The ascension of Jayson Tatum went to another level at the start of this season with the Boston Celtics superstar turning into a legitimate contender for the league’s MVP award.
Tatum entered that conversation thanks to his elite skill set, one that he has improved over time thanks to the help of several NBA stars.
Tatum sat down with The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach recently and discussed what contemporaries have proven to be worthy of film studies.
“I watch a lot of (Kevin Durant). I watch a lot of (DeMar) DeRozan. I watch some older clips of Kawhi (Leonard). I love watching (Joel) Embiid play. I love watching Giannis (Antetokounmpo) play, even though we’re two totally different players,” Tatum told Himmelsbach. “One thing I realized is playing some of these guys in the playoffs, you gain so much more respect for them.
“Steph (Curry) and those guys (on the Warriors), you realize how hard it is to get to the Finals, and they’ve been to that (expletive) six times and won four. I gained so much more respect for them.
“Jimmy Butler and how much of a competitor he is. I feel like he doesn’t get enough credit. Obviously, he misses games and isn’t the most flashy guy, but that’s one of the best players in the league. If you had to pick somebody on your team to go to war with, you’d definitely pick him.”
Watching the likes of Embiid, Curry and Butler has allowed Tatum to pick up on the intricacies of their games and try to add them to his.
“Joel’s footwork in the post, just how he moves so gracefully. To be that big and how effortless and smooth it looks,” Tatum told Himmelsbach. “Steph, how he moves without the ball and is probably one of the best screeners in the world. He draws so much attention. That’s something I’ve tried to do a lot more is play off the ball and still be effective.
“Jimmy, just how hard he competes, especially on the defensive end. And he’s willing to do whatever it takes for his team to win. Giannis is the same way. I just like watching him play, just how hard he plays.”
Learning from these players and trying to emulate some of their moves has certainly aided Tatum’s rise. He’s averaging 30.2 points per game, good for sixth-best in the NBA, while shooting 47.3% from the field to go along with 7.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists. He’s even done that while battling a couple of ailments as well.
Trying to copy some of the best players in the NBA isn’t a bad move by Tatum, either. It will add to his overall skill set and make him even that much tougher to defend.
And just like really anything, the NBA is a copy-cat league.