Freshman swingman Jayson Tatum can score from anywhere on the court. 

Duke men's basketball 2016-17 player preview: Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum

  • Year: Freshman
  • Height: 6-foot-8
  • Position: Forward

Game breakdown: As ESPN’s No. 3 recruit in the class of 2016, Tatum is already being heralded as the potential top pick in next summer's NBA draft. The St. Louis, Mo., native, who committed to Duke in July 2015, was a 2016 McDonald’s All-American after averaging 29.5 points per game and putting up six 40-point games in his senior year of high school. 

Tatum is an explosive scorer and can strengthen the Blue Devils’ offense in numerous ways with his 3-point range and strength driving to the rim. His height allows him to comfortably shoot over smaller defenders from the wing, much like Brandon Ingram last year, and he can also be a consistent finisher around the basket.

Role on the team: Tatum gave Duke fans a scare at the end of October when he went down with a foot injury on the Blue Devils' pro day in front of more than 50 NBA scouts. After much nervous anticipation, the team later announced that it was simply a foot sprain and he would only be out for two weeks. Even if he is not immediately ready to play at the beginning of the season, Tatum will certainly have a starting role at the small forward position early on when he returns from his injury. Leading the White team to a 52-37 victory at Countdown to Craziness Oct. 22, Tatum scored from all over the floor and led all players with 18 points.

As the counterpart of Harry Giles—who is also currently injured—in Duke’s dynamic duo of freshman forwards, Tatum will need to learn not only how to score against top-notch college defenders, but also how to be a facilitator in a starting lineup in which all five players may have a chance to make it to the NBA.

NBA comparison: As a small forward with a versatile skillset on and off the ball on both ends of the court, Tatum can be compared to Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George. Only an inch shorter than George, who is 6-foot-9, Tatum’s explosiveness and quickness are reminiscent of the three-time NBA All-Star.  With his extreme athleticism, Tatum is also a high flyer like George, who is a two-time Slam Dunk Contest participant. But unlike George, who played for two years at Fresno State, Tatum is not expected to stay past his freshman year.

Projected stats: 17.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 4.0 RPG

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