Date Of Birth: March 3, 1998
Position: Small Forward
College: Duke University
Measurements: 6’8, 205 lbs
Tatum arrives at the NBA primarily with a pro-ready frame and the most complete iso game out of all the prospects in the draft. At 6’8 with a long reach he has all the tools and athleticism to play both ways as both a SF or a small-ball PF. He has the ability to grab the rebound and go as a confident and steady ball-handler in the transition game which will fit the open floor, transition style of most teams in the NBA. His size and athletic ability also give him an advantage in the half court as he combines his long reach with an explosive first step.
Many prospects come into the NBA with incomplete games on both sides of the ball. However, Jayson Tatum is a polished and complete scorer who can operate from inside and out. He can get to his jumper at will from mid-range and scored in the 99th percentile from post up position. He has excellent footwork which allows him to create and cause headaches for defenders.
Tatum can hit from range with time and space with 1.7 3s made per 40. He will not dominate from 3 but is capable of stretching the floor as a drive and kick outlet. Most of his damage will be done from mid-range via his wide array of ISO moves. Tatum boasted an impressive .888 points/poss in isolation situations. His effectiveness shooting the jumper keeps opponents honest on every jab step, closeout, and pump fake. I was thoroughly impressed watching his tape and noting the various ways in which he can get the ball in the basket. He has the potential to be a nightmare for bigger power forwards as a small ball 4.
Defensively he has the tools and instincts to be an impact defender. Tatum averaged an impressive 1.4 blocks and 1.6 steals per 40 mins in addition to crashing the glass to the tune of 7.2 rebounds/40. The tape showed that at 6’8 he is difficult to get around for perimeter players and has great body control on closeouts. When dialed in he can be difficult to shoot over or penetrate against especially for smaller perimeter players.
As good as he can be defensively Jayson Tatum is not always consistent or dialed in at that end of the floor. Too many times, he can get lost defensively and loses opponents to backdoor cuts and screens. Offensively he shines as a smaller quicker 4 but can be punished on defense by bigger and stronger players. It will be interesting to see if he develops the ability to check bigger opponents at the next level. Most places have him listed between the 208-210 lbs range. He is going to have to be more intense and hit the weight room to produce defensively as a pro.
Tatum is not a pure shooter and is streaky from range. He is best operating in the mid-range and should benefit from the added space with the extended 3-point line. However, he is going to have to prove that he can punish teams for going “under” in the pick and roll. He was 1-11 on pull-ups after pick and rolls this year. His mechanics break down a bit when contested and sometimes has an awkward lean and landing on his jumper. The best shooters use muscle memory to shoot the same way top to bottom regardless of defensive pressure.
My biggest question for Jayson will be whether he can create as effectively vs. NBA wings. He had the benefit of playing power forward vs. bigger, inferior athletes while at Duke. Will we see the same dominant iso game translate in the pros vs more athletically capable defenders?
As previously stated, Tatum enters the league heavily reliant on an Isolation game in the prototype of Carmelo Anthony (late in his career) and Rudy Gay. Both of the current NBA pros are high-post isolation specialists that rely on quick jabs and steady mid-range jump shots to score. Jayson had the benefit of playing against bigger and slower competition while playing power forward for Duke. The team who takes him will be relying on his game translating to also be effective against small forwards which is a very strong, deep, and athletic position in the NBA. Tatum is a slightly above average athlete and will have to rely on superior footwork and deception to make things work. If his scoring does not translate he will be in trouble.
Jayson Tatum is the 1st player since Paul George in 2009-2010 to have a season with 480 PTS, 200 REB, 30 3PM, 60 AST, and 20+ BLK while playing in less than 30 games.
The main comparison we have made for Jayson Tatum today is Rudy Gay. On the high end Jayson Tatum is being compared to Carmelo Anthony. He is a big bodied isolation specialist with superior footwork and a great touch from mid range. But, the more grounded comparison that we made is for Rudy Gay. Tatum has the offensive ability to be a Rudy Gay type in the way that he is able to score the ball. The hope is that Tatum can become a better Rudy Gay and be a catalyst on defense the way Gay never could. He fits the mold of a potentially effective 2 way player that will bother teams offensively and defensively with his length and NBA ready skill-set. His fluidity at his size can also remind you of Allan Houston.
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