On Saturday, the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks will meet for the first time this season. You can watch the game on NBA League Pass starting at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
With it being our first opportunity to see Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic and Celtics sophomore Jayson Tatum go head-to-head, it had us wondering which rising star will be the better player in three years time.
The NBA Canada crew debates below.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I might have a different answer by the end of this season, but for now, I'm going with Jayson Tatum.
While Luka Doncic is showing all the signs of being a future star, Tatum is coming off a wonderful rookie season in which he fit in immediately on one of the NBA's elite teams and looked like an All-Star in his first postseason when he led the undermanned Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. Just because he's gotten off to a worse-than-expected start this season doesn't mean he's suddenly lost the potential that could make him one of the best players in the league. The Celtics are loaded with talent and ball-dominant players, so it's not a huge surprise that it's taking him some time to find his rhythm.
Doncic is as versatile of a scorer and a far superior passer, but Tatum's defense gives him the slight edge for me. Whereas teams might be able to target Doncic defensively in important games, Tatum is the type of switchy defender everyone is looking for.
As awesome as Doncic is going to be, it's hard for me to turn down Tatum's two-way potential based on what we've seen from the two so far in their NBA careers.
MORE: Breaking down Tatum's superstar potential
Josh Eberley (@JoshEberley): Wow, this is tough. This is the type of decision NBA presidents and general managers get paid the big bucks for. I want to ride the fence because it feels like such a coin flip but that's no fun.
The two had such different starts to their careers. Jayson Tatum got to come-up slow on the Celtics, playing in a limited role even after the Gordon Hayward injury. He excelled as a floor spacer and when Kyrie Irving went down he showed he was capable of doing a lot more. However, with Irving back, Tatum and the team on a whole have struggled to figure out their roles. I think Tatum is already a plus-defender and his floor is very secure in this league even if his shot selection and ability to create for others are a tad hairy.
All of that said, Luka Doncic feels like he's capable of things Tatum might never be. He's literally three days younger than Tatum was his rookie season and has already accomplished so much overseas. He's miles ahead as a playmaker, and has already taken on the type of scoring role for Dallas that Tatum took for Boston in the playoffs. He is probably never going to be a positive addition on defense but that's the way of the world for high usage players on offense, which Doncic is sure to be.
Doncic's combination of size, shooting and passing has shades of James Harden, and I don't think I could pass up on that type of prospect.
MORE: Comparing Doncic and rookie LeBron through 15 games
Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): As good as Luka Doncic has been, I'm still taking Jayson Tatum.
He's off to a slow start, but let's not be so short-minded and forget just how good he was during the Celtics' playoff run last season. As a 20-year-old rookie, he was drawing comparisons to the great Kobe Bryant because of how well he performed in the postseason.
We can't let an underwhelming 19 games diminish the limitless ceiling that this kid has.
Tatum is an incredible scorer, a solid defender and doesn't shy away from the big moment. His step-back is as pure as can be and you can already see him integrating different post moves and shots off the dribble that will be impossible to stop once they're perfected.
That's not to take anything away from Doncic, who doesn't play like a rookie by any means, or to say that he won't be considered one of the league's top players some day. I just like Tatum more going forward and in three seasons' time.
MORE: Doncic's star potential is already crystal clear
Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): I'll start by saying I love Jayson Tatum's game. The way in which he shouldered the load for Boston last season was reminiscent of a veteran who had been there plenty of times before.
Tatum is a star, and in three years time, he could very well be the best player on a team with no shortage of talent, but I am slightly concerned that the abundance of talent present in Boston could hinder Tatum's growth.
That being said, Luka Doncic will be a superstar in three years time.
Whereas Tatum was brought in as another piece to the Celtics' puzzle, Doncic is the piece that Dallas plans to build around moving forward. Along with second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr., the Mavericks roster will essentially be tailor-made for the strengths of their franchise cornerstones.
Doncic might be a rookie in the NBA, but it's his fifth year as a pro, and it shows. Through the first 17 games of his season, Doncic is doing things that we've only seen from players that we consider to be all-time greats - I don't think that's a coincidence.