Trade season is the best. Second round picks flying around more cities than Taylor Swift. Woj and Shams dueling to see who can break the next trade featuring a dude who will immediately be bought out. It’s just lots of fun and you should definitely check out the First to the Floor livestream where we enjoyed every second of it. I’m going to talk about the two newest Celtics, but first, Jayson Tatum rekindles an old flame.
Stat of the Week: 40.7%
I remember the winter of 2019-20 very fondly. It was a time before I was introduced to COVID and the consistent neck pain that would become a staple of my mid-30s. It’s also when Jayson Tatum went from budding young star to budding young superstar, punctuated by him eviscerating the Clippers.
Less than a month later, the season was suspended due to COVID, which gave LeBron and AD enough time to get healthy and win a fake title at Disney World during the bubble (I’m not bitter).
The foundation of Tatum’s early success can be attributed to several factors, but one of them was undoubtedly a newfound weapon in the pull-up jumper. He shot 40.7% on 4.7 pull-up threes a game that year — that’s insane. For comparison, Steph Curry, the greatest pull-up shooter of all-time (and it’s not particularly close), shot 45% on them last season. Tatum wasn’t Curry that year, but he wasn’t that far off either.
And then, like my son trying his best to eat an ice cream on a cone, the pull-up jumper started to drip away. From 38.5% in the cursed 2020-21 season, down to 35.1% in 21-22, with the nadir being last season at 35%. Still good, but not a defense-bending weapon.
Well, since January 1, the pull-up is all the way back. He’s shooting 40.7% on all pull-up 3s since the start of the new year. That’s superstar stuff, but it also begs the discussion about pull-ups in general. It’s not great offense, usually. Yes, if a team is in deep drop against Tatum pick-and-rolls, he needs to have that shot in the bag, but he’s also been one of the most efficient post players in the league. He’s also capable of shouldering an entire offense when he’s aggressive attacking the rim and kicking out when help comes. Tatum rediscovering the pull-up is extremely important, but him knowing when to go to it is even more so.
X(avier Tillman)s and OOOhhhhssss: X gon’ give it to you(r best players)
A heading that roles off the tongue and isn’t awkward to read at all. Recently, I praised Luke Kornet for his ability to play within the offense and make correct decisions. It’s a way for a non-threatening offensive big man to make a positive impact on that end. Newly-acquired Xavier Tillman possesses the same skillset in a shorter, wider body.
Tillman isn’t a positive offensive player, sitting at an abysmal TS% of 44% this year (which is way down from last year and definitely a function of the team around him), but he knows how to play and knows his role. He’s averaging 2.9 assists per 36 minutes in a low usage role surrounded by G-Leaguers and dudes who still can’t buy a beer at the bar. It’s an impressive number given the context.
He’s comfortable with making multiple decisions on the same possession and making reads out of the handoff game. He drops a nice dime to a cutter here after taking a dribble.
Or here where he works with Desmond Bane and then floats into the open space so Bane can’t be trapped.
He’s never going to blow you away on the offensive end. He’s not a huge leaper rolling to the rim like Rob Williams or a pick and pop threat like Al Horford. But his decision-making will shine in this Celtics offense, where he can leverage the attention of the Jays to make the right play. He pops up in the right spots and is a steady outlet when his teammates draw help and doubles.
He’s going to find the Jays, and it’s going to look very pretty when he does, and I can’t wait to watch Tillman slowly develop his X-Jay vision.
I refuse to end this part on such a terrible jok,e so here’s one more play out of context.
Non-basketball Stuff of the Week: Jaden Springer and sticking in the NBA
Jaden Springer hasn’t exactly sprung (sorry) into the NBA. He’s had to pay his dues. He’s worked his way from the G-League, playing well enough to parlay that into what we thought was a deep bench spot on the Sixers. And now, somewhat inexplicably, he’s a Celtic.
I won’t sit here and pretend I’ve watched every minute of Springer’s career, but I was a fan of him during his draft and have seen him in spurts playing for the Sixers. One thing jumps out: that dude really, really cares about winning. There are a lot of question marks about Springer’s game, but tenacity and effort are not among them. He’s much closer to Aaron Nesmith than he is Romeo Langford when it comes to desire.
I don’t know how this Springer trade will turn out, and honestly it doesn’t matter all that much given how little the Cs gave up, but I know Springer will make the absolute most of it. He’s not the clean offensive fit that Pritchard is, but he’s got a lot more talent and upside than most 4th guards in the league. Brad’s gamble on Springer might not work, but it won’t be for lack of trying.