Welcome to Shades Of, where SI experts discuss young, emerging stars across all sports in the context of which current veterans or retired athletes they draw comparisons to, based on everything from stats to stature, style and more.
Who does Jayson Tatum remind you of?
There are certain players that as soon as they enter the NBA, you know they are going to be scorers. Carmelo Anthony, scorer. Kevin Durant, scorer. Damian Lillard, scorer. Boston's Jayson Tatum is cut from that cloth. He has the length of Durant, the hair-trigger release of Lillard and the confidence of Carmelo. Recently, Tatum has worked a turnaround jump shot into his game. That's a shade of Kobe Bryant.
You saw flashes of this from Tatum in 2017, when as a stringy, 6'8" rookie he averaged 14 points per game. Those flashes grew brighter in the playoffs, when Tatum upped his scoring average to 16 points during Boston's improbable run to the conference finals. He didn’t take an expected leap last season, when chemistry issues fractured Boston's locker room and an anticipated Celtics season ended in the second round. But in year three, he has emerged as one of the NBA’s premier scorers. He averaged 23 points, cracking 20 for the first time in his career. He made the All-Star team. He earned a spot on the all-NBA third team. Find 10 players a GM would take before the 22-year-old Tatum. You’d be lucky to name five or six.
There are shades of a complete player in Tatum. Jaylen Brown is seen as the better defender of this duo but this season Tatum has made significant strides. Coaches say he is using his 6’11” wingspan more, which has led to career highs in deflections and steals. He's not a stopper, not yet, but he’s well on his way to becoming a strong defender. And that’s the final piece of the puzzle. As a scorer, Tatum already ranks among the elite. Another step, and Tatum can be the player to lead the Celtics to another championship.