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Jayson Tatum’s Star Continues To Rise

Former Duke star is having a brilliant playoff run as a Celtics rookie.

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Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers - Game Three
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 5: Jayson Tatum #0 and Marcus Morris #13 of the Boston Celtics celebrate their overtime win against the Philadelphia 76ers during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round of the 2018 NBA Playoff at Wells Fargo Center on May 5, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Celtics defeated the 76ers 101-98.
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

With Saturday’s dramatic win at Philly, the Boston Celtics moved to 3-0 despite not having Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, not to mention a variety of other injuries.

A lot of this is because Brad Stevens has emerged as arguably the best coach in the NBA. But part of it too is because former Duke star Jayson Tatum has emerged much more quickly than just about anyone anticipated.

This week he’s being mentioned in connection with Larry Bird since he broke a long-standing team record that Bird owned: Bird had four straight 20+playoff games. Tatum has now had five.

He’s way ahead of schedule and unlike Philly’s Ben Simmons, Tatum can hit a shot. If we were Philly, we’d find a way to get Chip Engelland to work with Simmons. Engelland works for the Spurs, but Simmons desperately needs a shot. He’s a liability at the end of games currently.

That’s not the case with Tatum. Boston pushed the offense through him in the 4th quarter and overtime and he delivered.

The Celtics, on the cusp of the Eastern Conference Finals, must be ecstatic.

However, Tatum’s rise presents a potential problem for Boston and that’s this: between Tatum, Hayward and Jaylen Brown, do they have too many similar players?

The original idea, remember, was that Hayward was going to start. He ripped his ankle apart in the first five minutes of the season and hasn’t played since. He’s expected to make a full recovery but what then? Who starts? Who sits?

It’s not Steven’s decision of course and that’s probably a good thing. Boston acquired Hayward last summer and Hayward, as you may remember, played for Stevens at Butler, very nearly hitting a 34 court shot to beat Duke in the 2010 national championship (ESPN later calculated that he missed by the width of a shoelace).

Logically speaking though, he’s 28, coming off a serious injury and he has a $28 million dollar salary. Tatum is just 20 and has a very bright future and for now, he’s far cheaper.

Brown is far more athletic than either and he’s just 21. His skills aren’t as refined yet.

It’s a real conundrum and there’s one more guy who will certainly be affected: Semi Ojeleye is now probably superfluous.

As we’ve discussed before, Ainge has also accumulated a lot of draft capital and there are two players he’s likely to be very interested in: San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, whose relationship with the Spurs is at best strained right now, and Anthony Davis.

The feeling about Davis wanting out of New Orleans earlier was that the Pelicans were losing and he would be happy to leave for a winner, if not by a trade then soon in free agency.

Suddenly though the Pelicans are very competitive and also have a bright future and Anthony may not be as unhappy as some thought he might be.

However you look at it, Boston’s problems are really not so bad: too many players and too many draft picks.

They need to do something before their assets devalue, but nonetheless, the Celtics have incredible options.

For Tatum, the big question is: will they build around him? He’s shown so much promise that it’s hard to imagine Boston would let him go this early in his career.

As they say though, it’s a business.

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