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Jayson Tatum — 6’8″, Forward, Duke University, 19 Years Old
A consensus top-five prospect coming out of Chaminade High School in St. Louis, Jayson Tatum’s name has been well-known amongst fans and college basketball nerds for a few years now. He is well-known as a big, physical wing who can score from every area on the court. As one of the 20 one-and-done prospects in this year’s draft, Tatum averaged 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks in his lone season as a Blue Devil.
The consensus among draft niks, much like recruiting experts, is Tatum is slated to go in the top five of this year’s draft. The two most common landing spots for Tatum have been the Boston Celtics, following their trade with Philadelphia, and the Phoenix Suns.
If most NBA talent evaluators were asked to use one word to describe Tatum, they would say “scorer”. Unlike many modern day players, Tatum thrives in the mid-range. He has the best mid-range pull-up in this year’s class. Working off of that, defenders are afraid to close-out too quickly on that, giving Tatum extra space from beyond the arc. He shot 34.2% on 117 attempts this year, a fair number that should improve due to his soft touch. He uses that soft touch as well as elite body control to attack the rim effectively.
Tatum separates himself with his advanced footwork for a player of his size, bullying smaller players in the post. And if the switch goes the other way, Tatum isn’t afraid to attack a slower big man from the perimeter.
Despite not being an elite athlete like his common comparison Josh Jackson, Tatum is still an NBA-level athlete and that can’t be understated. The other overlooked part of the 205-pound product is he is over a year younger than Jackson, not turning 20 until March 2018.
Despite being such a highly-touted prospect, Tatum still has work to do on both sides of the floor. Offensively, he needs to continue tightening his handle. Jalen Rose brought up the idea that he can dribble but can’t handle, meaning he can attack a close-out or beat a poor defender, but can’t break down a quality NBA defender quite yet. Something that might come with the handle is his need to play make better. This may be due to the fact that he is so young, but Tatum is very raw in the pick and roll and will need to learn how to make advanced reads.
On the other end, Tatum is spotty. 2.4 stocks (steals+blocks) isn’t bad, but if Tatum can deter shots at the rim, he has major potential to become a scary stretch four. Just like how he can dominate mismatches on offense, there is some worry teams will be able to do the same to him on defense. Footspeed on the perimeter as well as strength in the post are both needed, two skills that don’t typically go together.
A soft baseline for Tatum has to be 14-6 in his first year which should easily get him into the top three of rookie of the year. Who doesn’t want that? Beyond that, Tatum, if everything goes right, has a chance to be a 25-point a game scorer. He could also be a very solid defender due to his 6’11” wingspan and average foot speed. The most likely scenario is a 21 point a game scorer who never fully develops in other aspects of his game.
The least flashy of the top five prospects, Tatum is a tough comparison. While his dribble-not-handle scoring ability flashes pieces of Rudy Gay‘s game, a player like that isn’t worth a top-five pick. Another name that can be seen in his game is Paul Pierce. The same not-super-athletic, technical scoring can be seen. The ceiling offensively is Carmelo Anthony. His body, as a young player, shows glimpses of Anthony’s coming out of Syracuse. Tatum’s three-point progression could also follow that of Anthony’s.