Jayson Tatum 2021-22: Leap Year

Leon Trotsky

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Last night Tatum was playing at like 70% effort at best and still did that. He really has leveled up in every single way. Even his post-game interviews are miles better this year than they have been in the past, just so much more comfortable and relaxed and interesting, You can tell he is a leader now. He is nearly in his final form.
 

Eddie Jurak

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Have any of you noticed what seems to me like a change from previous years in how Tatum creates his own jump shot in the half court?

In the past, I feel like Tatum's half court jumpers were either immediately off the catch, ie, the typical catch and shoot jumper, or shots he would set up via the dribble. His sidestep three, for example. At some point during a game last year there was a stat showing that Tatum's 3-point shooting was best when he took either zero dribbles or more than (I think) 7 dribbles. I took this to mean that in a one on one situation with Tatum dribbling and not being doubled, he was most likely to hit if he used a bunch of dribbles to set the shot up just how he wanted it.

Anyway, he seems to be relying on something different this year. When he gets the ball in a non-catch and shoot situation in the halfcourt, with one defender guarding him, he often doesn't go to the dribble to set up a shot. Instead, he keeps his dribble and uses ball fakes, a jab step, maybe sometimes complete lack of motion to freeze the defender so he can shoot over. (I assume if the defender is too aggressive in these situations, Tatum just puts the ball on the floor and it gone). I would think this would be a better way to get into a jump shot than off the dribble, since there is less motion, no need to gather the ball, etc.

The other thing I have noticed is very few contested fadeaway jumpers. I hate it when he takes those because I don;t think he has ever shot them well, but this year I think he rarely does settle for them.
 

RorschachsMask

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Heavy Tatum porn.

View: https://twitter.com/MichaelVPina/status/1592175221360168960?s=20&t=ctEqUt9ZDTOO_fsJeU0aRA


Most Complete Player: Jayson Tatum
This label does not mean Tatum is the best player in the world. Instead, view it as a way to mark his remarkable development. It’s Year 6 and the fat has been sizzled entirely out of his game. No star has fewer weaknesses.

Tatum can shoot, pass, dribble, rebound, defend, read the floor, draw fouls, and score from all three levels in myriad ways—posting up on the block, isolating on the wing, functioning in pick-and-rolls as both a ball handler and screener—at an elite level. He’s averaging a whopping 32.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game, shooting 50 percent from the floor, 59.6 percent inside the arc, and 38.7 percent from 3-point range on 9.5 tries a night.

As a bona fide MVP candidate who would scoot past Luka in this very column if his supporting cast wasn’t so much more impressive than Doncic’s—whose best teammate this season has been Spencer Dinwiddie—it’s all coming together. Tatum has touch, footwork, every ballhandling counter in the book, and a brain that seamlessly combines all of it without wasting any movement. He’s taking 4.4 more free throw attempts than his career average and shooting 81.4 percent at the rim.

Again, this doesn’t mean he’s “better” than Doncic, Curry, or Jokic, but none are ever asked to guard the other team’s best player, or able to help (he’s currently averaging the same number of blocks per game as Jarrett Allen) like the conservatively measured 6-foot-8 Tatum can. This doesn’t mean he’s better than Giannis. But when defenses load in the paint, Tatum has no problem creating a high-percentage shot by himself from the perimeter, then reliably making eight (not six) out of every 10 free throws. (It’s hard to think of any other player better than Tatum right now.)

Tatum controls games without dominating the ball. His fingerprints are all over this four-point swing:

He enhances Boston’s actions with the selflessness of a star who understands when to impose himself on a game and when to turn a defense’s aggression against itself.

