Jayson Tatum is one of the best players in the NBA. But he’s not in the top 10 yet, at least according to ESPN.
The WorldWide Leader unveiled its annual list this week of the NBA’s top 100 players. Tatum slots in at No. 14, just behind Bradley Beal (11), Chris Paul (12) and Paul George (13). The young All-Star is ahead of Trae Young, Jimmy Butler, and Devin Booker.
“Tatum has continued to make strides toward being a true superstar scorer on the wing and was rewarded with a max contract extension prior to last season,” writes Tim Bontemps. “For him to become a top-10 player, he will have to take a step up from the roughly five free throws per game he has averaged in each of the past two seasons into the seven-to-10 range. If he does that, he could become a 30 PPG scorer.”
It’s hard to quibble with that analysis. Tatum took just 5.3 free throws per game last season, far below the nightly totals of other top scorers. When he took eight free throws or more, he averaged 32.2 points per game.
With Tatum entering the first year of his aforementioned max deal, he’ll be expected to lead the Celtics on a nightly basis. His top running mates, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, were also included in ESPN’s top 50.
But make no mistake: the offense runs through Tatum. He’ll look to build on a career-high 26.4 points per game, which will be easier once he starts taking more free throws.