NBA Draft Profile: Jayson Tatum
Key Stats: 16.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.1 APG
Measurables: 6’8, 204 pounds
Strengths: Jayson Tatum continues this decade’s trend of Duke one-and-done players to enter the draft as polished scorers, following the likes of Kyrie Irving, Jahlil Okafor and Brandon Ingram. Tatum has great size for a wing and is at his best utilizing his frame and length to shoot over smaller defenders. His footwork is otherworldly for a 19 year old and helps him score both with his back to the basket and off the dribble. Though his midrange game is his bread and butter, Tatum shot 34% from 3 as a freshman and 85% from the charity stripe, and projects to be a plus shooter at the next level. He looks confident in catch and shoot situations and there should be no concerns about his form. Despite averaging barely over 2 assists per game, Tatum is skilled when passing out of the post and even played the point forward role for Coach K at times. His size and ability to score from anywhere on the court will allow him to give NBA teams valuable minutes as a small ball 4. All of these traits add up to make Tatum arguably the most versatile offensive weapon in the draft as he can space the floor, post up and succeed as a go to scorer. His use of jab steps, turnarounds and ball-fakes mirror that of an 11 year veteran, not someone one year removed from playing high school ball in St. Louis. While Tatum’s offense gets most of the attention, his defensive plus/minus was actually better than his offensive one. He’s not a freak athlete which may limit his defensive ceiling, but Tatum has untapped potential on that end of the court due to his 7’0 wingspan and ability to switch onto multiple positions.
Weaknesses: A common theme across Tatum's scouting reports is that he doesn't have any major weaknesses. While that's true for the most part, there are a few areas where the Duke product can improve. One of the first things that jumps out after watching Tatum's game is that he has a slight case of "Michael Beasley syndrome" or a bad habit of settling for long contested 2's. Analytics will tell you that this is the worst shot in the game of basketball and if Tatum ever wants to reach his potential as a number 1 scoring option, he'll have to try to get higher percentage looks more consistently. Additionally, though his usage rate of 26.2 isn't alarmingly high, it was the highest figure on a Blue Devils roster that featured a lot of talent in the backcourt from Grayson Allen to Luke Kennard. Tatum can be a bit of a ball stopper at times and this is another trend he'll need to reverse at the next level as we are in the golden era of ball movement and sharing the basketball. Finally, Tatum can be viewed as a "tweener" and there has to be a slight concern that he'll never truly be able to find a permanent position in the NBA; either being too small to play power forward or not athletic enough for the small forward spot.
Best Team Fit:
Tatum's ability to score from both the post and the perimeter makes him a relatively safe choice in the top half of the lottery. Ideally for his future, he would be best suited to go to Phoenix at 4 in next week’s draft. This would allow him to play next to a versatile defender in Marquese Chriss and a budding star in Devin Booker. Imagine the inside out combinations the Suns would have down the road with Tatum, Booker and Dragon Bender. If Tatum reaches his scoring potential, he and Booker would combine to average over 50 PPG on a nightly basis. However, while Phoenix is the best fit for Tatum there is another franchise with a greater need for Tatum’s services: the Orlando Magic. The Magic are in desperate need of a star and would love to take the Duke freshman and hope he can be their number 1 scoring option for years to come and form an interesting forward pairing with Aaron Gordon.
NBA Player Comparison:
Tatum is an offensive minded, multi-threat scorer on the wing with the size to steal minutes at power forward. His impressive footwork is reminiscent of Carmelo Anthony, hence the “Melo Lite” moniker he’s earned throughout the draft process. Anthony and Jabari Parker (a healthy version) are good barometers to use as Tatum’s ceiling, but more realistically he projects to be a Danny Granger or Tobias Harris type player. A solid number 2 option that can carry the load offensively, but lacks a second elite skill. Tatum can be the high volume scorer Granger was, but it’s hard not to watch his game and see similarities to Harris’s. Worst case scenario, Tatum is the next Derrick Williams, a highly touted tweener that never reaches his full potential due to his lack of a true position.