Do me a favor, close your eyes. If I were to ask you to envision the perfect offseason program for Jayson Tatum and what you want him to work on this summer, what do you see? My guess is some combination of these three things (if not all three)
1. Finishing through contact
2. Decision making/turnovers
Coming off a pretty disastrous NBA Finals where you could make the case if he was simply slightly below average the Celts are walking away with their 18th title, there were parts of Tatum's game that were exposed. Even with all his minutes and potential shoulder issues, the Warriors defensive scheme exposed some areas where Tatum needs to improve. It's OK to say that, it's not really that hot a take. I've tried my best to erase these numbers from my brain, but they're relevant for this blog so let's go through them again.
In the NBA Finals, Jayson Tatum shot….
- 52.9% in the restricted area
- 25% in the paint (non-restricted)
- 26.1% in the midrange
His issues in those zones heavily impacted the Celts overall offensive production which was their main issue of the Finals. The defense did their job, but they couldn't score. Even when you take a step back and look at the larger sample of the regular season in those zones because maybe you think the Finals is too small of a sample, here's that data
- 68% in the restricted area
- 40% in the paint (non-restricted)
- 37% in the midrange
Not the best. Especially for someone with such a high usage and whose scoring is so important. We know Tatum can make any shot and when he's going he's virtually impossible to guard. We're still waiting for the efficiency piece to show up with any level of consistency. So why am I even writing this blog? Well we got an answer as to what Drew Hanlen has on the docket for Tatum this summer and it is the very definition of music to all of our ears
When it comes to "pull ups", that type of shot accounts for 40.5% of Tatum's offensive usage. Overall, he shot just 35.2% on pullups (38% on 2pt and 33.4% on 3PA). On shots less than 10ft, he shot just 58.6%. In this season's entire playoff run, he shot 32.8% on pullups and 49.2% on shots 10ft or closer. You can see why Hanlen is making these two areas a big part of the offseason plan. For Tatum to take that next step, the midrange/pullup game is the next weapon he needs to add. Think of the really good wings like KD, Kawhi, Jaylen, DeRozan, George, Ingram etc. Here's how those guys operated from the midrange zone this past season
KD - 55.5%
Kawhi - N/A (44.7% in 2020-21)
Jaylen - 45.9%
Booker - 46.9%
DeRozan - 47.0%
George - 42.5%
Ingram - 46.6%
Given Tatum's size and length, if he's able to take real steps forward in that zone it's going to make him even more devastating offensively. Right now, you can sort of bait Tatum into taking the midrange and more often than not it works out. Part of Tatum's improvement here will be finding ways to move away from that falling fadeaway. You know what shot I'm talking about. It's the jumper where once the drive is cut off he spins and leaves it super short while fading on one leg. Having a more developed pull up/midrange game should help with that. Now instead of going into the spin/fade, just pull up and take the jumper.
The finishing through contact part is also very encouraging. That is not something I would say Tatum did effectively throughout the Finals. We see Tatum be aggressive in his initial approach where he drives to the rim, but once he gets into traffic too often does he try to move away from contact as opposed to through it. Obviously, not everyone can be fucking Giannis where you simply just dunk through people regardless of who they are, but a big part of why I think Tatum struggles in that area and on those plays is because he's moving away from contact. More times we see him looking to be bailed out (which rarely happens) than going strong all the way through. So how can that get better? Continuing to get stronger, learning how to better absorb contact and finish, and most importantly making the mental decision to embrace the contact as opposed to shying away from it.
You can do all the training you want, put on all the muscle you want, and work on your body control all you want, but unless you have the mindset of looking for contact and embracing it, none of that really matters. Just look at this past season. Tatum's body continued to improve, but the mindset and approach weren't quite there yet when it came to consistently playing through contact. Compare his approach on drives to someone like, Jimmy Butler. Jimmy Butler LOVES contact. He craves contact. Of all the stars who we see flop and get bailed out by Tony Brothers on drives, I feel like 95% of Butler's fouls on drives are actual fouls because he knows how to attract and finish through contact. That's the mentality I want to see Tatum come back with in October.
Every year we see both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum come back with something new in their game. It's one of the best parts of having BOTH of them on the roster. They aren't even close to being finished products and look at how good they already are. With Jaylen, it's the handle/playmaking/decision making that I want to see improve. With Tatum, it's exactly what Drew Hanlen has on the docket. You combine improvement in those areas from those two players combined with the roster moves Brad has made so far this summer, and yeah I'm going to need it to be October immediately.