NBA basketball returned this weekend after their regularly scheduled short hiatus following the All-Star game. Sunday afternoon featured a marquee matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. The Lakers won a tight game despite a 41-point effort from Jayson Tatum, fresh off his first All-Star selection.
Tatum looked unstoppable in the second and third quarter. He's been pegged as a future superstar since he led the Celtics to two playoff series wins in 2018 despite missing Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Like the entirety of the team, he stagnated in 2019. But now that we're in 2020, he's clearly starting to tap in to the star power we caught a glimpse of 18 or so months ago.
Nick Wright is here to tell everyone to pump the breaks. He went on First Things First this morning to declare that the Celtics still don't have a superstar, and Tatum is still a half-leap away from being a regular star, much less a superstar, and that's the biggest detriment to their title chances.
"The other issue is, unless Tatum takes another major leap, they still won't have a superstar. He's a leap and a half away from superstar, and he's a half-leap away from star, " Wright said while discussing Boston's championship contention (7:30 mark).
But earlier in the segment, Wright said that Tatum was, in fact, a star. From the 2:35 mark of the same video:
"[Tatum] is awesome. And he played awesome yesterday. But that's the end of the story for the 2020 Boston Celtics. You do have a star in Jayson Tatum. You are not a contender."
So...which is it? Tatum definitely looked the part on Sunday against L.A. He's more than looked the part over the last month or so, as Celtics writer Jay King notes:
The true mark of stardom is doing that consistently, of course, and Tatum still has to prove he can keep up that kind of production over an extended period of time. He also didn't respond all too well to star-level attention from the defense; the Lakers started doubling Tatum on pick-and-roll action during crunch time on Sunday, and he couldn't get anything going in the fourth.
I agree with Wright that Tatum is still a leap and a half from superstardom. That's reserved for the 10 or so best players in the league, and Tatum just isn't there yet. Determining if he's a star is a more interesting discussion because the parameters are broader. He plays for a big-market team, has a visually appealing game, and is averaging over 20 points per contest for a team on pace to win over 55 games. But can he be declared a star in the midst of the best stretch of his career, or do we wait until it's a season or two's worth of production before giving him the official nod from pundits and fans?
There's no definitive answer, but Wright falls on both sides.