Whenever healthy over the past few years, Kawhi Leonard was this guy, an all-around menace whose skill set was a perfect mesh of dominance and malleability. The closest thing to a create-a-player who turns every category up to 95. Tatum has officially grabbed that torch, and at 24 years old is still getting better. Nothing looks hard because he can now do everything so well.
 

bellowthecat

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I have noticed that, especially when it comes to his mid range shots. Feels like he has been rushing his midrange shots since his second year, mostly falling into fade aways. This year more of his midrange shots are coming when he is facing the basket, instead of back to it, and with no dribble. He talked about working on being more balanced for his midrange shots over the summer and it shows. Scal regularly points out his jab step has been devastating to defenders when Tatum wants to shoot over them. Seems like he's identified his strongest positions and is leveraging them as much as possible. As a viewer it has been so enjoyable to watch Tatum’s development in real time.
 
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Jimbodandy

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Have any of you noticed what seems to me like a change from previous years in how Tatum creates his own jump shot in the half court?

In the past, I feel like Tatum's half court jumpers were either immediately off the catch, ie, the typical catch and shoot jumper, or shots he would set up via the dribble. His sidestep three, for example. At some point during a game last year there was a stat showing that Tatum's 3-point shooting was best when he took either zero dribbles or more than (I think) 7 dribbles. I took this to mean that in a one on one situation with Tatum dribbling and not being doubled, he was most likely to hit if he used a bunch of dribbles to set the shot up just how he wanted it.

Anyway, he seems to be relying on something different this year. When he gets the ball in a non-catch and shoot situation in the halfcourt, with one defender guarding him, he often doesn't go to the dribble to set up a shot. Instead, he keeps his dribble and uses ball fakes, a jab step, maybe sometimes complete lack of motion to freeze the defender so he can shoot over. (I assume if the defender is too aggressive in these situations, Tatum just puts the ball on the floor and it gone). I would think this would be a better way to get into a jump shot than off the dribble, since there is less motion, no need to gather the ball, etc.

The other thing I have noticed is very few contested fadeaway jumpers. I hate it when he takes those because I don;t think he has ever shot them well, but this year I think he rarely does settle for them.
Yes, have noticed this also. He looks a lot more like Durant in these matchups. Almost no wasted motion. He notices that he has a 6'4" guy on him and just launches. Or he keeps his dribble and sizes a guy up, then can walk past on either side without having to cross over or anything. Super unstoppable.

Loved the quote from the Ringer piece "this doesn't mean that he's better than Doncic, Curry, or Jokic, but...here's why he's better."

Hot take--there is one guy on Earth that is currently a better basketball player than Jayson Tatum.
 

lovegtm

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Have any of you noticed what seems to me like a change from previous years in how Tatum creates his own jump shot in the half court?

In the past, I feel like Tatum's half court jumpers were either immediately off the catch, ie, the typical catch and shoot jumper, or shots he would set up via the dribble. His sidestep three, for example. At some point during a game last year there was a stat showing that Tatum's 3-point shooting was best when he took either zero dribbles or more than (I think) 7 dribbles. I took this to mean that in a one on one situation with Tatum dribbling and not being doubled, he was most likely to hit if he used a bunch of dribbles to set the shot up just how he wanted it.

Anyway, he seems to be relying on something different this year. When he gets the ball in a non-catch and shoot situation in the halfcourt, with one defender guarding him, he often doesn't go to the dribble to set up a shot. Instead, he keeps his dribble and uses ball fakes, a jab step, maybe sometimes complete lack of motion to freeze the defender so he can shoot over. (I assume if the defender is too aggressive in these situations, Tatum just puts the ball on the floor and it gone). I would think this would be a better way to get into a jump shot than off the dribble, since there is less motion, no need to gather the ball, etc.

The other thing I have noticed is very few contested fadeaway jumpers. I hate it when he takes those because I don;t think he has ever shot them well, but this year I think he rarely does settle for them.
Yes, the jab step is up in frequency a lot, and it's much better integrated into his game.

He's using it because the book on Tatum is to get in his airspace and crowd him. When he combines the jab step with his improved ability to drive, he can counter that by either getting the guy to back off (Tatum shoots the 3), or using his strength to get his shoulders past and get to the rim.

Great adjustment to how he's been played ever since he went supernova in 2020.
 

