Even though Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum was among the most exciting rookies in the league last year, there’s always room to improve.
Tatum was an incredibly efficient scorer last season, averaging 1.04 points per possession – this ranked in the 80th percentile. But as he noted, there was one glaring weakness he needed to address this offseason finishing better around the rim, shooting 57.4 percent.
Only a dozen players who had a similar shot volume (minimum: 300 attempts) had a lower field goal percentage than Tatum on field goals between zero and five feet of the basket. He ranked in the 39th percentile when in this zone, per Cleaning the Glass.
Thankfully, he is aware of these issues and said he did what he could to address them during the offseason. He also commented on the toughness needed on these finishes during a postgame interview in the playoffs.
There were some facets that were particularly concerning, despite a low sample size. For example, when he was the ballhandler in the pick-and-roll and dribbled off the pick and took it to the basket. Tatum was 5-for-20 (25 percent) on these looks. This was the worst among all players with as many attempts.
He was below average on looks that were not post-ups near the rim. Tatum ranked in the 26th percentile on these shots. Only five players (minimum: 200 possessions) were less efficient, according to Synergy Sports. He was 49.8 percent on these attempts.
Only five percent of his total shots at the rim in college were putbacks. But he shot 62.0 percent during his season at Duke, per hoop-math.com. It’s the main part of his game that did not translate to the pros.
However, it’s a learning curve that most rookies face and many are able to improve with more experience in the league. One case study is Toronto’s Pascal Siakam who shot 73.3 percent at the rim during his final collegiate season.
Siakam (58.5 percent) had an almost identical field goal percentage to Tatum (57.4 percent) on attempts within five feet of the basket as a rookie. During his second season in the league, however, he was able to improve that mark considerably. He shot 68.9 percent on those attempts last year, which ranked Top 10 among all players with at least 270 attempts.
The Toronto forward shot 51.0 on attempts near the rim that were not post-ups as a rookie and improved this mark to 61.9 percent in his second year. It gives hope that Tatum can have a similar leap, especially if his conditioning this summer paid off.