics to 2-0 record. While it is still early (also just summer league at that) I think it’s safe to say Tatum is going to be a strong contender for Rookie of the Year in this next upcoming season.
Tatum couldn’t have walked into a better situation with the Boston Celtics. The Celtics, coming off one of their best seasons in some years look to rebuild on that success and they’ve started off doing so by signing unrestricted free agent Gordon Hayward. However, to contrast that signing, they also got rid of one of their best defenders in shooting guard Avery Bradley, trading him to the Detroit Pistons for forward Marcus Morris and a second round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Ultimately, what this means for Tatum is there is potential in the flexibility of lineups that the Celtics have to offer. Tatum can either run the shooting guard or small forward positions but in the end, he is more productive on the move at small forward. With the on court maturity that he possesses, in a lineup that features Isaiah Thomas at the point guard position and Gordon Hayward at the small forward position Tatum will have a lot of the pressure taken off of him which will free him up to score the ball from deep. Not only that, but the Celtics having a couple younger players on their roster will put Tatum in a position to become an avid playmaker to a bench that lacks consistency to get them over the hump at times.
While Tatum’s stock has been overshadowed by first and second overall picks Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, his situation with Boston is better in comparison in his chase to becoming ROTY. He doesn’t have the added burden of being looked at as a savior of a struggling franchise like the other two. In Fultz’s case, his pursuit of ROTY has the ability to be hindered because of the presence of his teammate Ben Simmons, who was the number one overall pick in the 2016 draft. Simmons also is starting his rookie campaign after being ruled out his first initial season in the NBA with a broken right foot. In Ball’s case, his pursuit of ROTY may be hindered by the fact that the Lakers will not have much to offer this season from a standpoint of being contenders. Also, a safe observation made from Lonzo Ball’s first two summer league games is that besides assists, he won’t really light up the game in other aspects, which at this point the Lakers really need (as stated earlier, it is still only summer league).
This isn’t to say Tatum will run away with award. One rookie whose play will definitely need to be on radar this upcoming season is Sacramento Kings point guard De’Aron Fox who even though was selected with the fifth pick, was still considered to be a steal. In his first Summer League game Fox lit up the stat sheet in all aspects bringing in 18 points, four assists, three rebounds, five steals and a block in 27 minutes. Even though the Kings went on to lose the game, that performance alone showed that they have found a player in Fox.
This Year’s NBA
As Summer League plays on, with some of the performances we’ve seen out of these rookies along with the major moves being made in free agency, it might be safe to already say this upcoming 2017/2018 NBA season is going to be one of the best seasons of basketball we as viewers have seen in a while.
ESPN contributed to this article