Just a bit outside

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Have any of you noticed what seems to me like a change from previous years in how Tatum creates his own jump shot in the half court?

In the past, I feel like Tatum's half court jumpers were either immediately off the catch, ie, the typical catch and shoot jumper, or shots he would set up via the dribble. His sidestep three, for example. At some point during a game last year there was a stat showing that Tatum's 3-point shooting was best when he took either zero dribbles or more than (I think) 7 dribbles. I took this to mean that in a one on one situation with Tatum dribbling and not being doubled, he was most likely to hit if he used a bunch of dribbles to set the shot up just how he wanted it.

Anyway, he seems to be relying on something different this year. When he gets the ball in a non-catch and shoot situation in the halfcourt, with one defender guarding him, he often doesn't go to the dribble to set up a shot. Instead, he keeps his dribble and uses ball fakes, a jab step, maybe sometimes complete lack of motion to freeze the defender so he can shoot over. (I assume if the defender is too aggressive in these situations, Tatum just puts the ball on the floor and it gone). I would think this would be a better way to get into a jump shot than off the dribble, since there is less motion, no need to gather the ball, etc.

The other thing I have noticed is very few contested fadeaway jumpers. I hate it when he takes those because I don;t think he has ever shot them well, but this year I think he rarely does settle for them.
It was reported that this and his floater were two of his main focus points this summer. Tatum works his ass off and we are lucky to watch the results.
 

TripleOT

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Tatum has this pre-game ritual where he sets up for a corner three, and Grant Williams crowds him to such a ridiculous degree that he’s almost in Tatum’s jersey. JT proceeds to drill the three. Grant always acts surprised/disappointed, which is funny, since Tatum makes the shot like all the time.

If a defender is long enough to bother a Tatum three, Tatum most probably will be able to blow by him. If he isn’t, he’s splashing a three, contested or not. He’s also not relying as much on self generated threes, with 65% of his threes this year assisted compared to 58% last year.

Interestingly, Tatum lets his teammate set him up early in the game and as the game progress he generates offense as needed.

Percentage of baskets assisted

1st: 83%
2nd: 60%
3rd: 46%
4th: 44%

Tatum’s eFG is actually better when he is not being assisted as much

1st: 56%
2nd: 55%
3rd: 62%
4th: 59%
 

slamminsammya

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Has anyone else noticed his three point form looks different this year? Like, somehow more upwards? I can't describe it well. But I do wonder if its causing his issues from deep right now.
 

Fishy1

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Has anyone else noticed his three point form looks different this year? Like, somehow more upwards? I can't describe it well. But I do wonder if its causing his issues from deep right now.
I think I've seen this too, but I'm confused: is he having issues? He's about 37% from 3 so far, up from last year, and had a few rattle in and out last night against OKC. His shot has mostly looked good to me.
 

lovegtm

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I think I've seen this too, but I'm confused: is he having issues? He's about 37% from 3 so far, up from last year, and had a few rattle in and out last night against OKC. His shot has mostly looked good to me.
Yeah, there aren't issues. He was .387 before OKC on a career-high attempts lol.
 

RorschachsMask

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There’s less moving parts with his mechanics now, which is almost always a good thing. He’s at 37% even after a 1-9 game, which for a guy with his size/skill set, is awesome.
 

Euclis20

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Tatum is currently 2nd in the league in free throws made, only behind Durant. Him being able to get to the rim almost at will and get to the line raises the ceiling on the Celtics offense significantly.
 

Reverend

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That’s wonderful.

Is it just me, or does it seem like Tatum is having more fun than players of his level and intensity generally appear to? I know some people think that means a player isn’t fully dialed in, but I often wonder if it isn’t beneficial to not be a pressure cooker head case. Loose means less energy expended, etc.
 

Euclis20

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That’s wonderful.

