Jayson Tatum: The rookie who is playing like a veteran
Danny Ainge had a feeling about Jayson Tatum. After just three weeks into the season, it's looking more and more like he was right.
Tatum, the most talented of Boston's crop of rookies, tore it up in summer league and preseason. He started in his first ever game as a pro against LeBron James and the Cavs. Ever since, the 19-year-old has played like a seasoned veteran, providing reliable shooting all over the court to help the Celtics run to a league-best 9-2 record.
The one-and-done product out of Duke was one of the most NBA-ready players in the 2017 draft class. His great size and instincts combined with his polished shooting and scoring ability made him a highly sought-after recruit, especially for teams who wanted a player who could contribute at the NBA level right away. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense that Boston would be eager to snatch Tatum up. Yet, I don't think anyone expected the teenager to have such a big impact this early into the year.
What Tatum has provided through 11 games is everything that the Celtics wanted and more. Much more.
When Hayward went down, it was largely on the young guys to step up. Tatum has filled that void beautifully, supplying the Celtics with legitimate perimeter shooting and agile defending. While he has impressed in a number of areas, what stands out most has been his shooting, particularly from three-point land:
Jayson Tatum is shooting 18 for 34 (52.9 percent) from behind the arc. Also at 50 percent from the field, 82.2 percent from the line.
The St. Louis native has knocked down 18 treys on 34 attempts so far this year. That is a super-effective mark of 52.9% from the perimeter, and almost no other players are matching it right now.
Chicago's Lauri Markkanen (22 threes) is the only rookie who has made more three-pointers than Tatum, and Donovan Mitchell is tied with 18 total makes for Utah. However, Tatum is shooting at least 15% better than both of them from that range. In fact, Tatum is shooting better from downtown than any other eligible rookie.
Tatum's sharpshooting isn't just impressive amongst the newbies, though. Of all NBA players who average at least three shots from behind the arc per game, Tatum is the third most accurate in the league. He is currently only trailing Aaron Gordon (55.9%) and CJ McCollum (54.7%). In other words, only two players in all of the association are making as many threes at a higher percentage as Tatum. That is absolutely incredible for a rookie this early in the season!
The rook has stepped up to the plate in a big way. He is playing as if he's played in 500 NBA games, not 11. I mean, look at this isolation basket against the Thunder the other day: