The 2016-2017 Duke Blue Devils were an adventure. There was Grayson Allen’s wild heel turn, Luke Kennard’s impressive ascent, Harry Giles’ inability to recapture his high school promise, and a relatively early loss in the NCAA Tournament. However, Jayson Tatum emerged from the weirdness to have a very impressive one-and-done campaign in Durham. He also happens to be a consensus top-five pick in the 2017 NBA Draft as a result.
As you will see below, Tatum is ranked slightly lower on my board than most, but that is more of an endorsement of other players than a pure knock on his game. Tatum is perhaps the most projectable player in this class aside from Markelle Fultz (who is the clear No. 1 pick), as he enters the league with a highly polished game that looks to translate into a 20-point scorer with haste. His footwork shows maturity beyond his years, his mid-range game is already “there,” and Tatum brings enough size and strength to the table to see where his defense could get to with some seasoning.
On the flip side, there are flaws with Tatum, as he profiles as a player that could potentially serve as a relic of the past more than a pillar of the future in terms of playing style. Comparisons to Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan have been floated due to his status as a pure scorer while adding little else (at the moment), and his three-point shooting stroke is a question mark. It should be noted, though, that many believe Tatum can add and develop range and he has flashed impressive passing vision when and if he is willing to utilize it.
Team needs (and individual workouts) will likely drive the draft order at the very top of the draft but if Jayson Tatum fell outside of the top five, it would be a significant surprise. An NBA team will pick up an accomplished scorer that looks to be relatively close to contributing immediately and, if the worst thing that scouts can say about you is that you might “only” be a big-time scorer, there are worse things.
Where does Tatum rank among the best of the best in this class? Let’s check out our post-combine NBA Draft rankings.