Celtics

Here’s where ESPN ranks Jayson Tatum among the top 100 NBA players

Tatum is ahead of Devin Booker but behind Chris Paul.

ESPN ranks Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball as Blake Griffin of the Brooklyn Nets defends. Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Celtics have three players in the top 50 of ESPN’s top-100 — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart — but none in the top 10 after the network placed Tatum 14th on its annual list.

Tatum slots in ahead of Trae Young, Jimmy Butler, and Devin Booker, but behind Chris Paul, Paul George, and — interestingly — Bradley Beal at No. 11. Beal, of course, is a superstar scorer but struggled defensively last season.

Rising higher should be very doable for Tatum if he has a big season and if the Celtics play well, although it will be interesting to see who he might pass. Paul showed no signs of slowing down last year, George was excellent with Kawhi Leonard sidelined in the playoffs, and Beal will likely once again be the bulk of the Wizards’ offense.

Advertisement:

As Tim Bontemps noted in the ESPN blurb, a swing skill for Tatum is his free-throw shooting. Tatum took 5.3 per game last season, which needs to be significantly higher. Last season, when Tatum took eight free throws or more, he scored 32.2 points per game. As Beal proved, a big season as a scorer can precede a big rise.

Tatum had an important summer as a member of Team USA: Not only did he get a chance to talk to and learn from some of the NBA’s best (while maybe tampering a little bit with pending free agents Beal and Zach LaVine), he also worked with new Celtics coach Ime Udoka — one of the assistants on Team USA.

At his introductory press conference, Udoka shared his message for Kawhi Leonard when he was with the Spurs: “Why wait?”

He said he planned to share the same message with Tatum and Brown.

“The sky’s the limit,” Udoka said. “The fact that you’re not All-NBA, that should be a chip on your shoulder. You should play with that edge, and want to prove people wrong. But my message to them would be, ‘Why wait?’ The talent is there. The work ethic is there. It’s a chance to be a better leader, more vocal at times, but don’t wait for anything. Go out and take it now.”

Jump To Comments

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com