The Boston Celtics endured a frustrating season in 2020-21, falling well short of preseason expectations. That wasn’t the fault of Jayson Tatum, however, as the 23-year-old set career highs in scoring (26.4 points per game), rebounding (7.4 per game), and assists (4.3 per game) in an All-Star campaign. With that as the backdrop, many expected Tatum to be a contender for All-NBA honors when the league revealed its three teams on Tuesday but, in the end, Tatum fell just short.
Complete voting for All-NBA teams: pic.twitter.com/imy5bn9jwy
— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) June 16, 2021
As seen above, Tatum finished with the most total points of any player that did not make the cut. Unfortunately, Tatum’s contract provisions also dictate that he will not receive a $32 million bonus that would have arrived even if he made the third team.
Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum not making the All-NBA team disqualifies him from earning an escalator $32 million bonus that was in his contract.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 16, 2021
There is an entire debate on whether awards, particularly those voted on by the media, should be able to influence this kind of financial incentive for a player. Aside from that, though, there is the basketball-related debate on whether Tatum should have finished higher. Arguments can be made on all sides, but Tatum also fell victim to the NBA’s strange positional designations, leading to a bizarre quirk in the final tally.
In short, Tatum was eligible at both guard and forward, leading to some voters to peg him in each category. In the end, he was classified as a forward because he received more votes at that position, but that bit Tatum, as he received more total votes than former teammate Kyrie Irving, who made the third team at guard.
Interesting twist in the All-NBA voting. Tatum was eligible as a guard and forward and had more votes than Kyrie, who made the third team as a guard. But Tatum was slotted as a forward because that was the position where he received the most votes.
— Adam Himmelsbach (@AdamHimmelsbach) June 16, 2021
There are all kinds of weird takeaways across the positional spectrum, including several voters anointing both Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid with first-team honors. The NBA opened the door for this kind of thing with extreme lenience on positional designations, though, and we’ll never know if Tatum might have made the cut if things were just a bit different. In the meantime, Tatum will undoubtedly lament the process that kept him from more than $30 million.