The modern NBA is a constantly changing league. Where offenses were once much more rigid and set, they now shift from night to night. Not only does that allow players more freedom in how they operate, but it gives them the chance to play multiple positions too.
This article looks at the different ways Jayson Tatum influences the game while on the court. That versatility will show why he rotates much more than normal wings, and reveal larger points about how the NBA slowly shifted over time.
A Tall Prospect
Before getting into Tatum’s exact positions, it’s first important to understand his size. Despite coming into the NBA with a leaner frame, he now stands 6’8 and weighs 210 pounds. That’s incredibly solid, especially paired with his 6’11 wingspan.
All three of those attributes inform his game and enable him to play in a much looser way than smaller players. He has the ability to strike from outside, but can use his body to force his way into the paint when needed. On top of that, he can defend both small and larger players too.
That provides Tatum with an exceptional amount of versatility. Versatility that separates him from other players across the league. He’s not just locked into a single role on offense or defense, but he’s rather able to freely move or change depending on the matchup.
Speed, Size, and Power
On paper, Tatum is listed as a small forward. In reality, he wears many hats. He most often plays outside, but that’s just one of his strengths. He’s able to play as a tall shooting guard, can stay as a true wing, and has even been asked to go down low as a power forward from time to time.
All of that is a direct result of his size. Where most guards would quickly get overwhelmed when facing down a big man or trying to block taller opponents, Tatum can freely do both. Not only that, but he has a natural quickness that allows him to get around the floor quickly.
That speed is another critical aspect of his game because any player who fills in various positions needs to be able to get around the court. He’s quick and can switch on defense without any issues. He’s great at moving around and getting open on offense too.
A Star Among Many
Tatum plays three different positions on any given night. While that may seem odd to people more used to the way the league was in the past, it’s how the NBA trended over the past decade. The emphasis on threes and stretching the court completely changed modern offenses.
In the past, someone Tatum’s size would have likely been a large small forward who used his body to back down smaller defenders. He still does that, especially when filling in at the shooting guard position, but he fills in a few different roles depending on what the Celtics need.
This is perfectly in line with various other superstars around the league like Luka Doncic, Joel Embiid, and Nikola Jokic. Just as some centers have gotten better and better at shooting, guards have gotten more and more versatile. Tatum is the perfect example of that.
Jayson Tatum is not a typical or classic NBA player. He’s a perfect example of a new star, someone who embodies multiple roles and who can play various positions. There are some exceptions, but that’s commonly what it takes to be great at the top of the top.