BOSTON — One of the biggest knocks on Jayson Tatum coming out of college was his 3-point shooting.
The forward shot 34 percent from beyond the arc in his freshman season at Duke, causing some question marks to be raised regarding his offense. Well, it sure looks like the 19-year-old has ironed out that kink in his game.
Tatum’s long-range shooting has exceeded expectations in his rookie season, as he currently owns the NBA’s highest 3-point percentage with a 51.3 percent clip. His performance Monday night against the Milwaukee Bucks certainly helped him keep the top spot, as he connected on four of five 3-point attempts, all of which came in the first quarter. Tatum finished with 17 points in Boston’s 111-100 win.
No one could have expected Tatum to be among the league’s best 3-point shooters early in the 2017-18 campaign, but his teammates and coaches aren’t necessarily surprised that he’s having so much success with his shot. As Celtics head coach Brad Stevens explained after the game, Tatum has a pure scorer’s mentality.
“When he came in for his workout, he made a lot of shots,” Stevens said. “It looked effortless, and that’s a pretty good sign. It didn’t look like one of those days where he was hitting everything. He would miss two in a row and it wouldn’t dissuade him from hitting the next one. He had no thought about making the next five, he just kind of kept shooting it. For a guy with his frame, he shoots it effortless. I mean, he’s going to be able to shoot it deeper, right? 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 one heck of a shooter.”
Tatum echoed his coach’s sentiments after the win over the Bucks, acknowledging that he expects every shot to go in. Kyrie Irving, who has kept tabs on Tatum dating back to his high school days, believes his teammate’s transition to the NBA has been made easier due to a strong work ethic.
“I’ve seen Jayson play since he was a sophomore in high school,” Irving said. “I’ve been a fan of his since then. I think that you worry about the transition from high school to college and then college to the NBA, but I think that he’s doing his due diligence in terms of getting the work in every single day. Doing what you need to do, being a professional and learning how to consistently do that.”
It’s foolish to think that Tatum will keep these numbers up throughout the season, as he inevitably will go through growing pains as all rookies do. But based on his start to his rookie season, it’s hard not to envision Tatum budding into a sharp-shooting superstar for years to come.
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