Scouting Report: Jayson Tatum

Over the last few weeks, recent mocks, mine included, have had Jayson Tatum falling towards the bottom half of the top 10. There’s a chance Tatum is available when the Mavs pick at 11. Here’s what the Mavs are getting in Tatum:

Tatum’s college stats (per 40 minutes) were as follows:

20 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.4 BPG, and 3.1 TOPG on 45% from the field, with 34% from 3, 85% from the line, and a TS% of 56.6%.

Strengths:

  • Tatum is a natural scorer. He’s the most natural scorer for this draft, and probably has the most advanced scoring moves of any prospect in the draft.
  • Tatum rebounds the ball exceptionally well. This is one of the reasons he can play small ball 4.
  • Tatum can play and guard multiple positions: wings and power forwards depending on the lineups. His ability to handle the ball, shoot, and ability to attack the paint make him a mismatch at power forward.
  • Tatum has an excellent frame with long arms. Tatum has an NBA body, and his long arms help him on defense. Tatum’s last measured wingspan was a year ago, and it was somewhere between 6’10 and 6’11. Tatum is 6’8.
  • Tatum excels in transition, thanks to his natural scoring abilities, which are enhanced in the open court and one on one situations

Weaknesses:

  • Tatum can be lax many times, both as a ball handler and as a defender. 1 2
    • He also loses focus easily, causing him to be lost on defense frequently.
  • While Tatum is good at attacking the basket, Tatum has trouble at times finishing and passing versus length and overall bigger defenders. Many of his turnovers came against bigger guys. He will need to adjust as the NBA is obviously full of even bigger players.
  • Tatum is not an elite athlete, especially for a SF.
  • Tatum’s spot up shooting need to improve. His 3P% was below 35%, which must improve.

Overall:

Tatum possesses an excellent floor with good upside. His scoring is arguably the most advanced in the class, and his versatility is important in the modern NBA for spacing. His defensive discipline must improve, and his overall awareness and motor must be more consistent in the NBA. I believe his flaws are easily fixable, but will be growing pains for fans of whichever team drafts him. While parts of his game translate well to the modern NBA of small ball lineups, his isolation portion of his game may not be as easily usable. I believe he compares well to 2012-13 Joe Johnson to current Joe Johnson, should his ball handling continue to improve. Tatum needs polishing, but his floor looks like a serviceable backup small ball 4, similar to what Joe Johnson was this year in Utah, or a starting 3 as a #2 scorer. Tatum will stay at his floor if his game does not adapt to the current NBA, by relying on isolation scoring, and will hit his ceiling if he can improve his off-ball offense. I don’t think his lack of great athleticism will haunt his career.

How does he compare to Barnes?

Barnes turned into an isolation scorer, but his ball handling and playmaking abilities are a tier below Tatum’s likely will be/ were coming out of college. Barnes’ overall skill though overlaps with Tatum. Both score their points the same ways, Barnes is a better defender, and Tatum isn’t as athletic as other SF, the same boat Barnes is in. I think the Mavs should trade down if Tatum is on the board when they’re up, as taking Tatum would be too redundant to the roster. The Mavs might as well accumulate assets and take a near similar caliber player by trading down (assuming the pick stays in the lottery). However, if the Mavs grew disgruntled of Barnes or think that he is not the future for the team (this is not the case, but we never know what can happen), then the Mavs will regret passing on Tatum’s talent. Tatum would be a very strong backup wing for Carlisle, and could be complimented by Dorian Finney-Smith’s defense. Overall, don’t get your hopes up in seeing Tatum wearing a Mavs jersey this season.

Projected draft range: Top 10

 

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