Jayson Tatum Needs His Own Thread

Euclis20

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So far in February (9 games) Tatum is averaging 29.7 PPG with a TS% of .631. The only players to hit those marks over a full season are Steph Curry (2016), Kevin Durant (2014) and Adrian Dantley (1982 and 1984). He is on some kind of streak right now, only really obscured nationally by Lillard (who averaged 34.1 PPG and .655 TS% in 15 games in January).
 

Sprowl

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He’s starting to get calls. Lots of free throws recently. And literally everything in his game looks better than a month ago. Some of it is hot shooting but some of it really looks like a sustained improvement. He’s at a level right now that few ever get to. He’s playing like a top ~5-15 player in the league.
The thing is, Tatum hasn't yet filled out and he is already really strong. I don't know what his ceiling is but as others note, he still has a lot of upside as he gets stronger and learns that he can bully most defenders.
Tatum has filled out noticeably just since this season began. It is visible mostly in his shoulders, which look ready to burst through his jersey, revealing the Superman logo beneath. Given how much upper-body contact is involved on any NBA drive to the hoop, the bionic deltoids are just what he needed to earn the foul call.

Given how many games Brown, Walker and Hayward have missed this season, we should be grateful to have at least one durable Big4 whose load needs no managing.
 

SoFloSoxFan

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Tatum has filled out noticeably just since this season began. It is visible mostly in his shoulders, which look ready to burst through his jersey, revealing the Superman logo beneath. Given how much upper-body contact is involved on any NBA drive to the hoop, the bionic deltoids are just what he needed to earn the foul call.
I saw this on twitter during the all-star break:

 

Rustjive

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But our man is no Durant.
At the same time, KD didn't need to suffer through a year of stunted development like Tatum did, and KD's numbers were in 39.5 MPG. Per 36:



As you noted, the FT rate is the biggest difference. Otherwise, it's just the efficiency from 2 - and we saw how bad he was finishing earlier in the season but it's much better now.

On top of that, in February, he's been averaging 8 FT/game, 29.7/7.4/3.2 on .483/.468/.778 shooting, in 36.6 MPG. Those are KD numbers.

And finally:
 

lovegtm

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Crazy charts. Basically it all comes down to that stepback 3: if it’s for real, he’ll build on it and is on track to be a superstar. If it regresses and takes more time, things get tougher.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Someone a page or two back said Tatum's ceiling was PP. Am I the only one who thinks his ceiling is higher? Was Pierce ever top 5 in the league?

edit: I'd say his ceiling is 3rd best Celtics player of all time.
 

lovegtm

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Someone a page or two back said Tatum's ceiling was PP. Am I the only one who thinks his ceiling is higher? Was Pierce ever top 5 in the league?

edit: I'd say his ceiling is 3rd best Celtics player of all time.
Yeah, his ceiling is higher. Mostly it’s because of the volume iso 3-point shot: it changes both the value of his shots relative to someone like Pierce, and also puts an insane amount of pressure on the defense, as we already saw when LA had to throw doubles at him.

We’ve seen that value dynamic before with guys like Steph: Curry taking 5 3s a game and not being allowed to shoot them off the dribble simply wouldn’t be close to as valuable as he is.

Tatum also benefits from being in a league where off-ball defense has become a premium skill due to rule changes. (Jaylen might have more defensive value in a 90s iso environment, but in the pace and space rules era, Tatum is way more valuable).
 

RorschachsMask

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Pierce is my favorite Celtics player ever, right there with Brady as my favorite athlete ever. That said, Tatum has a higher ceiling. Pierce was more of a top 15 guy who could turn into top 5-10 level in big games. I think there's a real chance JT will be a regular 1st or 2nd all nba guy.

Though if Pierce got to play with all the spacing that guys from the last however many years enjoy, he'd have been even better than he already was.
 

InstaFace

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Someone a page or two back said Tatum's ceiling was PP. Am I the only one who thinks his ceiling is higher? Was Pierce ever top 5 in the league?

edit: I'd say his ceiling is 3rd best Celtics player of all time.
Years being the top player on the team, by WS:

Paul Pierce: 11 (first one in his first season, age 21)
Jayson Tatum: 0 (he's well behind Walker this year, too)

Pierce was the top player on the team (by WS) each of his first 8 seasons, had a hiatus in the glory years of 07-10, and then another 3-year run from 10-11 to '13, to land him at 138 WS, right in between Havlicek and Bird. Pierce was incredibly durable, missing significant time only once in his first 18 seasons, and was getting starter minutes up through age 37.

