Boston Celtics: 5 goals for Jayson Tatum’s rookie season

Boston Celtics

Jun 22, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Jayson Tatum (Duke) is introduced as the number three overall pick to the Boston Celtics in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jayson Tatum appears to possess all of the tools that can make him a very good NBA player for the Boston Celtics. What are the five goals that he should have for his rookie season?

Lacking a scorer on the wing, the Boston Celtics passed by Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball to select Jayson Tatum in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Tatum is a versatile 6’8″ scorer out of Duke. He has a very polished post game in which he can score off a variety of ways including step-backs, spin moves and fade away jumpers.

Tatum also excels at rebounding, he averaged 7.3 rebounds per game in 33.3 minutes for Duke. When sent to the free throw line, he converted on 84.9 percent of his attempts.

Jayson Tatum’s scoring ability and work ethic should take him far in his NBA career. Head coach Brad Stevens explained how excited he was to bring Tatum on board, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England.

“He’s a really skilled player, really talented scorer. Great kid, great work ethic. We’re excited to have him aboard.”

Indeed, Jayson is a very skilled player, and he should only improve as he gains more experience. Like every other draft pick, Tatum has areas in his game that need a little improvement.

Here are the five goals that Jayson Tatum should set for his rookie season.

Mar 17, 2017; Greenville, SC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) and Troy Trojans forward Jordon Varnado (23) go for a loose ball during the first half in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

5. Work on ball-handling

Tatum is a versatile player. He can shoot, score in the post, and play both forward positions. One area that he doesn’t seem to be very proficient is his ball-handling. He tends to stand tall and dribble high, leaving the ball exposed.

It’s hard to tell whether Tatum will best fit at the small or power forward position. If the Celtics play Tatum at small forward, he must improve his ball handling skills in order to create open looks for himself. Tatum isn’t the most explosive athlete, so he will need to improve his handles in order to blow by elite NBA wing defenders.

Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving have shown us that a player doesn’t have to possess elite athleticism to beat his opponent off of the dribble. The great news is that ball-handling ability isn’t a skill that you have to be born with in order to hone, like the explosive abilities of Russell Westbrook. Tatum can improve his dribbling through hard work in the offseason.

Skip to 4:32 in the video to see Jayson Tatum’s ball-handling ability.

Mar 10, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Justin Jackson (44) drives against Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the first half of an ACC Conference Tournament game at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

4. Improve defense

Jayson Tatum will need to improve his defense in the NBA, both at the small and power forward positions. As a wing defender, he often lacked the foot speed and lateral quickness to defend collegiate players, let alone elite NBA wings like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. This could cause him to have a tendency to reach in a lot in the NBA, which will allow players to blow by him or force him into foul trouble.

As a power forward, Tatum will get bumped around easily by the bigger, stronger NBA players. At Duke, he seemed to have a hard time challenging players at the rim and boxing out because of his lack of lower body strength.

He will also need to work on his defensive consistency, because he tends to defend in an upright stance, which makes him susceptible to crossover moves. Also, there is a physicality aspect that Tatum lacks defensively. Offensive players just seem to have their way with him at times.

Skip to :55 seconds to see Jayson Tatum’s weaknesses on defense.

Mar 17, 2017; Greenville, SC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) handles the ball against Troy Trojans forward DeVon Walker (25) during the second half in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

3. Add strength

Jayson Tatum has great length, standing at 6’8″ with a 6’11” wingspan. Despite being so tall, he weighs only 205 pounds. When comparing him to elite small forwards in the NBA like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Carmelo Anthony, Leonard weighs the least at 230 pounds.

Tatum weighs just five pounds more than point guard Russell Westbrook, and he is 15 pounds lighter than guard James Harden, who weighs 220 pounds. Obviously, both Westbrook and Harden would be outmatched physically if they played either of the forward positions.

With Tatum’s lack of lateral quickness and ball-handling abilities, he might fit best at the power forward position. In order to truly excel at the 4, Tatum should put on 10-15 pounds of muscle, specifically to his lower body.

Feb 25, 2017; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) is pressured by Miami Hurricanes forward Kamari Murphy (21) during the second half at Watsco Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

2. Embrace playmaking ability

Jayson Tatum isn’t necessarily a bad passer, it’s just that he is always looking to shoot. With his ability to score, particularly in the midrange, that isn’t a bad thing. He had the ball in his hands quite frequently at Duke, and he should be able to improve on his meager 2.1 assists per game.

Tatum is great at scoring in post-up situations, similar to Carmelo Anthony. He isn’t a catch-and-shoot guy, so he needs the ball in his hands in order to score effectively. The modern NBA is moving away from ball-stoppers like Anthony, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. We are now seeing players posting up in order to make plays for open teammates, like Draymond Green and LeBron James.

Tatum’s value on offense would skyrocket if he could become a more proficient passer. Al Horford is great at passing out of post-up situations, and he leads all centers in assists per game. Tatum could become the same dual-threat player offensively that Horford is in the post if he improves his passing.

Feb 18, 2017; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) shoots against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons defense in the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

1. Improve three-point shooting

It has now become a liability in the NBA to have any player, besides a center, who can’t make an open shot from beyond the arc. Tatum has shown that he can make the three-point shot, as he converted on 34.2 percent of his attempts at Duke.

Tatum tends to struggle at shooting off of the dribble. Pick-and-roll plays made up 4.4 percent of his offense, in which he scored only 0.682 points per possession. This allows defenders to cut off lanes to the hoop by playing under the pick-and-roll, because Tatum struggles to knock down outside jumpers off of the dribble.

Also, Tatum’s shooting mechanics tend to fall apart when he is attempting a contested three. He tends to lean back, and flail his left hand to the side at times. His shooting mechanics will need to become more consistent for him to improve his three-point shot against taller NBA defenders and the deeper three-point line.

After catching the ball, Tatum is slow to gather his feet, and by the time he releases the ball, the defender has recovered enough to contest his shot. He has to work on catching the ball and getting into his shot in one fluid motion. Tatum almost seems to hesitate on open threes, which probably throws off his rhythm.

Skip to 3:17 to see Tatum’s inconsistencies in his shooting form.

Those are the five areas that Jayson Tatum needs to improve on in his rookie season. Which area should he focus on the most?

This article originally appeared on