Celtics

After slow start, Jayson Tatum is establishing himself as clear-cut No. 2 option for Celtics

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(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Like the rest of his teammates, Jayson Tatum didn’t have the smoothest start to his 2018-19 campaign.

After flying out of the gate with 23 points against the Sixers in the season opener, the 20-year-old slowly but surely fell back to earth. He shot over 45 percent from the field in just two of his first 11 games, while firing up contested midrange jumpers at an alarming rate (95th percentile in NBA). His shooting percentage dipped under 39 percent through 11 games thanks to these ill-advised attempts, while his 3-point shooting (34 percent) sunk below the league average.

One year after looking like a rookie phenom, Tatum was reverting into a high volume, low-efficiency chucker for one of the worst offenses in the NBA.

The early slump was punctuated by Brad Stevens’ decision to bench the second-year forward at the start of the second half in Phoenix on Nov. 8, which helped lead to a comeback win against the Suns. Tatum scored a season-low four points in that victory, the third time in Boston’s first 11 games he didn’t crack double digits. For a team that was in search of a No. 2 nightly scoring option with Gordon Hayward not fully recovered, Tatum was having trouble being that guy consistently, posting just 14 ppg on 39 percent shooting.

“I don’t know if it’s as much about him adjusting as recognizing that everybody’s adjusting to him,” Stevens said of Tatum’s early struggles. “I think that’s just part of it. Great is great for a reason, and when everybody’s going after you every single night that’s tough.”

That benching may not end up being more than a blip on the radar in the midst of a tumultuous first 20 games to the C's campaign, but it has served as a bit of a turning point for the 6-foot-9 forward in his sophomore season.