To be an effective scorer in the NBA, you need to get easy buckets. If you’re a big man, that could mean at-the-rim attempts in the restricted area. If you’re a perimeter shooter, open corner 3’s can be a sweet spot. But for wings and swingmen, aggressive drives that either lead to easy buckets or a trip to the free throw line can improve their efficiency.
In their first international friendly against Spain Friday night, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum showed Celtics fans what they have to look forward to next season. Both players were aggressive with the rock in their hands and cutting off ball. Combine, the Jays averaged only 5.6 free throw attempts between them; by comparison, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and James Harden went to the line more alone.
However, if you’ve been tracking their progress with USA Basketball’s training camp, you’ve seen a change in their mindset and game:
As bigger wings, they’re taking advantage of size mismatches off the dribble and driving hard into contact. Last night, Brown finished with nine points in just nine minutes on 4-for-5 shooting. Most of looks came when he aggressively attacked the paint:
Brown has always been an exceptional athlete, but in Year 3, he’ll look to weaponize his strength and hops to finish better around the rim and get to the charity stripe.
The revelation so far has been Jayson Tatum. Earlier this summer, his skills coach, Drew Hanlen, talked about Tatum’s need to make quicker decisions particularly with the ball in his hand and so far, we’re seeing that quick twitch bear fruit for Team USA.
More Tatum PnR. Being aggressive, getting downhill pic.twitter.com/f8KtvaDnjV— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) August 17, 2019
Tatum hitting Kuzma on the backdoor pic.twitter.com/fcuanv89EG— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) August 17, 2019
We didn’t see a lot of Tatum running as a ball handler in pick-and-rolls, but if he’s added playmaking skills to his repertoire, this really could be a bounce back season after a minor sophomore slump in 2018-2019. Tatum finished with 11 points and four assists, including this loud dunk and and-1 in the first half:
Kemba Walker also finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists as the de facto starting point guard. Per ESPN’s Ohm Youngmusik, USA Basketball will travel with all fourteen remaining players on their roster to Australia, including the injured Marcus Smart. During an in-game interview, Smart guaranteed that he’d be back in action in time for the FIBA World Cup starting in two weeks in China.