Jayson Tatum enjoyed himself during NBA All-Star Weekend, scoring 30 points in Friday’s Rising Stars Game and pulling off a miracle to steal the Skills Challenge title. After his individual win, however, Tatum made some more news in the form of an intriguing quote and it came through the prism of his team in the Boston Celtics.
On one hand, Tatum declaring that his team is “going to win the Finals this year” isn’t exactly shocking, as professional athletes often bring a great deal of confidence to the table. The Celtics are, quite obviously, a very good basketball team and, through that lens, it isn’t at all crazy to envision big things for Tatum and this team in the next few months.
In contrast, this isn’t something that will do Boston any favors, particularly in a world that still involves the Golden State Warriors as the presumptive favorite to win another championship. The Celtics are currently sitting in a tie with the Philadelphia 76ers for the 7th-best record in the NBA and, even with a recent uptick (12-3 in the last 15 games) in their level of play, you’d have trouble finding someone picking Boston to win the championship.
FiveThirtyEight gives the Celtics only a two percent chance to claim the Larry O’Brien Trophy, while ESPN’s Basketball Power Index is more optimistic at 7.2 percent overall. Advanced statistical projections aren’t everything but, even if one were to believe that Boston is the best team in the East, they’d likely be fighting an uphill battle against the Warriors in the NBA Finals, particularly without the benefit of home-court advantage.
Tatum said something that most players from the best teams in the NBA likely believe and, for that, he shouldn’t be punished. In the same breath, saying that puts quite the target on a second-year player should they not fulfill their self-proclaimed prophecy, particularly when he doesn’t play for the Warriors.