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The Celtics will go as far as Brown and Tatum carry them



A few weeks before the NBA postponed its season in March, the Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum lost 41 points at the Staples Center in a final loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. After the game, LeBron awarded James the NBA’s ultimate approval, when he posted a shot of himself and Tatum on Instagram, with everyone watching in court as they waited to check in for the nationally televised matchup.

“This boi to my left is an ABSOLUTE PROBLEM !! Go on,” James wrote as the caption, adding the hashtag, “#YoungKing.”

Although every narrow loss is confusing, an additional signal that Tatum is one of the top stars of his generation is happy compensation.

Nearly six months later, Absolute Problem is leading a team that is once again in the Eastern Conference mix, as the Celtics have continued their momentum since breaking ground in their rebuilding in 2013. They are on their third All-Star points guard in the span, the permanent veteran Kemba Walker, but they have a largely young roster without the age and experience of Milwaukee or Toronto.

The Celtics are still evolving, and are still refining their roles in a constant wreck and, as for their pair of dynamic wings, Tatum and Jaylen Brown, are still learning what tools to leave in the toolbox. They are rounded to form, and Tatum may end up on an All-NBA team as soon as this summer. The extent to which the team can accelerate that growth is likely to determine the Celtics’ fortunes after the season.

Now 2-2 in Orlando, Florida, bubble after a 149-115 victory over the Brooklyn Nets, the Celtics have shown over the course of the season that they do a lot of things well – not surprising for a team that ranks in the top five in offense and defense . As with all troops, there are natural points of tension. This is good because team building and improvement – both individual and team – is largely achieved through problem solving.

Specifically, Tatum’s voltage point is a product of his budding star – another good problem. He can do several different ways and do it more efficiently this season, but where Tatum thrives in the half court is on isolated possessions. He has grown into a solid pick-and-roll player, but the 22-year-old is deadly if you keep other bodies out of the game and let him attack one-on-one. Among the 85 players who have worked in isolation this season more than 100 times, he is ranked sixth in points per chance, and he has hit more 3-points in iso situations than anyone else than former MVP James Harden.


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