Analysts remain hopeful for Jason Tatum after NBA Finals loss


“He is the cake I want. All I need is icing to put on it.”

Jason Tatum and the Celtics were disappointed after losing the NBA Finals to the Warriors. Jim Davis / Globe Staff

It can’t be helped, Jason Tatum performed poorly in the 2022 NBA Finals.

The young Celtics star was averaging 21.5 points per game on 36.2% shooting from the field. Specifically, Tatum has made just 31.6% of his two-point field goals, the lowest for a player who has had at least 75 two-point field goals in the last 60 NBA Finals and has completed 15 assists in the last three. games.

Even though Tatum was deeply disappointed at the biggest stage of his professional career, several in the NBA media still believe that Tatum has a bright future ahead of him.

Celtics radio commentator Cedric Maxwell recalled Larry Bird’s goal-fighting in the 1981 NBA Finals, which effectively opened the door for Maxwell to become the Finals MVP. However, Maxwell shared what made Bird different in that series won by the Celtics and 24-year-old Tatum against the Warriors.

“I don’t think he was exposed. I think he just didn’t shoot well.” – Maxwell said on NBC Sports Boston. “As far as Jason Tatum is concerned, he is a huge asset – a first-team NBA player, all the records you talk about. I’ll say it again when Larry Bird played his first [NBA Finals]The difference in Larry’s greatness and where he needs to go when I’m talking about Tatum is that Larry Bird averaged 15 points, but he also averaged 15 rebounds, seven assists and had 14 steals in the series. That’s the difference, and that’s where it should go.

“He is the cake I want. All I need is icing to put it on. Tatum with his 25 points per game, you should love it. But then again, when you have a setback, it gives you the opportunity to grow. I don’t care who you are, we’ll all fail. But what is he doing next year to improve? Stronger, bigger, faster and understands that he needs to be more explosive as he approaches the ring. It’s icing and all he has to do is get better. I’m not passing him off right now as a young player who is learning.”

Steven A. Smith of ESPN said that Tatum, who scored 27.6 points per game in the playoffs leading up to the Finals, was the reason the Celtics got their first championship opportunity.

“We can’t bury this baby yet,” Smith said. “He is still the player who bet 46 on the Bucks in Game 6 to extend the Eastern Conference Semifinals. He is still the player who led his team to victory in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Smith also did the same with Maxwell, comparing Tatum’s first Finals to a pair of NBA legends.

“Don’t forget that in the first final, Larry Bird scored only eight points in two different games. In Isaiah’s first final, Thomas played two games, scoring only 10 points. He had another game with seven losses,” Smith said. “And how did they turn out? All greats have growing pains.

“I’m not ready to say that Jason Tatum is a player even close to their level. But he’s only 24 – 6’9″ [jumper] and mid-range play and all that. He has time to look in the mirror and think about it. He can grow out of it and be a better person. Jason Tatum’s career history has yet to be written. I will never let anyone say otherwise. My brother has a bright future. I believe in him.”

NBA Hall of Famer and TNT color commentator Reggie Miller also praised Tatum’s future. Appearing on The Dan Patrick Show, Miller, who didn’t reach the Finals until the 13th season of his career, reminisced about his own shortcomings in the playoffs and said how Tatum should get past what happened with the Warriors.

“Understand and enjoy the disappointment of this series against Golden State,” Miller. said. “It hurts. I’ve been here. At 24, he has a bright future. For me, his star will only rise and rise. If he can take this pain and use it to his advantage, I think the Celtics are brewing something-” something special.”

Patrick was not as pleased with Tatum’s opinion, calling his play “sloppy”, and said his decisions can sometimes be bad, as the Celtics forward became the first player to hit 100 losses in the postseason. But Miller did mention that Giannis Antetokounmpo was viewed in the same light as Tatum before he won his first title in 2021 at the age of 26.

“I think he can only get better,” Miller said. “… [Better decision-making] this can be learned. This is due to work in the cinema and thanks to the experience. I’m not worried about Jason Tatum. I know it’s disappointing because we were ready to anoint him. I get it, but you can’t discredit what he did during this postseason against some of the greatest players of all time in our game. He defeated Kevin Durant, Giannis and Jimmy Butler. You cannot discredit it.

“He was the Eastern Conference Finals MVP, okay? We take six games and throw the rest out the window. What about all those other games that mattered, those 7 games where they were losing 3-2 and he was in danger of being eliminated and how great he was. Let’s not throw him under the bus just yet. I think Tatum has room to grow.”

However, there is one person who doesn’t appreciate Tatum and the Celtics’ chances of making it back to the Finals next season. NBA Hall of Famer and Inside the NBA analyst Charles Barkley said he rates a couple of other Eastern Conference teams higher than the Celtics for the 2022-23 season.

“They have a nice little core,” Barkley. said on The Pat McAfee Show. “But next season you won’t pick them over Milwaukee with a healthy [Khris] Middleton. You won’t pick them because of Brooklyn. There are two teams before I take Boston right now. We have no idea what Philadelphia is going to do.”

“I tell the guys all the time that this year will have nothing to do with the next,” added Barkley.

The bookies are giving the Celtics their second-best chance of winning an NBA title in 2023, trailing only the Warriors.

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