Is it just me, or does it seem like Tatum is having more fun than players of his level and intensity generally appear to? I know some people think that means a player isn’t fully dialed in, but I often wonder if it isn’t beneficial to not be a pressure cooker head case. Loose means less energy expended, etc.
Considering it's still November, I don't think he's out of the ordinary. Curry, Luka, Lebron when things are rolling look like they are enjoying themselves quite a bit. Players like Giannis, Durant, Embiid less so. The only player the Celtics have had in over 30 years that was on this level was 2008 KG, and his intensity level was a bit higher than average. Tatum is not, uh, wound as tightly as KG was.
 

Koufax

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And then there is my favorite "I am really having fun out here" guy, the inimitable Ricky Davis. A lunkhead perhaps, but a joy to watch,
 

lovegtm

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Hopefully voters remember games like this when it's MVP time.

Luka puts up gaudy offensive numbers, but is an emergency-level liability whenever he's caught on Tatum on the other end, to the point of completely warping the Mavs' D and giving up 125.

Tatum's offensive numbers are very good in the game, but he's also anchoring the defense, cleaning up mistakes, and dominating Luka whenever he has to guard him.
 

snowmanny

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Agree on the MVP thought. Luka is amazing offensively, but even offensively it is so hard to compare someone like Luka who has the ball 60% (or whatever it is) of the time as opposed . to someone who works in a more diversified system. He is the PG but he is not running an awesome unstoppable offense, although he himself is reasonably unstoppable on certain plays. So you have to ask, if you gave Tatum or Giannis or Booker the ball every single time down the court with the goal of winning 45-52 games what sort of numbers would they have?
 

Euclis20

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Agree on the MVP thought. Luka is amazing offensively, but even offensively it is so hard to compare someone like Luka who has the ball 60% (or whatever it is) of the time as opposed . to someone who works in a more diversified system. He is the PG but he is not running an awesome unstoppable offense, although he himself is reasonably unstoppable on certain plays. So you have to ask, if you gave Tatum or Giannis or Booker the ball every single time down the court with the goal of winning 45-52 games what sort of numbers would they have?
In Luka's defense, this is a thoroughly mediocre team without him. Their 2nd best player (Dinwiddie) is an inefficient, oft injured combo guard who can't play a lick of defense and Luka's somehow led this group to an above average offense thus far (10th in offensive rating). This team bears a striking resemblance to the early Lebron Cavs teams.
 

lovegtm

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In Luka's defense, this is a thoroughly mediocre team without him. Their 2nd best player (Dinwiddie) is an inefficient, oft injured combo guard who can't play a lick of defense and Luka's somehow led this group to an above average offense thus far (10th in offensive rating). This team bears a striking resemblance to the early Lebron Cavs teams.
Definitely agree that Luka is the "his team is so bad, imagine how bad they'd be without him" MVP.

I think the NBA (rightly) tends to award MVP to "super elite guy who takes a good team to championship level", however.

I think Luka absolutely could be the #1 guy on a title team, but it's theoretical for him right now.
 

Reverend

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Considering it's still November, I don't think he's out of the ordinary. Curry, Luka, Lebron when things are rolling look like they are enjoying themselves quite a bit. Players like Giannis, Durant, Embiid less so. The only player the Celtics have had in over 30 years that was on this level was 2008 KG, and his intensity level was a bit higher than average. Tatum is not, uh, wound as tightly as KG was.
That scans to me. But Tatum seems to me more Curry who seems like he has an unsinkable attitude almost all the time, whereas LeBron, whom I think has a great attitude, can be moodier. Of course, it’s good to be Stephen Curry, and Tatum is young, so we’ll see.

All told, though, Tatum just seems like he has, to take the saying from tae kwon do, “indomitable spirit.” He plays intense without having to play mad. And, though obviously from an outsider perspective, it seems like the team is fostering this effectively. I remember a couple of years ago a poster here had occasion to sit next to Tatum’s parents or something on a flight and asked them about Brad Stevens and said something like that they nodded with satisfaction and said that they felt that Tatum was in very good hands. And even Tatum’s response to losing in the finals has been intense, and yet still upbeat.

