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What Celtics’ Jayson Tatum learned from Kawhi Leonard, Paul George to help him take the leap


Jayson Tatum took a major leap in his play after taking a step back from an impressive rookie season in his second year in the league. The Boston Celtics prized forward took a page out of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George after he had gone from a deadly 3-point sniper (43% in his rookie season) to a faltering, isolation-scoring wing with no real moneymaker.

The departures of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford opened a new window of opportunity, as Tatum would now have more chances to be the lead scorer and create for himself and others.

“I knew that I would have a much larger role this season, handling the ball in pick-and-roll much more often,” Tatum told Jared Weiss of The Athletic recently, in the midst of the NBA’s COVID-19 shutdown. “So I watched a lot of clips of Kawhi (Leonard), Paul George in pick-and-roll situations. Just developing that patience and that takes time.”

Jayson Tatum was also known to have patented his game after Kobe Bryant, taking the Mamba Mentality a little too literally — something that took away from other facets of his game.

Not only did Tatum take a massive jump in the scoring category (plus-7.9 points per game) but also improved in every category across the board — averaging 23.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.9 blocks — all career bests.

Tatum remains a dangerous 3-point shooter, flirting with 40% from distance, as well as a reliable 80% free-throw shooter — two things he has in common with George.

While his mid-range game hasn’t reached the lethal status of a Kawhi Leonard, it surely won’t take him long to get there now that he’s found his comfort zone.