Pregame Post-Ups: Tatum's Long-Range Growth is Dazzling Coaches

Sunday, Dec. 10 - Celtics at Pistons

Pregame – Tatum Dazzling Coaches with Long-Range Development

DETROIT – Boston Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum has taken the league by storm this season, but his early impact has not surprised Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy, whose Pistons host the C’s this afternoon at Little Caesars Arena. That’s because Van Gundy believed this past June that Tatum was “the best prospect in the (2017) Draft.”

The crazy thing is that the veteran coach held that belief before knowing how great of a 3-point shooter Tatum would become. Surely, no coach could’ve predicted that Tatum, a 34.2 percent 3-point shooter in college, would develop into the most efficient long-range marksman in the league (51.8 percent) during his first NBA season.

“Everything else was there,” Van Gundy said, backing up his initial belief, “but anybody who says they’re not surprised by his 3-point shooting based on what he did in college is lying.”

Even Celtics coach Brad Stevens had no idea that the 19-year-old wing could turn into an elite 3-point shooter, especially this quickly.

“There’s only so many people that shoot it at that level, right?” Stevens pondered ahead of tip-off. “Even though he’s shooting it great, obviously that level is reserved for great, great shooters. So yeah, you wouldn’t predict that with any young guy.”

With that being said, the Celtics basketball operations staff did believe that Tatum would be a better 3-point shooter than he was in college. They saw how great his midrange game was during his lone season at Duke, so they made it a point this summer to help him extend his range

“He still can play in the mid-range; we still want him to take good mid-range shots,” said Stevens. “But we have tried to make it an emphasis to not hesitate to shoot it (from 3). He’s so tall that on the catch he can get that shot off, and probably his inclination has been to fake it and drive it. But he shoots it with such ease and feels good every time he shoots it.”

The scary thing to Van Gundy is that Tatum's long-range ability is just one of many great skills he possesses.

“His ability to put the ball on the floor and get shots, he’s got a real poise to him,” said Van Gundy. “He’s better defensively than people think. He’s long. He’s really, really good. And I’m sorry that he’s [in Boston] for the next however many years.”

Van Gundy is surely not alone in that belief among NBA head coaches. Tatum, with his elite, long-range shooting ability and variety of ways to score, should be a nightmare for opposing teams for years to come.

- Taylor Snow