Tatum would need to be a perennial MVP candidate for a decade before we'd really be discussing a top-5 rank in the franchise. And quite frankly, he need not get anywhere near that to be in the "jersey retirement" zone, so long as teams he leads win at least one title. And in fairness to Tatum, it wasn't until Pierce's 4th season, his age 24 season, that he became an all-star (but then he was an all-star 10 out of 11 years, leaving aside his half-injured 06-07 campaign). But still, that sort of sustained excellence depends on so many factors. Maybe I can see a window where that's Tatum's "Ceiling", but if ceiling means 95th percentile outcome given data through today, rather than (say) 80th percentile.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Years being the top player on the team, by WS:

Paul Pierce: 11 (first one in his first season, age 21)
Jayson Tatum: 0 (he's well behind Walker this year, too)

Pierce was the top player on the team (by WS) each of his first 8 seasons, had a hiatus in the glory years of 07-10, and then another 3-year run from 10-11 to '13, to land him at 138 WS, right in between Havlicek and Bird. Pierce was incredibly durable, missing significant time only once in his first 18 seasons, and was getting starter minutes up through age 37.

Tatum would need to be a perennial MVP candidate for a decade before we'd really be discussing a top-5 rank in the franchise. And quite frankly, he need not get anywhere near that to be in the "jersey retirement" zone, so long as teams he leads win at least one title. And in fairness to Tatum, it wasn't until Pierce's 4th season, his age 24 season, that he became an all-star (but then he was an all-star 10 out of 11 years, leaving aside his half-injured 06-07 campaign). But still, that sort of sustained excellence depends on so many factors. Maybe I can see a window where that's Tatum's "Ceiling", but if ceiling means 95th percentile outcome given data through today, rather than (say) 80th percentile.
Ceiling, ie best possible outcome.

And being the top player on your team doesn't mean much. Everyone would take Anthony Davis over Andre Drummond.
 

lovegtm

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Years being the top player on the team, by WS:

Paul Pierce: 11 (first one in his first season, age 21)
Jayson Tatum: 0 (he's well behind Walker this year, too)

Pierce was the top player on the team (by WS) each of his first 8 seasons, had a hiatus in the glory years of 07-10, and then another 3-year run from 10-11 to '13, to land him at 138 WS, right in between Havlicek and Bird. Pierce was incredibly durable, missing significant time only once in his first 18 seasons, and was getting starter minutes up through age 37.

Tatum would need to be a perennial MVP candidate for a decade before we'd really be discussing a top-5 rank in the franchise. And quite frankly, he need not get anywhere near that to be in the "jersey retirement" zone, so long as teams he leads win at least one title. And in fairness to Tatum, it wasn't until Pierce's 4th season, his age 24 season, that he became an all-star (but then he was an all-star 10 out of 11 years, leaving aside his half-injured 06-07 campaign). But still, that sort of sustained excellence depends on so many factors. Maybe I can see a window where that's Tatum's "Ceiling", but if ceiling means 95th percentile outcome given data through today, rather than (say) 80th percentile.
Measuring where a player falls on his own team, rather than the league as a whole, doesn't seem the right way to approach the question. Win Shares also aren't relevant, especially for a player who has heavy value in defensive impact.

Tatum is also well behind Walker this year in radiant smiles and killer crossover stepback combos, if we're going to cite true but irrelevant facts.

I'm not sure why it's such heresy to suggest/hope that one of the top 3 most promising young guys under 23 (along with Zion and Luka) would end up better than Paul Pierce, who was a fringe top-10 guy at his best.
 

benhogan

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I'm not sure why it's such heresy to suggest/hope that one of the top 3 most promising young guys under 23 (along with Zion and Luka) would end up better than Paul Pierce, who was a fringe top-10 guy at his best.
Tatum is the ideal player for the modern NBA (no more Mamba nonsense).

His 3pt shooting mechanics and perimeter defense differentiate him from other youngsters (Luka/Zion). In 2 seasons (w/10-15lbs of muscle) I expect he'll be battling Giannis for MVP. I also expect a shrewd CBS and an intelligent Jaylen to leverage Tatum double teams into a JB top10 player status by 2022.
 

