Tatum's Lean Strength Reminds His Coach of an All-Time Great

WALTHAM, Mass. – There’s more than what meets the eye when it comes to Jayson Tatum and his wiry, 20-year-old frame.

He’s stronger than he looks, and he’s as mature as it gets.

Tatum, on the cusp of his first NBA playoff game Sunday afternoon against Milwaukee, has shown throughout his rookie season that his frame is not a detriment to his impact on the court. Instead, it is a sneaky strength.

The rookie forward, who, as he told Celtics.com, has bulked up from 203 pounds to 210 pounds since he was drafted, has regularly powered his way to the basket and finished through contact this season. Tatum has played with the strength of a 225-pounder, even though he is currently well short of that weight. Such power gives him a deceptive advantage against opponents when he takes the court.

“I think he’ll continue to get stronger as the years go on,” Brad Stevens said Saturday morning, “but I think he also – his strength is underestimated now.

“I think the way that he can drive through contact, he can get low on the dribble, he’s tough, he’s competitive … The physicality of the league, he’s been able to play through.”

Such abilities, coupled with Tatum’s body makeup, remind assistant coach Jerome Allen of some stars he faced during his days in the NBA in the mid-1990s.

“I think he has that long, wiry strength, like a Scottie Pippen or an Eddie Jones,” Allen commented. “Guys who were long and had lean muscle, but were strong.”

A more modern example is a superstar who will be on the opposing sideline come Sunday afternoon: Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Greek Freak, as he is often called, weighed only 196 pounds when he was selected 15th overall by the Bucks during the 2013 NBA Draft, according to draftexpress.com. He was measured at 6-foot-9, one inch taller than Tatum.

Fast-forward to today, nearly five years later, and Antetokounmpo is listed at 222 pounds – a spike of 26 pounds and 13.3 percent in overall body weight.

Tatum, meanwhile, has already gained seven pounds in less than a year’s time, and he’s only 12 pounds away from Antetokounmpo’s listed playing weight. A few years from now, Tatum may also have developed a reputation as a long, strong and rangy player who, like Antetokounmpo, was once viewed as only wiry and weak.

Strength and power are just two catalysts of Tatum’s impressively successful rookie campaign. Another ingredient, and one which may lead to him being even better during the postseason, is his poised demeanor.

Tatum is as cool, calm and collected as they come, and this was apparent to the Celtics from the moment they worked him out prior to the Draft. Allen, while acting as Boston’s head coach during Summer League in July, called Tatum an “old soul.” The coach elaborated on what he meant by that comment when he spoke Saturday afternoon to Celtics.com.

“Never too high, never too low. Same demeanor. Same posture,” he said of Tatum’s demeanor. “You can never really get a read on whether there’s an emotional toll being taken on him or not. He just plays the game like he’s been here before.”

Tatum believes that the manner in which he carries himself is vital to being successful during the Playoffs.

“It’s the biggest stage, and you’ve got to stay composed out there,” he said. “There’s going to be some tough moments, but as long as you keep your composure and understand it’s basketball at the end of the day, you’ll be fine.”

That’s no normal 20-year-old speaking. That’s a 20-year-old with an old soul.

Tatum is mature beyond his years, with strength beyond his size.