Boston Celtics

Mazzulla: Jayson Tatum is ‘underrated' in the MVP conversation

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla is all-in on Jayson Tatum for MVP.

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With the All-Star break now in the rearview mirror, the Boston Celtics are ready to resume their journey toward raising Banner 18.

No one player can help the team accomplish that goal more than Jayson Tatum. The 25-year-old wing has been a force all season, continuing to add to his résumé to fight for his first NBA MVP award.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla wasn't shy about advocating for Tatum as the league's MVP before Boston's tip-off against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, crediting the five-time All-Star for being the complete package.

"Yes," Mazzulla answered when asked if Tatum should be more in the MVP conversation. "I think defining what 'most valuable' means -- it's not just about scoring -- it's the ability to have sustainable success, to make the people around you better, and the ability to be great."

Along with the 27.1 points on a career-high 47.5 percent shooting, Tatum has made an impact in all aspects of the game. At 8.6 rebounds per game -- just 0.2 away from a career-high -- the 2017 No. 3 pick has made hustle play after hustle play all year long, additionally logging a steal per game. He's also creating more opportunities for his teammates with a career-high 4.8 assists per game.

To Mazzulla's point about how "most valuable" can be defined by "sustainable success," no MVP candidate has been better than Tatum on this front as he's missed just three games this season. Making himself available has been a key part of Boston's success, leading them to an NBA-best 43-12 record.

"He's done it for a long time," Mazzulla added on Tatum's ability to be great. "I think he's underrated in that conversation and it's something that I think he's doing a great job of reshaping what it means to be the best player -- he does it every night and he does it differently. You really have to watch the games to understand how he has an impact on himself and his teammates. He should be [more in the MVP conversation]."

Tatum hasn't lacked confidence as of late. In a recent interview with ESPN's Malika Andrews, the Duke product named himself when asked who the best player in the league was, changing up from his answer of Giannis Antetokounmpo just a year ago. What changed? Adversity and challenges faced.

"I'm very confident because I know how hard I work, I know how much I put into this game," Tatum said on why he believes he is the best. "I know how badly I want to be one of the best, how badly I want to win."

Tatum and the Celtics will look to resume their great season with a win in Chicago as they take on the Bulls on Thursday night before heading to New York on Saturday.

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