Kliq

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It is hard to compare him to Pierce, I think Pierce would have thrived in this era with more spacing, more freedom to shoot threes, and bigger players being enabled to be ball-handlers instead of the shit sandwhich that Pierce had to work with in Boston pre-Rondo.

If we are talking ceiling, I would say Kawhi would be the logical comp; maybe a little bit better on offense and a little bit worse on defense, but as far as a contemporary star that Tatum could evolve into, he is the one.
 

Marciano490

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I don’t watch a ton of basketball. 8-12 on 3pa is good, right?

This is a really fun, mostly homegrown team. It’s cool seeing what they and the Bruins are doing, especially in this day and age.
 

DeJesus Built My Hotrod

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I don’t watch a ton of basketball. 8-12 on 3pa is good, right?

This is a really fun, mostly homegrown team. It’s cool seeing what they and the Bruins are doing, especially in this day and age.
As a rough guide, ~36% from three point range is league average so you are correct. And watch more C's. We are witnessing a superstar leveling up...
 

amarshal2

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Has anyone asked the question, Luka or Tatum? A few months ago it was a no brainer.
Luka’s .577 2PT FG% and 9 free throws a game to go with 9.5 board and 8.5 assists is pretty special as offense goes. He’s going to be a guy with a career TS% over .600. I think Tatum will get close in the TS but ultimately trail. And it’ll likely never be a contest in playmaking.

The question is, is Tatum that much better defensively to account for the offensive gap?

He might be... FWIW Tatum’s on/off ratings are much better for both offense and defense and it’s dramatic for defense where the Mavs are 2.5 points better without Luka and the Celtics are 4.5 points better with Tatum.
 

RetractableRoof

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As a rough guide, ~36% from three point range is league average so you are correct. And watch more C's. We are witnessing a superstar leveling up...
FWIW, for every well deserved bit of praise and recognition Tatum is receiving, young Pastrnak is doing the very same thing for the Bruins. There's room on the Bs wagon for a few more watchers as well.
 

HomeRunBaker

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Someone a page or two back said Tatum's ceiling was PP. Am I the only one who thinks his ceiling is higher? Was Pierce ever top 5 in the league?

edit: I'd say his ceiling is 3rd best Celtics player of all time.
Yeah I agree. As Tatum continues building his overall strength he is only going to get better. He isn’t making a mini-leap this year......Jayson Tatum is making a full blown, I’m gonna be chasing Giannis for MVP in a couple years, major league LEAP!!!
He is already a much better player at the same age as Pierce so yes I’m comfortable calling his ceiling higher. As great as Pierce was here he was only a Top-10 MVP finisher on one occasion. Based on what I’ve seen this year I expect Tatum to exceed that number within the next 3 years.
 

lovegtm

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Has anyone asked the question, Luka or Tatum? A few months ago it was a no brainer.
I wrote a list here about a month ago of guys I'd trade Tatum for. At the time I put Luka since I didn't want to deal with the Slovenian Inquisition, but I don't think I could trade Tatum for him now.

The thing with Tatum isn't just that he's good at defense: he's good at individual defense, and amazing in help defense, which is probably more important in a league where it's not hard to engineer switches. There's almost no way physically that Luka ever gets close to him here, so you're left comparing offense. Luka is clearly worlds ahead as a playmaker and drawing fouls, but Tatum is going to be able to play the game in easier mode because his stepback 3 is better and he's taller.

Tatum probably never learns to make the reads that Luka does, but you probably will be able to build an offense around him where the reads are simplified and high leverage just because of his gravity.

It's a true that shot creation+playmaking is THE premium skill in basketball, but the ability to be a defensive scheme by yourself is probably 2nd. If Tatum ends up with that plus top-10 type offense, I don't think Luka can bridge the gap just with his offensive ability.
 

lostjumper

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In the last couple weeks, we've seen the C's play against the Clippers, Lakers, and Trailblazers, and Tatum was the best player on the court. And everyone playing knew it. The list of people you trade him for is just about down to one player at this point.
 

