The MVP debate is heating up as the season is already a few weeks in. Retired NBA champion Brian Scalabrine believes Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum "should be the favorite" now, explaining the do-it-all forward's edge over the other candidates.
"When you look at that list, you can point that every single one of the players has a weakness," Scalabrine explained. "It could be defense. It could be shooting with Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. Everybody has something except for Jayson Tatum. He is as complete as anybody on that list that you brought up. He can go inside-outside. He can handle pick-and-roll. He can make people better around him. He can defend. He can rebound, a little bit of rim protection you've seen this year. ...Tatum, right now, in my mind, should be the favorite to win this thing."
A case for Tatum
Considering that Scalabrine is currently serving as an analyst for the Celtics and won a title as a benchwarmer in Boston, you can understand why he is leaning toward Tatum as the MVP favorite.
The 24-year-old indeed has a case, as he is averaging 31.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per contest through his first 11 games of the season. Strengthening his case is his improved efficiency from the field (49.8%) and rim protection (1.5 blocks per match), which the "White Mamba" referred to.
Also, Boston is now tied for second place in the Eastern Conference with an 8-3 record.
Tatum's performance and production early in the 2022-23 campaign merit the MVP buzz he generates. And how nice of a storyline would it be for the star forward to become the first Celtics player to win MVP since Larry Bird? Interestingly, Tatum is the first-ever recipient of the Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP award.
A case against Tatum
Unfortunately, the three-time All-Star faces stiff competition for the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.
Ahead of him is Antetokounmpo, who, despite his lack of efficient outside shooting, is posting better numbers (31.8 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game) than Tatum. In addition, the "Greek Freak" has led the Milwaukee Bucks to the top of the league standings, despite the absence of their second-best player, Khris Middleton.
Also, Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks has better odds than Tatum at the moment. The Slovenian superstar leads the league in scoring with 33.6 points per game while also posting 8.3 rebounds, 7.9 assists, and 2.0 steals per match. Even though he has little help on offense, Doncic has led the Mavs to a respectable 6-5 record in the standings.
Tatum winning MVP at the end of the season would be a feel-good story for Celtics fans. But the reality is that he is not the clear-cut favorite for now. Fortunately, he still has time to catch up and solidify his case as the MVP this season.