Before the 2022-23 campaign started, the 24-year-old had already cemented himself as one of the best young players in the league, but he has taken his game to new heights this season.
As a result of his stellar play and the Celtics’ impressive 20-5 record, Tatum is hearing his name mentioned in MVP conversations more than ever before.
It doesn’t seem like he has gotten used to that feeling yet.
Tatum said Monday that it’s “surreal” to be in the MVP mix, adding that it’s something he dreamed about as a kid.
“It’s really like an honor,” Tatum said. “It’s kinda surreal living out your dreams in reality, being in the conversation. You dream about it as a kid, and for people to acknowledge and recognize that, saying you’re leading or in the running for MVP, I don’t take that lightly. That’s not something I brush over or get used to. I gotta pinch myself sometimes. I think it’s cool, to be honest. I still feel like a kid sometimes doing what I love. To be mentioned with guys like Giannis [Antetokounmpo] and things like that, I think that’s pretty cool.
“At the same, just trying to focus on game to game and being the best I can for the team — 20-5 is big. That’s how we wanted to start the season. Individually, all the guys, myself and J.B. (Jaylen Brown), everybody is going to get the things that they deserve. As far as being in the MVP race, it’s not something I’m used to. I get excited, I guess. It’s something — even though I’ve been in the league six years, I feel like a kid, thinking about the possibility of (winning MVP). There’s a long way to go, but it’s a surreal feeling being in that conversation.”
As Tatum mentioned, there’s still a long way to go, but he’s putting himself in position to be in the MVP race all season long.
No Celtics player has won the award since Larry Bird in the 1980s, and Tatum is looking to change that.
Tatum’s Season At A Glance
Tatum is averaging 30.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game this season.
Last season, he averaged 26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per contest.
What makes his uptick in scoring so impressive is the fact that it hasn’t come from an increase in volume — it has come from an increase in efficiency.
Last season, he averaged 20.6 shots per game, and this season, he’s averaging 21.0 shots per game, which isn’t much of a difference at all.
But last season, he had a true shooting percentage of 57.8, and this season, he has maintained a true shooting percentage of 62.4.
That’s where the scoring boost has come from.
It would also be silly not to mention his defensive impact.
The three-time All-Star has become one of the better two-way players in the league, and that’s one of the biggest reasons why his team has the best record in the NBA.
— NBA (@NBA) December 6, 2022
Tatum will look to add to his MVP case on Wednesday when the Celtics face the Phoenix Suns.