Only one rookie in the NBA has been better than Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics so far this season, according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton.
Pelton released the first incarnation of ESPN Insider’s rookie rankings Wednesday, and Tatum sat in the No. 2 spot behind Philadelphia 76ers first-year star Ben Simmons.
Simmons, of course, was the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but he missed all of last season with an injury, so he’s technically still a rookie. Tatum was selected No. 3 overall by the Celtics in the 2017 NBA Draft, one year after Boston selected Jaylen Brown with the No. 3 pick in 2016.
Here’s what Pelton wrote about Tatum, who’s just 19 years old but already is making a huge impact for the Celtics, who own the best record in the Eastern Conference:
“Simmons’ coming back to the pack has helped Tatum make this a two-man race for Rookie of the Year at this point. He’s actually ahead of Simmons in my wins above replacement player (WARP) metric, though Simmons has the advantage in Basketball-Reference.com’s box plus-minus stat as well as RPM.
Of course, Tatum is almost certainly due for some regression of his own from 3-point range. He continues to shoot a league-high 51.5 percent on 3s, a rate that would be hard to sustain for anyone, let alone a rookie who shot just 34.2 percent from the shorter NCAA line last season. (Amazingly, Tatum has been even better on 3s in December than the season’s first six weeks, hitting nearly 59 percent of them.)
However, Tatum has been good enough elsewhere — making better than 50 percent of his 2s while attempting four free throws for every 10 field goal attempts and making them at an 83.6 percent clip — to remain efficient even when his 3-point shooting inevitably drops off. Tatum has also proved a quick study as part of the NBA’s best defense.”
Tatum, who spent one year at Duke before jumping to the NBA, entered Wednesday averaging 13.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 30.5 minutes per game over 33 contests.
Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, OG Anunoby of the Toronto Raptors and John Collins of the Atlanta Hawks round out Pelton’s top five rookies so far.