Did Jayson Tatum’s opening night heroics push him into a higher echelon of NBA players?
NBA.com’s Sekou Smith on Tuesday included the Boston Celtics forward on his list of NBA MVP candidates to win the award for the 2020-21 season. Smith named Tatum among the “fresh faces and first-timers” and he believes the Boston star will bolster his case for the NBA’s most prestigious individual award by driving his team toward its lofty collective goal.
“Tatum already has an early-season signature moment (the banked-in game-winner over Giannis Antetokounmpo) to build off of,” Smith wrote. “The stage is set for Tatum and Jaylen Brown to power the Celtics to the top of the East, if they can handle the weight.”
Tatum averaged 23.6 points per game in his first five games of the season. That output is roughly equivalent to the 23.4 he averaged last season, a campaign in which he didn’t factor in the NBA MVP race.
The 22-year-old star probably will have to improve his averages in scoring and other major statistical categories, while also helping the Celtics exceed expectations, in order to be a genuine MVP candidate. By including Brown in his explanation of Tatum’s place on his list, Smith makes clear how the latter’s candidacy depends on how brightly the former continues to shine alongside him.
The game-winning 3-pointer he hit in the face of the two-time reigning MVP was a good start, but it would have to be only the beginning — albeit a high-profile one.