The Boston media spent months comparing Tatum (13.9 PPG, 5 RPG) to NBA legends and predicting a decade’s worth of All-Star appearances for the rookie forward, and then a funny thing happened in the playoffs: He somehow exceeded the hype. Tatum scored 20 points in a Game 7 win over Milwaukee. He easily outdueled 2018 Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons, scoring 20+ points in all five second-round games. And, most impressively of all, he played a leading role in pushing Cleveland to Game 7 in the East finals, where he famously dunked on and chest-bumped LeBron James. Suddenly, the entire global basketball community was gushing like Tommy Heinsohn over Tatum’s poise, polish and gumption.
Tatum, 20, possesses all the fundamental elements to become a star wing. He has an effortless shooting stroke, nailing a preposterous 43.4% of his threes as a rookie. He knows a good shot from a bad shot, and he can create quality looks off the dribble and with an array of turnaround moves. He has excellent footwork and pacing. He isn’t reckless or selfish with the ball. He’s quick, long, smart and committed defensively. The biggest question at this point seems to be how quickly Tatum will reach his ceiling in Boston, given that the returns of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward could potentially cut into his touches and shots. Regardless, this much seems clear: Tatum is too skilled to be buried, even on a budding superteam. — BG