Evaluating Jayson Tatum’s NBA Finals Performance

Via skysports.com

Evaluating Jayson Tatum’s NBA Finals Performance

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Evaluating Jayson Tatum’s NBA Finals Performance

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Via skysports.com

After a dominant run through the Eastern Conference during the 2022 NBA Playoffs and leading his team to the NBA Finals, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has hit a bump in the road during the 2022 NBA Finals. 

Prior to the Finals, Tatum was playing the best basketball of his career on both ends of the floor. In 18 games from the start of the first round to the end of the Conference Finals, The Eastern Conference Finals MVP was averaging 27 points per game on 58.9% true shooting, 6.7 rebounds per game, 5.9 assists per game, 1.2 steals per game, and 0.9 blocks per game. 

Not only was Tatum scoring the ball very well, improving his volume and efficiency from the regular season, but he was the engine behind the Boston Celtics offensive success as its primary playmaker. 

On the other side of the court, Tatum was playing the best defense of his career. He played a key role in players such as Kevin Durant to have abnormally bad shooting nights and uncharacteristic turnovers with his phenomenal play as an isolation defender. In 139 possession of being the closest defender to Durant, Tatum held him to 12 points on 3/18 shooting from the field while forcing him to commit 12 turnovers.

So, what has happened in the NBA Finals?

What has caused Jayson Tatum to see such a rapid decline in play from the best basketball of his career? 

In comparison to the previous three rounds, Tatum is averaging 22.3 points per game on 47.6% true shooting, 7.8 assists per game, 7 rebounds per game, 1 steal per game, and 0.8 blocks per game through four NBA Finals games. 

What has caused Tatum to see such a massive decline in scoring impact (volume & efficiency), despite shooting an absurd 45.2% from three in the Finals on 7.8 attempts per game?

The answer lies in his poor shot quality, especially from within the arc, and his poor finishing at the rim during these Finals. 

Tatum has shot 14-51 (27.5%) on all of his two point shot attempts through four games of the NBA Finals and has shot 7/14 (50%) at the rim in those attempts. In comparison to the regular season, Tatum is down 15% when it comes to his rim scoring, as he converted 65% of his shots at the rim and was in the 70th percentile as a finisher. 

It is important to note that Tatum has been dealing with a nagging shoulder injury, which can alter his driving process and can be a leading factor as to why he’s been very reluctant to embrace contact near the rim.

A combination of his subpar finishing at the rim and his affection for contested fadeaway jumpers has led to his downfall as a scorer throughout the NBA Finals.

As far as the rest of his game goes, Tatum hasn’t seen much of a decline at all.

Tatum is still getting past defenders with ease on the drive and forcing the interior of the defense to collapse in order to prevent him from scoring at the rim, allowing him to make an abundance of skip passes to freed up corner shooters, creating the best advantage for his offense. On top of that, his extra passing, ability to hit cutters, and the way he’s been aggressively defended by the Warriors defense at all three levels has allowed the Celtics to maximize offensive possessions. 

If anything, in the absence of his two point scoring, Tatum has been even better as a primary creator. He’s been responsible for creating most of Boston’s offense by drawing the defense’s attention away from his teammates which has allowed him to make high level reads and passes, which has set them up for the best scoring opportunities. 

On top of that, Tatum is still playing All-NBA caliber defense, especially off the ball where he has thrived at disrupting action around the nail and providing secondary help which has helped Boston’s team defense as a whole limit the effectiveness and shot quality of Golden State’s secondary offensive pieces next to Stephen Curry.

Despite his decline as a scorer from the earlier playoff rounds to the Finals, Jayson Tatum has undoubtedly been the best player on the Boston Celtics during the 2022 NBA Finals. He would be the deserving NBA Finals MVP if they do go on to win the series.

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