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Jayson Tatum is taking better shots and shooting better

The Celtics sent a message to Jayson Tatum and he heard them loud and clear.

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NBA: Boston Celtics at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

A common complain early this season has been that the Celtics, and Jayson Tatum in particular, have taken way too many long (and often contested) 2 pointers. Which are pretty much the worst statistical shot you can take outside of halfcourt heaves.

It got to the point where he was benched to start the 2nd half of a game against Phoenix. Marcus Smart started the half in his place.

Ouch. Message sent, message recieved.

Most of the time effort is tied to defense (and there may have been an issue there as well). In this case it seemed like he was not making enough effort to drive into the lane to look for better shots than settling for a 20 footer with a hand in his face.

As Jay King points out, things have changed. He was shooting a 51.1% true shooting percentage through the first 11 games. He’s been shooting 60.8% since.

Since that night, Tatum has averaged 18.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game with stellar 60.8 percent true shooting. He has been everything the Celtics want him to be: a reliable second scoring option, a disruptive defender and a quality shot finder. Since drafting Tatum, the coaching staff has stressed to him the value of limiting contested midrange shots, but the message might have been lost early this season. It wasn’t lost for long.

“I wasn’t hitting shots,” Tatum said, “so it’s just easier to get to the rim.”

Let’s not get this too twisted. He’s still going to take midrange shots because he’s actually pretty good at them. The fact that he can get his shot off at any point is one of the reasons why he’s such an effective offensive player. There are going to be times, in particular as the shot clock is winding down, where the only shot the defense is going to give you is a contested midrange shot. In those moments, you need a Tatum (or Kyrie Irving) on your side to get buckets. In the aggregate, however, you want to minimize those as much as possible in favor of higher percentage looks.

So far, the message has gotten through to Jayson and he’s taking better shots. I think it may be safe to go back to being really excited about his present value to this team.

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