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Stiffs NBA Draft prospect watch: Jayson Tatum

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An intriguing scorer out of Duke

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-North Carolina vs Duke Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Stiffs will be covering the top prospects for the Denver Nuggets in the 2017 NBA Draft in our Stiffs Prospect Watch series. Check back daily for video, stats, and analysis of top first round prospects.

Jayson Tatum

Stats

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Field Goal % Three point % Free throw %
Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Field Goal % Three point % Free throw %
16.3 8.2 2.4 0.6 1.1 1.5 61.70% 46.60% 67.90%
T.J. Leaf statistics - ‘16-17

Strengths

Versatility

Tatum projects to be a versatile player on both ends of the court. On offense, he’s as comfortable in the low and mid post as he is out on the wing. He’s also got the ability to play the role of isolation scorer or playmaking facilitator although the latter can and should improve over time. Defensively, his length allows him to help further than most and still close out on shooters. He moves his feet like a guard on defense and has shown that he can be an interchangeable piece of a broader team defensive scheme. He probably isn’t going to be a team’s lockdown defender, but he will be a nice team defender and reliable individual defensive presence.

Scoring

Tatum is a scorer with incredible footwork for a 19 year old prospect. He ranked in the 99th percentile for post-up scoring, usually using a variety of finesse and power moves. He has a good mid-range jump shot and outside jump shot (especially when open) but most of his scoring comes from elite footwork and putting the ball on the floor. He will likely be a shot creator at the next level first and foremost and may become a go-to scoring option since he has the length to get a decent shot up against most defenders.

Physical tools

Tatum has a prototypical body for a modern NBA wing. He is 6’ 8” with a long, 6’ 11” wingspan, wide shoulders, long arms and legs, and moves like a guard. He is more of a smooth athlete than a power or explosive athlete but he still has some power and explosiveness in his game. In a lot of ways reminds me of WIlson Chandler, another 6’ 8” smooth wing player that has sneaky hops when necessary. Tatum will likely be able to play both forward positions right out of the gate and will likely develop into being too strong for smaller wings and too fast for bigger ones.

Work ethic

Tatum has a reputation as a focused, hard worker with a great attitude. He was clutch for Duke in his freshmen season. His footwork and shooting form show attention to detail which makes most scouts believe he will improve throughout his NBA career.

Weaknesses

Consistency

Like most “smooth” basketball players, Tatum wavers between looking engaged and looking unmotivated. The gap between his best defensive games and worst defensive games is quite large. This is likely due to his age and still figuring out the game but part of it might be hint at his broader mindset as a two-way player. His offensive polish is lghtyears ahead of his defensive polish. Given his reputation as a gym rat, he will have to focus more heavily on the defensive end as he enters the NBA.

Decision making as a playmaker

I’m not sold that Tatum has the talent to be a number one option which means he’ll either have to improve as an all-around playmaker or get designated as a bench scorer. He gets tunnel visioned on isolations. He has the height to be a great passer and the footwork to force double teams but his value will be heavily dependent on whether or not he can evolve into more of an all-around type playmaker and less of an isolation scorer.

A tad “old school”

Tatum’s favorite scoring options are one-dribble mid-range pull ups and isolation post ups. Those types of plays still have value in the NBA, but they should be used more as a supplemental tool, and not the go-to offense. Tatum’s outside shooting beyond the mid-range was hot and cold, mostly cold under pressure. He seems more comfortable shooting on step backs and off the dribble. My biggest concern with him is that he will follow the Carmelo Anthony path and continue to hone those old school skills rather than improve other parts of his game and lean on those isolation type plays later in games and down the stretch.

Fit with the Nuggets

Looking at the Nuggets young core of players, the two positions they need most are the two forward positions. They may also need isolation scoring from those positions. Tatum has the size and skill set to fit right beside Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, and Jamal Murray and could even pair with Juancho Hernangomez in the front court. That being said, his isolation tendencies could detract from the pace and space, rapid ball-movement that the Jokic-led offense relies upon.

Projected draft spot

SB Nation - 6

Draft Express - 5

Sporting News -

CBS Sports - 4 (Forgrave), 4 (Parish)

Final thoughts

Tatum really reminds me of guys like T.J. Warren and Wilson Chandler in more ways than one. I think his fit in the NBA projects to be a 6th man, multi-tool scorer and reliable (but maybe not elite) defender. He’s way too in love with the most inefficient types of shots but he’s also pretty good at knocking those shots down. The issue will be that he must develp better playmaking skills at the next level. Those types of skills are the most difficult to project since you can’t necessarily get into a gym and work on your playmaking. Creating for others requires feel, basketball IQ, and an assortment of skills like touch, passing, etc.

Ultimately, I like Tatum and think his floor is pretty high, but I am less sold on his ceiling. Seeing as how he is projected to go in the top 6 or 7, I don’t think Denver has a realistic shot at him and I don’t think they should try to move up to get him.