When I watched Tatum highlights from high school, I saw Gerald Henderson. When I watching him in college, I saw prime Danny Granger. When I watched him in summer league, I worried that his athleticism and strength would keep him back from being as good as Danny Granger.
But during the regular season against real NBA athletes and in Brad Stevens’ system, Tatum has looked like a really good athlete.
He has made a play like this every game for the Celtics. One night he dunks over Karl Anthony-Towns. Another night he blocks Frank Kaminsky’s 3. Another night he picks Wes Matthews pocket for a break-away dunk. Another night he closes a game in the 4th with a tomahawk slam after a one-dribble drive-by.
He looks all of 6’9” with a 7’4” wingspan. He looks like he has the body to (slowly) fill out to be at least 230 without losing athleticism. He has the quick first step to beat his man. He has back-to-the-basket moves. He has a high finish on his jumpshot that is impossible to block. He has the 3 point shooting. He has the ability to draw fouls.
My Outrageous, Green-Tinted, Best-case Scenario Ceiling Comparison: Kevin Durant
Through 43 games, Jayson Tatum is averaging
14 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, and 1 steal on 50-46-83 shooting splits.
Through 43 games, Rookie Durant averaged
19 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and 1 steal on 40-28-87 shooting splits.
The main difference is usage. Durant had the ball a lot more, which means his points were higher but his efficiency was lower. The other main difference is rebounding, which may be partially due to Durant playing guard his rookie year (PJ Carlesimo!).
But they play an almost identical game. They can drive with long strides to get to the basket quickly. They can post up with a variety of moves and fade-aways. They can shoot the 3. They can handle the ball. Their bodies are remarkably similar at the same stage. Both have a confidence, not cockiness, in their abilities. They are both calm in their demeanor. They both effect the game on both sides of the ball and know how to use their length defensively.
They took different paths in college to the pros, but Tatum is the closest thing I’ve seen to young Durant. I will hedge no bets. I will not take off my green-tinted glasses. Tatum’s ceiling is Kevin Durant!