Tracy McGrady believes Jayson Tatum needs to check off one more box before he can be recognized as a superstar.
Many believe Tatum already has earned the label. Tatum, who garnered his first NBA All-Star selection this season, currently is averaging 23.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for a Boston Celtics team that owns the fourth-best record in the entire league. The 21-year-old through 53 games has logged 10 performances of 30-plus points, the latest being a 36-point outburst in Boston’s road win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday.
McGrady clearly is impressed by the jump Tatum has made in his third NBA season, but he still needs to see a bit more before he extends his praise for the swingman.
“It’s in the making. What is this, third year? It’s that time. His third year, he’s blossoming into a superstar,” McGrady said Tuesday on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “You can just see the confidence over the last month. I went and watched when they played Houston. I mean, this guy was fantastic. The moves that he’s doing, the creativity on the basketball court. You can see he’s extremely confident right now, and he’s separating himself from the other players on the team to let everybody know he is the No. 1 option and he is that guy. I need to see it in the playoffs. I don’t want to give him superstar right now until I see what he does in the playoffs.”
In Tatum’s defense, he’s largely made the most of the playoff opportunities he’s had. As a newly turned 20-year-old, he led the 2017-18 Celtics, who fell one win shy of the NBA Finals, with 18.5 points per game over their 19-contest playoff run. That number dipped to 15.2 in the 2019 playoffs, but calling a spade a spade, that Celtics team was dysfunctional and not set up for sustained success.
Regardless, Tatum likely will have the opportunity to change McGrady’s mind this spring. While the Milwaukee Bucks clearly are the favorites in the East, it certainly wouldn’t be shocking to see the C’s meet Giannis Antetokounmpo and Co. in the conference finals.