It's no secret that Tatum has exploded over the past month, with the media extensively covering his rise from star to superstar. While it is unknown how long this hot streak will go he certainly has made up for the absence of Kemba Walker amid an injury of unknown severity. Here is a look at this stretch, highlighting his statistical output.
He's Scoring More AND with Insane Efficiency
Tatum’s scoring has always been his strength, and now it is even more impactful. Prior to February, Tatum was averaging a solid 21.5 points en route to his All-Star selection. That was with decent efficiency: 44% from the field and 36% from three. But in the absence of Kemba's offense, Tatum took this to an even more insane level.
He apparently decided 21 points on decent efficiency weren't enough, so he began averaging nearly 31 points. And this was while shooting 49% and 48% from the field and three-point range respectively! Compare that to Harden, who is considered by many the best scorer in the league, with shooting percentages of 44% from the field and 36% from three.
Of course, you can't forget the historical context of this scoring. Tatum is only the fifth Celtics player to have ever averaged 30 points throughout a month. He joins Larry Bird, Isaiah Thomas, Paul Pierce, and John Havlicek as the only ones to do so. He also is the first player under 21 to have at least three games straight of 30+ points on 60+% shooting since Shaq did it in 1994. To be in the company of those five legends sure says something about where he could go from here.
So while Tatum's scoring is impressive, it's his efficiency that makes it even more noteworthy. He hit 60 percent or better from the field four times, and at least 50 percent from 3 eight times in this run, and he is now taking around 20 shots per game in February. His confidence has increased dramatically, and luckily his shooting has risen to match it. Forget being the next Paul Pierce, he seems to already be there!
Defensive Mastermind in the Making?
Being an amazing scorer usually brings the stigma of bad defense. So far in his career Tatum has boasted a modest defense that never seemed to get enough attention. But it is clear that the increase of attention during this run has also made fans and analysts alike notice his impressive defense.
Prior to the run he managed a skillful 1.4 steals and .8 blocks per game, with his impact going even beyond those totals. But now we are seeing Tatum averaging nearly the same amount of steals, with nearly double the amount of blocks. And remember, all of these stats are against solid competition, with the likes of the 76ers, Thunder, Rockets (twice), Clippers, Lakers, and Jazz as his competition.
Jayson certainly seems to be up there in terms of defensive ability. He is top ten in the league in defensive win shares, at eighth with 3.1, and is on the verge of cracking the leaderboards for defensive rating with a per 100 possessions rating of 105. He is definitely turning into a two-way star, helping Smart carry some of the defensive load on a nightly basis.
Overall Game Impact
The last and clearest piece of his game that has jumped over the past month is his overall impact. As was said earlier, despite the tough competition Tatum still put together strong performance after strong performance. Nothing is a better indicator than the statistic game score, which puts every single game into context both era-wise and competition-wise.
The average score for a good game is 10, and he averaged 15.2 for the season prior to February. But in February, Tatum bumped it up to 23.3 per game, with one even reaching the 33.5. The lowest score in the game score leaderboards was a performance by Allen Iverson that saw him dropping 44 points. Not too far away at all from the 41 Tatum dropped.
This 33.5 game was against the Lakers, who are seemingly the second-best team in the league. It was Jayson's second-highest game score of the season, with him scoring a 39.2 against the Pelicans in early January. While the stat is not perfect, it does put into context the true extent of how far he has come throughout his third season. His breakthrough has shown that the Celtics are extremely difficult to beat when Tatum is hot, and it doesn't appear that he is slowing down any time soon.