2018 Awards Series Sharpshooter: Jayson Tatum
It’s awards season at Celtics.com! We’re handing out six awards over the next few weeks as we roll through this year’s Celtics.com Awards Series. We may not have trophies or acceptance speeches, but we do have some top-flight Celtics performances to outline. Here we go...
BOSTON – Long-range shooting was not considered to be one of Jayson Tatum’s specialties in college. During his lone season at Duke, the 6-foot-8 forward connected on 40 of his 117 attempts for a 34.2 percent clip, while thriving mostly from midrange.
Once he got to the pros, however, something suddenly clicked for Tatum beyond the arc. Three-pointers started falling at a record-breaking pace, and at just 19 years old, he quickly became one of the feared shooters in the game.
By season’s end, he was a shoo-in for our Sharpshooter of the Year award.
Tatum wasted no time in his transition to the NBA 3-point line. Through his first 10 games, he connected on 15-of-29 long-range attempts for an eye-popping 51.7 percent clip.
The sudden surge was turning heads around the league, but Tatum was not surprised by his start because he had been persistently grinding away to improve that area of his game.
“I worked on it day-in and day-out, trying to get drafted as high as possible,” Tatum said after an early-season win against the Milwaukee Bucks. “I was working on the things that people said I couldn’t do well and shooting 3s was one of them.”
Some pundits thought it was beginners luck, but Tatum’s rate didn’t drop at all through the first two months of the season. By Game 33, he was still shooting 51.5 percent from deep – good enough to lead the entire league.
Tatum experienced a slight midseason dip, but never quite hit the “rookie wall.” He finished off the campaign with a team-leading and franchise record 3-point clip of 43.4 percent, while also establishing a Celtics rookie mark with 105 3-point makes.
Tatum’s long-range percentage was also the fourth-highest rookie mark in NBA history among players who made at least 100 treys, placing him behind D.J. Augustin, Stephen Curry and Wesley Person.
Certainly, it was one of the greatest transitions a player has ever made from college to the pros.
With that being said, Tatum’s teammates and coaches saw from the beginning how great of a shooter he could become because of his prowess from midrange. They just had to convince him to step back a few feet and help him build the confidence to let it fly from beyond the arc.
“We would play pick-up games in September and he was just abusing people in the midrange,” said veteran teammate Al Horford. “He’d just post the ball, shake and raise, and all that. But I think coach was kind of like, ‘No, we want you to get out there and shoot the 3s and save those (midrange shots) for end-of-the-clock-type shots.’”
That advice paid off, and Tatum went to have one of the greatest rookie shooting seasons in NBA history.
The scary thing is, C's coach Brad Stevens believes Tatum’s development in that area is just beginning.
“For a guy with his frame, he shoots it effortless,” said Stevens. “I mean, he’s going to be able to shoot it deeper, and he’s going to be able to make it off running once he gets a little bit stronger, more used to it, and everything else. He’s going to be a heck of a shooter.”
In one season, Tatum has already established himself as a heck of a shooter, and a record-breaking one at that. And that’s why he’s our Sharpshooter of the Year.