One constant that has steadied the Celtics throughout this unique season is the continued rise of Jayson Tatum. With his co-All-Star Jaylen Brown, he has led the Celtics through a rocky season. It has been remarkable seeing Tatum’s progression through this league. This year he has again stepped it up on the offensive end showing that he can score from anywhere on the court.
During his first year or so, Jayson Tatum focused on the most comfortable shots in his repertoire. It was crafting his mid-range pull-up game at the NBA level. It occasionally maddened Celtics fans as he was not developing other, more efficient shots in his game. Then, over more time, it was focusing on attacking the rim at a high level (which is still a work in progress).
Now, we see him now creating any shot he wants and showing off his now patented side-step three pointer which has dazzled people around the NBA community. These three aspects of his offensive game have taken him to a whole new level this season and earned him his second All-Star Game appearance.
Physical Drives to the Rim
One of the biggest criticisms of Jayson Tatum’s game has come with his finishing around the rim. It was an argument against him when he always settled for the mid-range jumper over a bulldozing drive to the basket. Fortunately, he has worked on some of these negatives and increased his free throw attempts over the past two seasons compared to his first two years. He is at a career-high 5.0 free throw attempts per game this season and quite a jump from his 2.9 attempts per game from his sophomore season in the league. However, some would say he still could push that a little higher.
No matter the worry, Tatum has still excelled this season using that physicality to get himself to the rim. He is bullying his 6’8” frame into situations for easier shots than the fall away two. This has defenders off-balanced not knowing whether to sit back and protect the paint or guard his step back jumper.
Both of these clips show that hard-nosed drive to the rim that he has improved on. Tatum sees either the situation on the clock against the Wizards or the mismatch on Kevin Huerter.
The mid-range jumper is one of the staples of Jayson Tatum’s game as mentioned earlier. He came into the NBA with this skill of finding the elbow and knocking down the shot. Of course, this started as a worry if he could create other shots, but now the mid-range has become the ol’ reliable in his shot selection.
However, it may not always prove to be the best idea; this season he is only shooting 41.4% from mid-range according to NBA.com. Not an ideal percentage, but better compared to 38.3% mid-range shooting from 2020.
Whenever he gets off to a bumpy start, it is always notable that he starts trending back to his 15-20 footers to attempt to get a rhythm going. There is a lot of room for improvement, but it is also why these are still not the most efficient shots in the game. Tatum goes back to these as a one-on-one comfort. Getting to those points on the court are critical for his shot making.
Players have the shots they are most comfortable, and this is for sure Tatum’s shot. He just adjusts and cruises by defenders to find his shooting motion. Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris have no chance to recover and stop him from the elbow jumper. It is his bread and butter, and it is just another offensive weapon to use with his game.
Sidestep Jump Shot
The biggest and most notable part to Jayson Tatum’s game is his new and perfected sidestep jump shot. Whenever Tatum is in isolation and needs to create a shot, he pulls this out of thin air and finds separation from the defender. Usually this happens on a three-point attempt, but it can occur at any part of the court.
Last year was when Tatum first started putting this in his arsenal. It was shaky to say the least, but the framework was there for him to build on. This sidestep jump shot has now become his signature shot.
This is just peak isolation basketball with a trusted All-Star with the ball in his hands. Even though every person watching this play knows Jayson Tatum is taking the shot, he is still able to create the room to get a smooth release and shot over the defender. The first clip it is in a do-or-die point in the game with Josh Hart pressuring the ball, but then the next is over one of the best defensive centers in the league, Rudy Gobert. No matter what the situation is, Tatum rears back, stutter steps in keeping the dribble, and then side steps getting the separation he needs. Such a delight to watch.
Jayson Tatum, like the Celtics, has also had his ups and downs this season. He is readjusting with the unnatural season and coming off having COVID-19 earlier in the year. However, even through all of that, he has taken his game to yet another level with his shot making. The Celtics are lucky to have him, and it will just that much more exciting to watch him continue to grow as a superstar.