Both Jayson Tatum and Zion Williamson are the best players on the Celtics and Pelicans respectively and have Hall of Fame potential as superstar players.
Tatum has recently made his second All-Star Team this season while Zion Williamson has just made his first All-Star Team this season with the Pelicans. They are two of the best players in the world at under 24 years of age and could be the faces of the NBA very soon. But which player is better? It’s time to find out.
Scoring – Jayson Tatum
Tatum is very proficient at attacking the rim and also creating his own shot from the perimeter. He has excellent handles to beat his defender in the dribble and has a strong stepback jump shot. Tatum is averaging 24.9 PPG on 43.7% shooting from the field, 36.8% from three, and 85.9% from the line.
Zion Williamson does his damage mainly on the inside, using his massive body to bully defenders for easy buckets. Zion has an improving jumper as well and he will soon be one of the most dominant all-around forwards in the NBA. Zion is averaging 25.6 PPG on 61.4% from the field, 31.6% from three, and 69.5% from the line.
Zion is a beast down low, but he does not have Tatum’s ability to beat his defender off the dribble with handles and create any shot he wants.
Athleticism – Zion Williamson
In terms of pure athleticism, Zion Williamson has to take the edge. Zion Williamson is 6’7″ and weighs 284 lbs, which means he is stronger than every defender he faces. Not to mention, Zion has an insane vertical and he can get up above the rim anytime he wants. Physically, Zion is the most powerful athlete since a young LeBron James.
Tatum is also a great athlete, standing 6’8″ and weighing 210 lbs. Tatum is quick, explosive, and also has a strong vertical. But Tatum relies on his All-Star caliber skills rather than his athleticism, and he simply is not on the level of Zion Williamson who is a physical specimen.
Defense – Zion Williamson
As great as Jayson Tatum is on offense, he is also a nice defensive player. Tatum has the speed and athleticism to guard smaller defenders, although he struggles with bigger players due to his slight frame. Tatum is averaging 1.4 SPG and 0.5 BPG this season, and he still has ways to improve to become a dominant defensive player.
On the other hand, Zion can be a scary defender. He can be the most dominant defensive player in the league, as he has the vertical to block shots and also the strength to handle his opponents. Zion is averaging 0.9 SPG and 0.7 BPG this season, and he has the potential to be one of the best defensive players in the league.
Clutch – Jayson Tatum
Jayson Tatum has come up in the clutch many times this season. Tatum already has 5 game-winners this season and has proven he is a go-to player in clutch situations thanks to his versatile scoring ability.
On the other end, Zion cannot be consistent from the perimeter yet and this hurts his ability to take and make clutch shots. Not to mention, Williamson is still getting his feet wet as a superstar in this league. In possibly a matter of years, or sooner, Zion should become a more dominant clutch performer. For now, Tatum takes this one thanks to his shot-creating ability.
Leadership – Jayson Tatum
Both Tatum and Williamson are the best players on their teams and lead by their work ethic and dominance on the court. But they still have some ways to go as leaders, and they cannot be judged so early on in their careers.
But Tatum has been blessed with playing in multiple playoff appearances and being the best player on the team. Tatum has had an earlier start than Zion in terms of being the face of a franchise, getting praise and criticism, and making his teammates better.
Right now, both players are extremely talented young stars who prefer to lead by their play on the court. But Tatum has had more leadership experience and has surpassed expectations as a young leader, so he takes the edge.
Basketball I.Q. – Even
Both players have high basketball I.Q. because they are the best players on their teams and are directly responsible for their team’s success. They both also have exceptional skill sets as young All-Stars.
The fact that Tatum can generate a bucket on every possession, is a testament to his supremely high scoring I.Q. Tatum did his best to learn from the late Kobe Bryant on how to be a consistent scorer, and it is paying off. Tatum already has a near-perfect all-around offensive game, and his offensive IQ is off the charts.
Similarly, Zion proved he was a smart player in college, showcasing his passing and rebounding IQ along with scoring. Zion is still early on in his career, with only two seasons under his belt, but he has the potential to be one of the most impactful forwards in the NBA.
Impact – Even
On both ends of the floor, their impact is very close. Tatum is a monster offensively and has proven he can be the best player on one of the best teams in the East every year. Tatum is developing into a legendary scorer and he might get there one day if he continues his incredible ascension.
Zion Williamson is a massive body and has a presence in the paint that cannot be ignored. As one of the best offensive rebounders in the league, averaging 2.7 offensive RPG, Williamson is a load to handle on the inside. Williamson is also a capable passer, averaging 3.4 APG, and has a great defensive impact.
Tatum is a go-to scorer and clutch player, while Zion is an athletic phenom who owns the paint. As a result, this one has to be even because there is little separation between them so far.
1 on 1 Game – Jayson Tatum
As good as Williamson is one on one under the basket, Tatum is one of the best one on one players in the world right now besides the likes of James Harden, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and Kyrie Irving. He can beat you off the dribble, get to the basket with ease, and nail deep threes in your face. Tatum’s improvement as a shooter and scorer is evident this season.
Zion relies on his strength and vertical to score around the basket, but his slight lack of a consistent jump shot (only 31.6% from three and 69.5% from the line) renders him less effective than Tatum when layups are unavailable. Zion is still an All-Star scorer and excellent player at beating his man one on one inside, but Tatum is simply one of the best right now and this can’t be denied.
Career – Even
In terms of career, this one is still very close to call because they are so young. Tatum is only 23 years old while Zion is only 20, meaning they haven’t even reached their primes as superstar players.
Jayson Tatum is a very experienced 23-year old, making the All-Rookie Team in 2018 and then making an All-NBA Team in 2020. Tatum is also a 2-time All-Star. Zion is a first-time All-Star in 2021 and also made the All-Rookie Team in 2020, and he has plenty more accolades to earn as he continues his path to becoming one of the faces of the league.
Tatum has more accolades but he is 3 years older and has played 2 more seasons. The fact that Zion already has an All-Star Team under his resume at 20 years old evens this up.
Final Score: Jayson Tatum vs. Zion Williamson 4-2
Tatum and Zion are exceptional young players who could be destined for the Hall of Fame. Tatum is mainly a scoring specialist who is proficient on the boards, while Zion impacts the game with his size and scoring ability inside. In the end, Tatum takes the edge and wins this matchup.