The Boston Celtics routed the Denver Nuggets to advance to a perfect 9-0 at the TD Garden.
The Celtics exciting young wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the way with a combined 47 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists as they continue to raise their level of play as the season goes on.
Boston was in need of guys to step up once Gordon Hayward went out with a hand injury in early November and this promising duo has filled that void and then some.
With Kemba Walker - who had a solid 19 points, three assists, three rebounds, two steals and two blocks - leading the way for this overperforming Celtics team, you would have to assume he's close to a lock for his fourth-consecutive All-Star appearance.
But with how well Tatum and Brown have played, it raises the question - how many All-Stars will Boston get this season?
The likely answer is two, which means you would have to choose between the Jays. I'm here to make the case for each of them to make their first All-Star appearance.
The All-Star case for Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum was the best player on the floor in the Celtics' win over the Nuggets and for proof, look no further than this step-back 3-pointer that had the Garden going ballistic at the end of the third quarter.
🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/2mAzOA5GyL- Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 7, 2019
He posted a team-high 26 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists shooting an efficient 10-for-19 (52.6%) from the field and 4-for-8 (50.0%) from 3-point land. It was the second 25-5-5 game of his young career and as a passer and defender, we're watching Tatum improve on a nightly basis.
He's averaging a career-high 2.8 assists per game, which isn't the most impressive number, but it is progress. More importantly, in filling in for Gordon Hayward as a playmaking forward for this team, Tatum has averaged 3.3 assists per game in his absence.
He has also stepped it up on the defensive end. According to NBA stats, the Celtics boast a 98.8 defensive rating with Tatum on the floor compared to a 106.6 defensive rating when Tatum is on the bench. As far as traditional defensive stats go, Tatum is up to a career-high 1.5 steals per game.
To add to that, his 13.5 net rating is the highest on the team.
He's averaging a career-high 21.2 points per game and though his efficiency isn't quite there, he's showing improvements on that end of the floor with better shot selection and attacking the rim more with a career-high 4.1 free throw attempts per game as evidence of that.
When it comes time to vote for All-Stars, Jayson Tatum deserves your consideration.
The All-Star case for Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown was the second-most dominant player on the floor in the Celtics' win over the Nuggets and this vicious throwdown on the play before Tatum's step-back 3 also had the roof ready to blow off the TD Garden.
JAYLEN WITH AUTHORITY 🔨 pic.twitter.com/hFHSNQA8Sk- Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 7, 2019
He finished the game with 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists shooting 8-for-15 (53.3%) from the field and 3-for-7 (42.9%) from 3-point range.
In terms of stepping up in Gordon Hayward's absence, there is no player that has taken a bigger leap than Brown.
After signing a four-year, $115 million contract before the start of the season, there was a lot of pressure for the No. 3 overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft to live up to that deal. Brown has responded with an All-Star calibre year through one quarter of the season.
His numbers are fantastic after Hayward's injury. Brown is posting 21.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals per game shooting 49.3% from the field and 41.3% from beyond the arc.
He's averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game while shooting a career-best field goal percentage, showing significant improvement in his 3-point shooting and most importantly, improving upon one of his biggest weaknesses - his free throw shooting.
Brown is shooting 72.6% from the free throw line on 4.1 attempts per game - both career-highs. As a career 66% free throw shooter, that's important progress for a player constantly attacking the rim.
When All-Star voting roles around, it would be unjust not to give Brown a look.
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