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Jayson Tatum Scouting Report


Jayson Tatum had somewhat of an up and down season in his one year at Duke.

The six-foot-eight combo forward started the season injured, missing the first couple of months with a foot strain, but Duke managed to survive his absence just fine thanks to Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen fueling a furious drive-and-kick attack.

When he returned, Tatum had some trouble fitting into that identity and played primarily as a pure post up scorer in his first few games back, acting mostly outside the ecosystem on slower-developing plays.

As the season went on, Duke incorporated Tatum into its drive-and-kick sequences a bit more but it never quite looked as good as it did when Kennard and Allen were leading the charge earlier in the year, which was crucial in order to make up for its problems on other end. Consequently, the team lost four of its first seven conference games.

Nonetheless, as Allen dealt with his unsportsmanlike conduct suspension and had his role within the team diminished as the season winded down, Duke evolved into a team who still ran plenty of motion but looked to get Tatum the ball in his spots even more regularly and he led the team in usage rate during conference play.

As Tatum got healthier and got going, averaging 19.2 points per 40 minutes against ACC competition, Duke righted the ship, eventually finishing the season with 11 wins in 18 conference games and winning the conference tournament in Brooklyn.

Duke went down in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, losing to eventual Final Four participant South Carolina, but Tatum did his part, finishing that game with 15 points on 12 shots in 34 minutes.

Overall, he impressed last season and solidified his status as a top five prospect, as Draft Express currently ranks him fourth in its top 100.

However, Tatum didn’t show a lot of improvement in terms of playing in more of a team-oriented manner. And considering he played on a team with a good deal of talent around him and within a well-structured offense that emphasized the sort of ball movement and people movement that the NBA is looking for these days, the fact that Tatum didn’t prove to be a natural fit is a cause for concern.

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Jayson Tatum Scouting Report

Tatum started the season injured and was a bit underwhelming in his first couple of months back, as a part of a Duke team that lost four of its first seven ACC games. But as Duke righted the ship, subsequently going on a seven-game winning streak and finishing the season with 11 wins in 18 conference games, Tatum went back to looking like a top five pick.

(Check the rest of the post at RealGM)

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Jayson Tatum Scouting Report


Jayson Tatum missed the first month of the season due to a foot strain and his return was supposed to make Duke a juggernaut. But as is often the case in basketball, once you change one factor, the entire equation changes. That fluid drive-and-kick attack from earlier in the season has been altered to incorporate Tatum’s slower-developing style of play.

This occurrence has led to some concerns over whether the nature of his game is too individualistic to succeed in the ball movement era.

Tatum remains, nonetheless, highly thought of due to his overall skill package. Draft Express currently ranks him sixth in its 2017 board.


Tatum’s most impressive development so far has been his defense. When I profiled him in August, I wrote of him as a “whatever” defender; someone who puts in decent effort but didn’t make much of an impact.

So far, I’ve been proven wrong. Tatum is showing himself to be a very versatile defender, currently posting the lowest defensive rating on the team – according to basketball-reference. Duke has switched very aggressively over the last couple of games against Elon and Virginia Tech and he has been a plausible asset picking up smaller players at the top of their set defense.

He can bend his knees to get low in a stance and has worked hard to move his feet. These opponents have not stressed him into ball-screens and his six-foot-eight, 204-pound frame suggests he should struggle against those but Tatum has shown adequate lateral quickness to stay in front in isolation and has used his reach (six-foot-11 wingspan) to pick the pockets of these opponents, as he’s averaged 2.3 steals per 40 minutes.

Tatum stays in a stance off the ball and remains focused, cutting off a couple backdoor cut attempts in impressive fashion for someone his age. He’s been attentive to his rotation responsibilities and made plays at the basket. Tatum is not an explosive leaper but has used his eight-foot-10 standing reach to contribute in rim protection, as he’s averaged 2.5 blocks per 40 minutes and collected 21% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor.


In his first few games back, specifically against Florida and UNLV, Tatum was used a pure old school power forward; with all of his offense coming below the foul line – at the elbows and in the low post. And in these areas, he excels.

Tatum has a well developed short-range game for an 18-year-old. He can get a seal against just about anyone in his age group and has shown a lot of patience operating with his back to the basket. His footwork is pretty fluid and the touch in his shot is excellent. Tatum often looks for a turnaround jumper but can also counter with a hook over the defender’s left shoulder.

He can get by his man on short straight line drives from the elbow to the goal and finish through contact. Tatum is not an explosive leaper out of one foot and hasn’t yet shown the ability to adjust his body in the air for reverse finishes around length like he did in high school but hasn’t had much trouble producing at the basket at the collegiate level either. According to hoop-math, he’s converted 16 of his 27 shots at the rim and averaged seven foul shots per 40 minutes.

As a corner shooter, Tatum is a credible threat. His release is not lightning quick but he’s proven able to get his shot off before the closeout, though that’s something he’ll obviously need to continue working on since those closeouts are a lot faster in the pros.


