Jayson Tatum sets the record straight on why he deserves MVP

Jayson Tatum sets the record straight on why he deserves MVP

NBA MVP candidate Jayson Tatum standing in the middle between Nikola Jokic (can be on left) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (he can be on right). Can just be on a generic basketball court or nba background

Jayson Tatum knows he’s not the MVP favorite, but also knows he belongs in the conversation.

The Boston Celtics are on a historic tear, and star Jayson Tatum wants NBA MVP voters to recognize that. Or, at the very least, he wishes the criteria for the award was more clear.

At 57-14 overall, the Celtics have clinched the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference and already tied their win total from last season with 11 games to go. Tatum has been leading the charge for the C’s, averaging a team-high 27.1 points per game and a career-high 4.9 assists. Despite these impressive numbers, Tatum finds himself in fifth place on the NBA’s MVP Ladder.


He gets why he’s not in first, but doesn’t fully understand how voters are approaching the ballot this season, per Chris Haynes on the #thisleague UNCUT podcast.

“[Tatum] gave credit to [Nikola Jokic], he actually called him out unprompted. He said, what he’s doing, he’s having an unbelievable year, you can’t dismiss him. He called out [Shai Gilgeous-Alexander] as well,” Haynes said. “His problem is, just like a lot of other players, is that he wants to know how are you judging? He said because, for a long time the trend has been the MVP is mostly coming from the team with the best record, and then something changed. So what is it now?”

Where NBA MVP winners come from

In league history, only three players have won NBA MVP on a team that was under .500. However, last season, Jayson Tatum’s Celtics finished ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers, who were led by 2023 MVP Joel Embiid. The year before that, Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, who’s the current MVP frontrunner, helped his team to the sixth seed and a decent 48-34 regular season record.

So, the top-seeded team doesn’t always have the league MVP, but an elite record sure does help. At the end of the day though, Tatum just hopes for more clarification.

“Each voter has their own different set of requirements that it takes to get their vote,” Haynes stated. “So that’s what [Tatum’s] frustrated about. But he gave credit and acknowledged [Jokic and SGA] in particular, but he definitely thinks he should be in the conversation though.”

Jokic could very well earn his third MVP at the end of the 2023-24 campaign. The C’s lead the Nuggets in the overall standings, yet Denver is still first in the Western Conference and fresh off a championship. Plus, the Nuggets are the only team thus far to sweep the regular season series against a talented Celtics squad.

Why isn’t Jayson Tatum a stronger MVP candidate?

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) controls the ball against New York Knicks forward Bojan Bogdanovic (44) during the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The depth Boston boasts could explain why Tatum isn’t an MVP shoe-in. The Celtics have a loaded starting five with 2024 All-Star Jaylen Brown and near All-Stars Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick White, and Jrue Holiday. Such a formidable rotation may prevent MVP voters from choosing Tatum, as they could see Boston’s record as more of a team effort than anything. Whether that should be held against Tatum is up for debate.

In fact, Golden State Warriors veteran Draymond Green believes Tatum has been treated unfairly due to his team’s winning ways, via the Draymond Green Show.

“I don’t think JT will win his first MVP until he wins his first championship. He’s almost being punished for having so much success as a team early in his career,” Green said in February. “Now it’s almost like you get on this clock that no one talks about but you’re on this clock. He’s lost in the Finals, he’s lost in the Eastern Conference Finals, it’s like they don’t respect him quite like they should. I think it’s unfair cause because he’s been having MVP-type years.”

MVP or not, Tatum is focusing on another goal: winning an NBA title. The C’s haven’t won it all in over 15 years, yet doing so would elevate Tatum’s name in future MVP conversations and bring pure jubilation to a title-hungry city.

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