The team just seems to have a fantastic attitude, and each new player they bring in just adds to it. That’s small thing, yeah? I think Smart has a lot to do with this as well. We’ll see, but it seems to be serving them well—and I think having fun is a good buffer against fatigue. But we’ll see.
 

HomeRunBaker

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Definitely agree that Luka is the "his team is so bad, imagine how bad they'd be without him" MVP.

I think the NBA (rightly) tends to award MVP to "super elite guy who takes a good team to championship level", however.

I think Luka absolutely could be the #1 guy on a title team, but it's theoretical for him right now.
Yeah it sounds dumb to criticize Luka. What would people say about Tatum if we removed Jaylen, Smart and Brogdon from the team? Put him out there in a starting lineup with Horford/Grant/White/Hauser and the Celtics are in the same spot Doncic’s Mavs are.
 

benhogan

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Yeah it sounds dumb to criticize Luka. What would people say about Tatum if we removed Jaylen, Smart and Brogdon from the team? Put him out there in a starting lineup with Horford/Grant/White/Hauser and the Celtics are in the same spot Doncic’s Mavs are.
It's really hard to criticize Luka after watching him yesterday. He's clearly the best offensive player/scorer in the NBA.

BUT if I was running the "Tatum for MVP" PR campaign, I'd point out Luka's bad defense and make innuendos about stat padding/ball hog tendencies (ie RWB MVP years). Why over a large sample size (his career) is his +/- (ON/OFF) per year so OK-ish? Maybe he exerts all his energy on offense and traffic cones it on D?

Players like Tatum, Curry, Jokic, Embiid, Giannis, LeBron, Durant, Dame, even Trae Young have substantially larger career +/- (ON/OFF) per year averages.

Anecdotally, Grant torched LD from the top yesterday with Luka giving him 4' of space. I can't remember Granite ever dribbling around anyone that easily for a layup. At some point, the defense has to count.

https://cleaningtheglass.com/stats/player/4432/onoff#tab-team_efficiency
 
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snowmanny

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I certainly wasn’t criticizing Luka. Just saying he has a different role (and lower quality teammates) than the other MVP candidates. His numbers will pop as a result. It’s tough to compare.
 

Jimbodandy

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Yeah it sounds dumb to criticize Luka. What would people say about Tatum if we removed Jaylen, Smart and Brogdon from the team? Put him out there in a starting lineup with Horford/Grant/White/Hauser and the Celtics are in the same spot Doncic’s Mavs are.
Yeah, except Jayson would be playing defense. It probably doesn't matter to voters, but it should.
 

HomeRunBaker

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I certainly wasn’t criticizing Luka. Just saying he has a different role (and lower quality teammates) than the other MVP candidates. His numbers will pop as a result. It’s tough to compare.
I didn’t mean to imply you or others here were criticizing Luka. It came out wrong.

Yeah, except Jayson would be playing defense. It probably doesn't matter to voters, but it should.
I hope so I have my Tatum MVP ticket sitting in my pocket (actually it’s in an electronic account lol).
 

Euclis20

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Yeah, except Jayson would be playing defense. It probably doesn't matter to voters, but it should.
I actually think in that scenario (where Tatum is the only player capable of creating his own offense), he'd be a pretty lackadaisical defender, only locking in at key moments. That's not necessarily a judgment on him as a player, when one guy is responsible for initiating and creating all of his team's offense, it's pretty natural to conserve energy defensively. Granted no one would ever pick on him (like they do constantly with luka), but I can't see Tatum playing like he does now (which is at a borderline all-NBA level defensively).
 
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Reverend

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Yeah it sounds dumb to criticize Luka. What would people say about Tatum if we removed Jaylen, Smart and Brogdon from the team? Put him out there in a starting lineup with Horford/Grant/White/Hauser and the Celtics are in the same spot Doncic’s Mavs are.
I know it’s not the point that you were making, but holy crap, how amazing is it that what you just described is basically the Celtics’ B-squad?