How Jayson Tatum Can Become An MVP

By: Chandler Harper

Jayson Tatum came into the league with expectations of him becoming one of the next great wing scorers in this league. He was drafted into a situation where he was forced to learn how to play winning basketball right away if he wanted to see the floor – and that he did. Tatum displayed excellent skills from spot-up situations and was a very solid help defender in his rookie year, two things he did not show much of in his lone year at Duke.

Had Tatum been drafted to a bad team, maybe he would have been a better scorer quicker as he would have been forced to learn on the fly. Many people expected him to be that guy by year two in Boston, for whatever reason he got super mid-range happy and lost significant efficiency when his usage increased. The conversation about his potential shifted to can he even be a #2 on a good team – the way narratives develop so fast in this league.

In year three Tatum made the superstar leap around the turn of the new year. For the 2019-2020 season, Tatum upped his usage by an insane amount and did not lose efficiency.  His usage jumped from 22.1% to 28.6%, per basketball reference. Usually, an uptick in usage is coupled with a drop in efficiency, Tatum posted a career-high in effective field goal percentage and came close to his career-high in true shooting percentage. What makes these numbers so insane is the fact that he doubled his 3pt attempts per night, on significantly more difficult shots too. The following video shows the difficulty behind Tatum’s new shot diet.

So, what does Tatum’s significant scoring leap mean, can he now be a #1 on a championship-level team?  That is such a high-bar but that is where the conversation is at now, and to be honest, there is probably not an exact answer to that – and there does not have to an answer.  Boston currently still has Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, and Jaylen Brown under contract, coupled with an elite coach.  Boston will never be in the “Heliocentric” model offense that many teams run now, they have so many options and a great coach.

Reframing the question makes a little more sense in this situation; can Tatum be good enough to take Boston to the next level?  The answer to this lies in his playmaking ability.  Like mentioned earlier, he is a highly efficient scorer, but what happens when the defense starts showing him more attention, will he be able to make teams pay?

The playoffs are all about taking away the team’s strengths. This means that if Tatum cannot make the right reads and passes off double teams or aggressive defense, teams can effectively put a hard ceiling on Boston’s offense.

Tatum saw that firsthand against the Raptors this year. Starting around game two, they overloaded his side of the court and forced him to beat them with the pass – and that he did.  Tatum’s passing was excellent in this series. It was the first time a team really made him beat them in that way (and a great defensive team too). The following video shows some of the excellent passes he was making in that series.

Tatum does not have to reach elite levels when it comes to his playmaking, he just has to learn how to make teams pay for showing him too much attention. By accomplishing this he makes life easier for himself, creates open shots for teammates, and overall impacts winning significantly more. His passing could allow him to take the next leap from All-Star to MVP.