In the last couple of games, Tatum has played more of a perimeter-oriented game. Against Elon, Duke involved him some more in their drive-and-kick sequences and even used him as a screener on a couple of pick-and-pops. Then midway through that game and throughout the entire game against Virginia Tech, Tatum assumed more ball-handling responsibility due to Grayson Allen’s absence. He took 36 shots in these last two appearances, which boosted his usage rate up to 29% – a team high.

Tatum can’t get by his man on speed any better than he did high school and relies on his dribble moves (crossover, in-and-out dribble, spin) to get separation to launch from mid-range in isolation. He was able to make these tough shots in the past but has been cold so far, missing 22 of his 31 two-point jumpers.

Tatum also did better in lower levels creating out of the pick-and-roll but that’s yet to be seen at Duke. When he’s gotten a ball-screen, Tatum has mostly looked to take step-in three-pointers instead of seeking for opportunities to penetrate off the dribble, though it’s fair to point Duke’s spacing wasn’t as great against Virginia Tech with Allen out and Matt Jones going through a cold streak.

Nonetheless, he’s got just one unassisted make from beyond the arc[1] so far and his 12.5% assist-rate is mostly a result of Duke’s ecosystem, where every extra pass around the horn can become an assist opportunity, rather than any real substance he’s created for others out of dribble penetration.

[1] Iffy shot selection has tanked his three-point percentage to .300.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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Jayson Tatum Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor.)


Jayson Tatum is currently the top wing on the board, according to Draft Express. In a typical class, he would be under strong consideration for entering the season as the top prospect overall. Yet on this one, he’s probably the least publicized teenager in the top five.

ESPN ranked him third in his high school class after what was an extremely productive season. Tatum was part of the United States Junior National Team that won the 2015 FIBA World Championships U19 in Greece, led the Saint Louis Eagles to a title at the Nike EYBL Circuit and subsequently carried Chaminade to its second ever state championship in Missouri.

Possessing a well developed frame for someone his age and a crafty style of play that does not shy away from contact, Tatum is the rare teenager who could probably be put in an NBA game right now and hold his own from a physical-standpoint.


The biggest appeal regarding Tatum’s skill-set is his ability to handle the ball and create shots against a set defense.

His handle is only OK, as he’s prone to getting the ball stripped in traffic, turning it over on average five times per 40 minutes in the 2015 EYBL circuit – according to stats researched at

But he’s proven himself a willing passer on the move and flashed some intriguing court vision to make crosscourt passes across his body out of middle pick-and-roll and high-low-type passes to big men diving to the basket diagonally on side pick-and-roll, assisting on 17% of the United States’ scores when he was on the floor at the Worlds U19 – per RealGM, and averaging 3.9 assists per 40 minutes in AAU ball.

What Tatum does best at this point of his development, however, is creating for himself. He reads the two defenders involved in the two-man game fairly well in terms of whether using or declining the ball-screen gives him the better path to the basket.

At the rim, Tatum lacks superior athleticism to finish with explosiveness but has shown phenomenal ability to adjust his body in the air and great touch on non-dunk finishes around length. His 204-pound frame also invited plenty of contact in the junior ranks, earning him 13.9 foul shots per 40 minutes in last year’s EYBL circuit.

Without the aid of a screen, Tatum often struggles to get all the way to the basket off the bounce. He is unable to stop-and-start and just blow by his man.

But Tatum has a few dribble moves to create separation; an in-and-out dribble, the ability to go side-to-side and a well coordinated spin move. He can maintain his balance through contact, stop on a dime, step back and pull up in rhythm, elevating with pretty good balance, fading away some to get his shot off more comfortably. He has already proven himself an above average shooter off the dribble, even flashing some three-point range on one-dribble pull-ups.


Playing a little more as a weak-side threat with the United States Junior National Team, which relied more heavily on Jaylen Brunson’s work in high pick-and-roll and post ups by their centers in the half-court, Tatum was less impressive.

He is a capable open shot shooter off the catch on spot-ups at this point of his development but only that. Tatum sets a wide base, which makes it difficult for him to release quickly before the opponent contests his shot effectively. It also prevents him from being the sort of shooter who works off screens, sets his feet quickly and lets it fly.

Sometimes reluctant to pull the trigger, Tatum hit four of only 10 three-point shots in seven appearances at the Worlds U19 and missed 21 of his 25 such attempts in 25 games with the Saint Louis Eagles in the EYBL circuit a summer ago.


Tatum has shown to be a reasonably average team defender, if not necessarily one with a lot of potential to be an impact player on that end.

He gets on a stance and showed lateral quickness to stay in front of dribble drivers of a similar physical profile and uses his six-foot-11 wingspan to make plays in the passing lanes from time to time but struggles navigating over ball-screens, suggesting he is probably not built to pick up smaller players on switches regularly.

Tatum has proven himself able to boxout bigger players, offering some flexibility to be moved up a position on smallball lineups, but his contributions through blocks and defensive rebounds have been about average, so that option shouldn’t be without consequences.

For the most part, he’s a weak-side defender who rotates inside to take up space and crowd driving lanes but lacks the athleticism to make plays at the rim or run shooters off the three-point line on closeouts.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara