Jayson Tatum Showing Why He Hasn’t Reached Superstar Level Yet

Jayson Tatum is paid like a superstar. The Boston Celtics’ third-year forward signed a five-year, $195 max contract extension prior to this season. Tatum is just 21 years old and has become the young leader of a Celtics team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals last year. While he’s the leader and is paid like a superstar, Tatum has been showing he’s not at superstar level just yet.

Jayson Tatum has improved each NBA season

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Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge swung a nice deal in 2017 to land Jayson Tatum. The Celtics had the first pick in the draft and Ainge dealt the pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, who took guard Markelle Fultz. The Sixers sent the Celtics the third overall pick in the 2017 draft and another first-round pick in return. Boston selected Tatum at No. 3 after the Los Angeles Lakers selected Lonzo Ball.

Tatum started all 80 games he played in his rookie season. He averaged 30.5 minutes per game as the Celtics won 55 games that year. Tatum averaged 13.9 points and five rebounds per game as a rookie. He was named All-Rookie for the 2017-18 season.

Tatum saw his numbers take a jump in the net two years. In his second season, he put up 15.7 points and six rebounds per game. During last year’s COVID-19-shortened season, Tatum averaged 23.4 points and seven rebounds. Tatum was named to his first NBA All-Star Game in his third season in the league.

Tatum rewarded with max extension

Prior to the start of the 2020-21 NBA season, the Boston Celtics rewarded Jayson Tatum with a max contract extension worth $195 million over five years. “Jayson has emerged as one of the best two-way players in the NBA through his first three seasons and will continue to get better and better as a player and a leader,” said team president Danny Ainge in a press release, according to USA Today.

“He possesses unique scoring and playmaking abilities and has displayed exceptional poise and maturity in how he approaches the game,” Ainge continued. “He’s someone who, at 22 years of age, will be a central figure to this organization’s championship aspirations for many years to come.”

In the release, Tatum said Boston is where he wants to be. “I am incredibly grateful to the Celtics organization, and the city of Boston for this opportunity,” Tatum said. “I love this city, this organization, and the best fans in the NBA and I plan on being here for a very long time.”

Tatum showing his biggest flaw

Through three games, Jayson Tatum is averaging 25 points per game for the 1-2 Boston Celtics. Tatum has been their go-to guy down the stretch. He hit a wild off-the-glass shot in a season-opening win against the Milwaukee Bucks. He had a chance to knock down the game-winner against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday but missed a deep shot in a 108-107 loss.

Tatum’s biggest flaw has been failing to go to the basket. He’s relying on the long ball too much. In the first two games of this season, Tatum, the team’s go-to player, didn’t attempt a single free throw. He’s attempted four free throws all season and has made them all.

To put that in perspective, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has attempted 36 free throws in three games. LeBron James has gone to the line 18 times in his three games. If Tatum wants to be a star, he has to drive the lane and get to the basket instead of relying on the deep 3-pointer. The great ones get to the line. Unlike Antetokounmpo and James, Tatum can hit his free throws. He needs to start taking advantage of that and driving the lane.