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The Whiteboard: Just how much is Jayson Tatum actually worth, anyway?

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There’s this great 21 Savage song right now called a lot where the words a lot are said, well, a lot. What does this have to do with Jayson Tatum, you may ask. Well, when wondering what Tatum would be worth in some hypothetical trade, such as one for Anthony Davis, Boston Celtics fans would have you believe his trade value is: a lot. Is that really true, though?

The answer is, unequivocally, yes. Jayson Tatum is really, really good at basketball, and he’s yet to turn 21 years old, and he is on a team with plenty of mouths to feed but still has managed to put up historically good statistics for such a young player.

Tatum is averaging 16.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game this season, making him just one of 9 players 20 or younger to average 16/6/1.5 since the 2000-01 season. The others are LeBron James, Anthony Davis (lol), Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Durant, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony. Additionally, Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic are on pace to average that line this season too.

Ayton and Doncic play for lottery teams, while Tatum has to fit into a very good Celtics squad that also features Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward, not to mention Al Horford. Irving leads the Celtics in usage rate by a healthy margin, using 29.5 percent of the Celtics’ plays while Tatum uses 22.5 percent of them.

To put that low usage in perspective, Brandon Ingram, who many cite as a player losing touches with LeBron on his team now, has a slightly higher usage rate than Tatum this season. Brown is right behind his young teammate with a usage rate of 22.1.

It isn’t easy for a young player who can be a lead option to co-exist with a star like Kyrie Irving. Tatum has done so mostly seamlessly. With Irving on the floor, Tatum averages 19.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per 36 minutes while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from 3-point range.

Without Kyrie out there, Tatum averages 18.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per 36, while shooting 43.9 percent from the field and 37.0 percent from 3-point territory. Those drops in scoring and efficiency all make sense — of course, it’s harder to score without Kyrie Irving out there distracting defenses. It’s a positive that Tatum can stay consistent in his production no matter if Kyrie is playing or not.

Tatum is often compared to Ingram, a young prospect who has had more trouble co-existing than Tatum has. With LeBron off the floor, Ingram averages 20.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per 36 on 51.1 percent field goal shooting and 40.5 percent 3-point shooting. That’s good!

What is less good is Ingram putting up 15.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per 36 on 44.7 percent field goal shooting and 17.5 percent 3-point shooting in minutes with LeBron. Ingram not being able to play well next to one of the greatest passers in NBA history isn’t a great sign that he’s going to mesh with star players going forward.

Tatum is adaptable, which is always a plus. These 2018-19 Celtics might have too many cooks in the kitchen, but Jayson Tatum hasn’t let that or anything else stop his play from being at a high level. We haven’t seen it yet, but that adaptability bodes well for Tatum being able to lead his own team someday. In short: he’s worth a lot.

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