Kevin Durant Envisions Jayson Tatum As ‘Staple’ Of NBA’s Future

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Jayson Tatum’s progressively grown each season spent with the Boston Celtics, both in skills and maturity while having been in the NBA for only seven seasons.

Tatum has undergone a multitude of experiences from setting an NBA record by scoring 55 points in the All-Star Game to losing in the NBA Finals despite holding a 2-1 series lead. And while watching the former Duke prospect who was passed on twice before Boston drafted him third overall in the 2018 draft, Kevin Durant has formed his verdict: Tatum is the future of the NBA.

“Man, I’ve been in this league a long time now and I know when it’s a passing of the guard,” Durant told reporters at Wednesday’s practice, per Duane Rankin of AZCentral. “I know when the young dudes are going to come in and do the same thing the older guys are doing. So he’s one of those guys I feel like he’s gonna control the league for the next 10, 12 years and be a staple in our game and history of our game. It’s just about competing and trying to go out there and be the best individual you can be because you can see the game pushing forward when you’re on the court with somebody like that.”

Durant’s gone head-to-head on multiple occasions since Tatum first stepped on an NBA floor.

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In 2021, Durant, then a member of the Brooklyn Nets, defeated Tatum and the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. Then the very next season, Tatum took revenge and swept the Nets en route to Boston’s first Finals appearance in 14 years.

In the summer of 2016, the Celtics were hopefuls to sign Durant as the ex-Oklahoma City Thunder star tested the free agency market and considered Boston after a meeting. Fast forward eight years later and the Celtics have that franchise star they spent years hunting in Tatum. At just 26 years of age, Tatum’s established himself as a legitimate MVP candidate and now leads an NBA-best 51-14 Celtics team on the cusp of another run at Banner 18.

Most recently, Tatum and Durant squared off in Phoenix last Saturday night where the Celtics and Suns met for the first time this season. Tatum entered the night fresh off back-to-back subpar performances in losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Denver Nuggets. But amid yet another tight contest that nearly came down to the wire, Tatum asked Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla to play in the entire second half, finishing with 29 points to Durant’s 45 while — more importantly — preventing Boston from suffering a third straight loss for the first time all season long.

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“The game was starting to get competitive and things like that. I just wanted to stay in,” Tatum told reporters after Boston’s 117-107 win over Phoenix, per CLNS Media video. “I don’t really say that many times but I just told Joe I wanted to stay in the rest of the game. It’s not like I do it all the time — this might’ve been, like, the second time I’ve done it all season. So it’s a feel thing. We trust each other, things like that.”

Tatum will be put to the ultimate test of applying everything that’s made the Celtics a significantly better team compared to last season’s once the playoffs commence. With 17 games left and Boston holding a convincing 9.5-game lead over the Cavaliers atop the Eastern Conference, the soon-to-be battled-tested Celtics will need to lean on Tatum to avoid another playoff collapse.

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