Jayson Tatum quickly turned heads in his rookie campaign with the Boston Celtics. After following up the regular season by going super saiyan in the Playoffs, many wonder what’s next for the budding young star. Dare I say that Taco Jay could eat his way to a team scoring title as early as this year?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Jayson Tatum has a tremendous amount of expectations to live up to this season. The guy won’t be old enough to have a beer until March, yet is being pronounced a future Hall of Famer by fellow Duke alumnus turned NBA Hall Of Famer Grant Hill. That is just the beginning!
Basketball Analyst and retired NBA player Stephen Jackson casually blew the doors wide open on the Tatum hype train when he inserted Tatum into the top 10 of his projected player rankings. He is already a video game cover athlete, and an NBA 2K star.
Can we just take a moment to enjoy the mind-blowing 87 overall rating that Take-Two generously gave to Jayson Tatum? According to 2KRatings.com, Tatum’s overall rating ranks higher than the likes of Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry, and fellow teammate Al Horford. All of whom were All-Stars last season. He shares the same ranking as the self-proclaimed ‘prince’ of the NBA, Ben Simmons, as well as Bradley Beal, Draymond Green, and Devin Booker.
So, it’s well documented that the hype building up around Tatum is very real. But what exactly makes Jayson Tatum so special?
It all boils down to two factors- ability and efficiency.
Ability is the easy part. Tatum’s game is very reminiscent of Kobe Bryant’s. His ability to score from all three levels utilizing a menagerie of moves, a consistent shooting stroke, and a high basketball IQ sets the bar high as a potential killer on the offensive end of the court. His 43 percent mark from deep last season was good enough for 8th in the entire NBA, and his 47.5 percent shooting from the field isn’t something to sneeze at, either.
Like most athletes entering the league these days, Tatum idolized Kobe growing up. He models a lot of his game after the NBA legend, and it shows. Like Bryant, Tatum is especially dangerous in isolation situations, with an innate ability to take his man 1-on-1 and put the ball in the net at will. The two also share in common similar, if not identical, back-to-the-basket moves.
Don’t believe me? Check out this great comparison video created by YouTube user heyrOld.
The similarities to Kobe are great, but what really separates Tatum from the rest of the pack is his efficiency. According to Basketball Reference, Tatum produced a very respectable 15.3 PER (Player Efficiency Rating) despite a low 19.5 USG% (Usage Percentage). What this means in a nutshell- Jayson Tatum was not the focal point of the offense in Boston, therefore did not get a great number of touches, but was highly efficient with the opportunities he received.
It is highly unusual to see such efficiency from a low-usage rating, especially stemming from a guy as young as Tatum. For comparison’s sake, take Kevin Durant’s rookie season as an example. Basketball Reference lists Durant’s rookie PER at 15.8, a mere half a point higher than that of Tatum’s. Oh, and KD had a whopping 28.2 USG%, 8.7% higher than Tatum’s.
It is in the highly efficient nature of Jayson Tatum’s game that could grant him the ability to take over the scoring title for the Celtics sooner rather than later. As the third and sometimes fourth option on the roster, Tatum averaged a hair under 14 points per contest. He elevated that number to 18.5 (which also led the team) in the 19 playoff games he appeared in. He has been tirelessly working on his game throughout the offseason, posting workout videos with both Kobe Bryant and Penny Hardaway.
For now, the scoring title is Kyrie Irving’s to lose. Gordon Hayward will also take up a large sum of the available touches in the offense. That being said- Irving has openly expressed his desire to become more of a facilitator as he looks to “perfect his craft” as an all-around point guard.
Hayward will be looking to find his fit on this Celtics team after sitting out all but 5 minutes of game action last season. Gordon is also more of a facilitator than he is a lethal scoring option, which opens up the door for a guy like Tatum to do the scoring damage.
So many people talk about the year 2 to year 3 jump for NBA players. Jayson Tatum is looking primed to take that leap as early as next season. He will surely be closely monitored as the season progresses, and don’t be surprised if you see his name as the scoring leader of the Boston Celtics.