14-15 – Tum was the point guard recruit who actually wanted to come to East Lansing, getting added to the class after numerous higher ranked targets passed on the opportunity. While Tum had offers from multiple high level programs (Oklahoma and IU most notably), he wasn’t regarded at the same level as guys like Tyus Jones or Tyler Ulis for a reason…his offensive game isn’t nearly as developed as the ones those players possess. What Tum had in his favor is incredible speed and quickness, an ability to defend, and the leadership and chemistry intangibles that Izzo loves.
Tum’s freshman season demonstrated all his strengths and weaknesses to full effect. From Day One it was obvious that he was exactly as advertised as a personality, as his charisma and genuine love for his teammates was regularly on display. You can dismiss that stuff if you like but Izzo doesn’t agree and it’s particularly important to have in a point guard. Over the course of the season, I think a lot of MSU’s improvement on defense, and in particular their improvement in containing penetration, was attributable to Tum’s increased minutes. This was due in part but not solely to his individual presence as a defender. Not only was he checking his man well but he allowed a domino effect to take place…suddenly Trice isn’t guarding the second best offensive perimeter guy but often times the third and so on down the line. Individually, Tum had a few great defensive efforts late, giving OSU’s Russell a particularly hard time in the game here in East Lansing despite giving up about 8 inches in that matchup. Tum also had a fine year making plays for others. He had close to a 3:1 assist to TO ratio and showed great instincts as a passer. He was also key in MSU’s improved running game, as he’s a perfect physical fit in terms of his ability to push the basketball.
Where he struggled is where everyone knew he would, and that’s making shots. He shot 32% from the floor overall and 30% from three in very limited attempts (3-10 on the season). It wasn’t just the jumper either…he wasn’t great finishing at the rim on penetration. Until that part of his game improves, the amount of offensive impact he has will be handicapped.
Going Forward – There’s no doubt in my mind that Tum is going to be a key part of MSU’s rotation for the next three years. He brings too much to the table in terms of what Izzo values for anything else to happen. So, minutes are not really in question…he’s going to play a substantial amount of them, whether that’s as a starter or key reserve.
The question is, what does he become as a total player? I think we’ll see gradual improvement from him as a shooter and finisher. We’ve been talking in recent days about his learning to play at more than one speed. When you have his kind of quickness, it’s tough to not look to go full tilt all the time but if he learns to downshift occasionally it’ll make him tougher to guard and actually allow him to create more space for himself, both at the rim and elsewhere.
Defensively, he gives MSU a great piece to the overall puzzle as a guy who can do a good job in dribble denial, can get over screens at a VERY high level, and has proven capable of guarding guys who would seem to have matchup advantages against him due to size.
I look for a better year from him next season. I don’t think he becomes Kalin Lucas or Mateen Cleaves but he doesn’t have to be. For this team, being a better Tum Tum Nairn is fine. I think he’ll become more efficient with his shot, continue to be a fine playmaker and defender, and provide the kind of leadership and charismatic presence this program always values.