Weight: 204 lbs.
Position: Small Forward
PPG: 16.8 RPG: 7.3 APG: 2.1 SPG: 1.3 BPG: 1.1 FG%: 45.2 3PT%: 34.2 FT%: 84.9
Jayson Tatum might be the best one-on-one scorer in this draft class. He simply thrives in isolation situations as he’s too strong for smaller defenders and too quick for most bigs. When combined with his outstanding array of moves it made him nearly unstoppable at times.
Tatum has an outstanding offensive repertoire, showing the ability to beat people off the dribble and operate in the post against smaller players while improving his outside shooting from deep, especially in catch-and-shoot situations.
Tatum has an NBA-ready body with a frame that will easily be able to add more muscle to it. He has also shown excellent quickness for his size and is able to create separation from his defenders and finish with authority at the rim.
He is an excellent rebounder, particularly on the defensive end and can be difficult to deal with in transition especially when he gets a head of steam.
There are some concerns about his passing, but he showed some improvements in that aspect of his game, especially down the stretch of the season. He showed good vision and was able to set up teammates, though it could still stand some development.
Defensively was very much the same for Tatum as he showed flashes of being very effective there as well. His size, strength, and athleticism lends itself to being a very good perimeter defender and the hope is that he will continue to develop on that end of the floor because the tools are there.
There are some serious concerns about Tatum’s game translating to the next level. One of the more worrying ones is his shooting range. He is excellent from mid-range, but was an average shooter from the college three-point line. Extending his range will go a long way towards making him even more effective on offense.
His ball-handling and passing also need to continue to develop. He still doesn’t quite have the feel of balancing scoring and passing which can lead to him forcing bad passes at times. He has the reputation of a ball-stopper who can get tunnel vision in looking for his shot. In this era of pace-and-space he may not fit as he can be a ball-hog at times.
He also struggled at times when matched up with athletes who could match his athleticism. That is where improving his ball-handling will make a huge difference as he can tend to settle for contested jumpers at times. Part of that can also be attributed to a lack of aggression at times. He goes through periods where he doesn’t seem as engaged, on both ends of the floor.
Defensively he has the tools to guard both forward spots (especially once he adds some more strength to deal with bigger power forwards), but struggled with consistency and focus on that end leading to uncharacteristic breakdowns.
Player Comparison: Rudy Gay
A strong, physical forward who thrives in isolation situations and can score just about anywhere on the floor, Tatum has a lot in common with Rudy Gay who has been a 20 point per game scorer for basically his entire career.
Tatum, like Gay, is best as an isolation scorer and can be something of a ball-hog at times, but he is strong, physical, and has an outstanding array of moves that will allow him to score the ball at the NBA level. Tatum would also seem to better suited, down the line, as a ‘small-ball 4’ assuming he adds some more weight to his frame. This is where Gay (as well as guys like Carmelo Anthony and Jabari Parker) have thrived these days as they have the speed advantage while not sacrificing much strength.
The key for Tatum will be simply developing the rest of his game to become more well-rounded. As it stands now his physical profile, offensive repertoire, and defensive concerns mirror that of Gay, but the potential is there to far surpass what Gay has accomplished in his career.
Fit with the Lakers
Tatum has the same initial concern as that of Josh Jackson in that his primary position of small forward is the same as Brandon Ingram. Of course Tatum’s physical profile leads many to believe that power forward could ultimately be his best position so that shouldn’t be too big of a worry.
The main thing that Tatum provides that the Lakers are sorely in need of is a number one scorer. D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram will continue to develop, but there is no guarantee that they will become a true number one option. Tatum could solve that problem without a doubt.
There are certainly warranted concerns about his ball-stopping mentality fitting with Walton’s offensive system that is focused on passing and movement and his questions on defense are worrying as well. Nonetheless, every team needs some players who can just go one-on-one and get buckets and Tatum is that type of player. He has the tools to develop his game as far more than just a scorer, but at the very least he will be able to provide that in spades.