Although ranking the top 30 NBA players in today’s game is an incredibly difficult task, The Last Word on Pro Basketball staff has taken it on. Debuting at number 18 in the countdown in Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.
Top 30 NBA Players
Number 18 – Jayson Tatum
Perhaps the greatest Celtic of all-time (outside of Kendrick Perkins of course), Tatum is ascending to superstardom before our very eyes. All jokes aside, Tatum is blossoming into a legitimate star in the league in just his third season. According to the Last Word on Pro Basketball staff, he’s already a Top 20 player and is quickly approaching Top 15 status.
Danny Ainge traded back two spots — passing on Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball — to select Tatum third overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. At the time, some questioned the move. Today, though, it is viewed as an absolute home run, as Tatum is widely considered the best player to come out of that draft class.
It’s much too early in his career to truly judge his place in Celtics lore, but if he reaches his full potential, he could one day be mentioned alongside Boston legends such as Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. He’s on track to becoming a generational talent at the small forward position, and a potential heir to the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.
Tatum’s greatest strength is that his game has no real, glaring weaknesses to exploit. He’s asserted himself as a go-to scorer while playing solid defense. He facilitates well when he needs to and is a good rebounder. Tatum can play off-ball or take over in isolation. His potential is through the roof, and he will surely be a Top Ten or even Top Five player in the NBA very soon.
If he continues to develop the way he has through two full seasons and a shortened 2019-20 campaign, he could be the best player on a championship-contending team, which is a feat very few players can claim. It’s not at all unrealistic to believe he can be a 25-30 ppg scorer with three assists and seven boards while providing stout defense. There’s not much else anyone can ask for.
Currently, his biggest weakness isn’t something that can be taken advantage of on the floor. Instead, his weakest attribute is his lack of experience. With it also comes a relative lack of consistency, though he was on a hot streak before the COVID-19 pandemic halted the season.
As Tatum continues to grow and develop, this weakness will slowly diminish. It’s hard to blame a 21-year old for making a few mistakes a night against some of the greatest players in the world. For every “off” game, he can post a handful of stellar performances, but those less-than-great nights need to become very rare as his career continues.
He sometimes struggles to finish around the rim, and his three-point percentage could use a slight bump, but these, too, will likely improve as he keeps logging game minutes.
And — just as a fun fact — even though he has little playoff experience, he has actually won more playoff series than Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Jayson Tatum Career Accolades
As previously mentioned, Tatum has only been in the league for two and a half(ish) seasons. However, in that time, he was able to notch an All-Star appearance as well as an All-Rookie nod in 2018. As a rookie, Tatum led Boston to an Eastern Conference Finals series, though his Celtics fell short in Game 7 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
During his lone season at Duke, he was a member of the All-ACC Team and the All-Freshman ACC Team, as well as the All-ACC Tournament Team.
He’s also dunked on LeBron James multiple times. Just for the record.
Last Word on Pro Basketball Top 30 NBA Players Ballots
We believe in full transparency in the top 30 NBA player rankings so we are going to disclose the ballots of our player rankings and where each contributor had each player ranked.
Tyler Marling – Site Manager – 29
Chase Gage – Managing Editor – 19
David Knight – Marketing Manager – 12
Zack Kircher – Associate Editor – 19
Matthew Waldman – Associate Editor – 21
David Ward – Author – 13
Avinash Chauhan – Contributor – 19
Adam Zigner – Contributor – 10
Albert Dadson – Contributor – 26
Dylan Guest – Contributor – 17
Raheem Bashir – Contributor – NR
Nathan Levine – Contributor – 20
Bill Huan – Contributor – 19
Embed from Getty Images