JakeRae

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In the last couple weeks, we've seen the C's play against the Clippers, Lakers, and Trailblazers, and Tatum was the best player on the court. And everyone playing knew it. The list of people you trade him for is just about down to one player at this point.
His scoring average for February is now over 30 ppg. The one note of caution is that he is shooting .495 from 3 in February. We all know he’s an elite shooter, but that level of shooting is certainly unsustainable and it is half his scoring. Of course, if you knock that down to his career average of being a roughly .400 shooter from 3, he’s still an elite offensive player.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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Tatum is not even close to peak strength yet, which is how you see him getting bodied by a real big boy like Melo last night. Except...in the play I am talking about, he let Melo back him down only to stand him up and use his length to stuff the shot attempt. Eventually he's going to be the stronger guy in most matchups and it will be...not fair. It's already not fair.

On the other side of the coin—we know he's not the quickest guy on the floor, but even if you get past Tatum, you are never really past him. Another new tool in the kit this year is allowing a little blow-by that keeps the driver close enough and convinces him he has enough daylight for a shot, only to be rejected from behind by a golden god. Sort of acting as his own help defender, baiting guys into a blocked shot the way Marcus might bait someone into a steal.

Jaylen is still better right now at facing down wing scorers or bodying bigs and keeping them out of the paint to force bad shots, but Tatum's help D and surprising rim protection is better. When they are going full steam, the pieces on D work really well together.
 

lovegtm

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His scoring average for February is now over 30 ppg. The one note of caution is that he is shooting .495 from 3 in February. We all know he’s an elite shooter, but that level of shooting is certainly unsustainable and it is half his scoring. Of course, if you knock that down to his career average of being a roughly .400 shooter from 3, he’s still an elite offensive player.
Yeah, the key is just being a threat at that range off the dribble.

He has a nice PnR game with easy decisions currently.
- Guy goes under? Shoot the 3.
- Guy trails from behind? Put him in jail and work the seal game.
- Switch? Roast the big.

The next levels will be figuring out how to use the threat of the 3 to blow smalls, and also playmaking out of doubles up top.
 

Jimbodandy

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I wrote a list here about a month ago of guys I'd trade Tatum for. At the time I put Luka since I didn't want to deal with the Slovenian Inquisition, but I don't think I could trade Tatum for him now.

The thing with Tatum isn't just that he's good at defense: he's good at individual defense, and amazing in help defense, which is probably more important in a league where it's not hard to engineer switches. There's almost no way physically that Luka ever gets close to him here, so you're left comparing offense. Luka is clearly worlds ahead as a playmaker and drawing fouls, but Tatum is going to be able to play the game in easier mode because his stepback 3 is better and he's taller.

Tatum probably never learns to make the reads that Luka does, but you probably will be able to build an offense around him where the reads are simplified and high leverage just because of his gravity.

It's a true that shot creation+playmaking is THE premium skill in basketball, but the ability to be a defensive scheme by yourself is probably 2nd. If Tatum ends up with that plus top-10 type offense, I don't think Luka can bridge the gap just with his offensive ability.
I agree with this completely.

This lengthy stretch of sustained excellence, while being a target of opposition defensive schemes, cut my list down to Giannis. And that's only with years of control.
 

JakeRae

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Yeah, the key is just being a threat at that range off the dribble.

He has a nice PnR game with easy decisions currently.
- Guy goes under? Shoot the 3.
- Guy trails from behind? Put him in jail and work the seal game.
- Switch? Roast the big.

The next levels will be figuring out how to use the threat of the 3 to blow smalls, and also playmaking out of doubles up top.
I would disagree with your first comment. In February Tatum has been taking about 45% of his shots from three. That is a good thing. He’s an elite shooter and a key piece of his game will always be shooting threes at high percentage and volume. His step back isn’t just a tool to create driving lanes, it’s a legitimate offensive weapon in the same way it is for Harden and Steph.
 

lovegtm

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I would disagree with your first comment. In February Tatum has been taking about 45% of his shots from three. That is a good thing. He’s an elite shooter and a key piece of his game will always be shooting threes at high percentage and volume. His step back isn’t just a tool to create driving lanes, it’s a legitimate offensive weapon in the same way it is for Harden and Steph.
I think we’re violently agreeing: all this stuff works together. With “just be a threat” I was referring to percentage, not volume. He absolutely has to shoot high volume from 3 (at a reasonable rate) for any of this to work.

I’ve been talking non-stop all year in this thread about the importance of the iso 3 for Tatum as an offensive weapon, well before he started going off this month.
 

Mooch

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NBA Twitter has taken to calling Tatum “The Problem” after LeBron’s comments the other day. I like it.
 

amarshal2

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I’ve had fun in this thread pointing out how Tatum has improved his TS% every calendar month this year from abominable to all-world:
.482
.520
.562
.567
.648

With 2 games to play in the month it seems like this roller coaster has to hit its first decline in March, right? Right??

Bref doesn’t have 2pt FG% splits to isolate inside the arc but his overall FG% has also gone up every calendar month:
.373
.421
.445
.469
.500

It’s going to be hard for him to improve on that if he keeps up having 45% of his shots be 3’s, many of them of the ridiculously high difficulty variety. But I think he’s likely on a pretty linear upward course from in the paint and I think he can keep improving there.

Other positive trends:
-taken by far his most free throws in the second fewest games of any month. This one isn’t linear but a jump in Feb. we’ll see if it’s sustainable.
-highest usage rate of the year on a fairly linear trend
-125 o-rating, best of the year by a lot on a fairly linear trend

other notable stats:
-assists have flat lined after a jump earlier in the year. I don’t have assist percentage but it may be on a slight decline from
December as his usage has increased
-defensive rating is worst of the year
-Lotta minutes at 36.4, highest of the year
 

RedOctober3829

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Tatum is approaching Paul George levels as a 21 year old. Imagine what he'll be in like 2 years when he keeps adding bulk to his frame? The aspect I'd like him to add to his game is seeing the floor better out of a double team. It's going to be an adjustment level when teams consistently double him and he needs to be able to find the open man faster.
 

lovegtm

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Tatum is approaching Paul George levels as a 21 year old. Imagine what he'll be in like 2 years when he keeps adding bulk to his frame? The aspect I'd like him to add to his game is seeing the floor better out of a double team. It's going to be an adjustment level when teams consistently double him and he needs to be able to find the open man faster.
When teams start doubling him 30 feet from the hoop, that’s when you go from “very very good young guy” to “can build an elite offense with him, a secondary playmaker, and 3 JAGs.”
 

SteveF

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His court vision/passing needs to improve. He needs to learn to pass to others on his drives. A big part of the lack of efficiency on his drives is that he doesn't pass often enough after he forces help/rotation. That's going to be a major issue in any series against a good defense, and especially against the Bucks.

He had a good game against Portland, but 0 FTA. How much of his offensive value right now is tied to unsustainable 3pt shooting?

The Laker game was quite encouraging though. The 15 FTA was tremendous.

Obviously he's great on the defensive end, especially off the ball.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Yup. I’m bracing myself for the inevitable 3 point regression, but also excited for what he can work in over the summer in terms of building a Luka/Harden-type outside-in game now that he’s more confident from out there.
From the last couple months or the season? I'm thinking his true 3 point % is closer to 40% if not better. For the year, he's at .395. His career rate is .398. I think he he takes a huge leap in play making over the summer too and his assist % gets closer to 20%. He'll never be the playmaker Luka or Harden are but I think 4-5 assists a game is doable and as early as next season. I know you weren't comparing playmaking ability, just making a side point.
 

lovegtm

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From the last couple months or the season? I'm thinking his true 3 point % is closer to 40% if not better. For the year, he's at .395. His career rate is .398. I think he he takes a huge leap in play making over the summer too and his assist % gets closer to 20%. He'll never be the playmaker Luka or Harden are but I think 4-5 assists a game is doable and as early as next season. I know you weren't comparing playmaking ability, just making a side point.
I just mean the last month or so of 3 point shooting.

Agreed wrt his assist numbers going up next year. They don’t have to go up super-high for him to be really valuable offensively either: if he gets doubled, it won’t be him getting the assist on most plays.

One fun thing about the NBA is that it’s rare for any two stars to be alike. Tatum is going to have a unique path, because we haven’t really seen a tall guy with his handle self-creating this volume of iso threes at this rate. He’ll end up naturally evolving a game all his own, which will be cool to watch.
 

Kliq

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Who is Tatum's competition for Most Inproved Player? He's gotta be the favorite, right?
Eh, MIP is a tough award for someone like Tatum to win since it is centered around narrative and how people's perception of a player has changed over the course of the year. I think most people thought that Tatum was a very good young player and him making this kind of leap, while not a guarantee, isn't exactly shocking. I'd say players like Bam, Ingram, SGA, etc. have a better case.