Jayson Tatum projects to play shooting guard, small forward, and power forward at the professional level. How will he fit in with Boston?
The Boston Celtics made the most shocking deal of the 2017 NBA Draft when they traded down from the No. 1 selection. The Celtics elected to trade the top pick for the No. 3 pick and a conditional first-round selection in 2018 or 2019 from the Philadelphia 76ers. Boston will get the Lakers pick in 2018 if it falls between 2-5 or they will get the Sacramento King’s pick in 2019 as long as it isn’t No. 1.
Boston moved down after reports surfaced that Markelle Fultz didn’t exactly impress them when he came in for his pre-draft workout and visit. Danny Ainge turned his attention to another prospect, Jayson Tatum, who he figured he could acquire while also stockpiling more future picks. The Celtics would go on to select Tatum with the No. 3 pick in the draft and Ainge insisted that was the plan all along.
“We would have picked him with the first pick." Ainge said shortly after Tatum was drafted.
"I think that he's a guy that we thought really highly of from Day 1," Brad Stevens echoed. "And I know Danny has. When I kind of got reintegrated into this process, right after the season was over, he was one of the guys that it was clear that we were targeting."
The Celtics loved Tatum’s ability to shoot and think he has the potential to guard 1-4 in the NBA. He’s a guy who can play multiple positions, he’ll spend time at shooting guard, small forward, and power forward in the league. They also think highly of his work ethic, which they believe will help him grow into one of the next rising stars.
Pairing Tatum with the uber-athletic Jaylen Brown could create quite the tantalizing duo as the two develop. The only question is if the two can co-exist. It seems like they can, Brown is another player who can play the two through four spots. He also showed enough positive signs during his rookie season that Ainge has reportedly ruled him basically untouchable in trade talks. Tatum and Brown could become two of the best wings in the league. The Celtics know they have a pairing that will lead them in the future.
For the present, Tatum will be fighting for minutes amongst a group of talented and experienced players. Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, and Brown are guys that he could be competing against. Boston is still trying to sign Gordon Hayward in free agency, as well as trade for Paul George, which could lead to a roster shakeup. Either way, it’s unlikely that Tatum is a starter during his rookie season. He will be an offensive threat off the bench that will help boost the second unit.
Tatum instantly adds another capable player on offense to this roster. He can operate out of the post and hit fadeaway jumpers while utilizing an array of moves. His jumper is accurate enough to stretch defenders out from mid-range and deep (34.2% 3PT). Tatum can create his own offense. He has a good handle which allows him to dribble himself into open shot opportunities. The Celtics have missed a reliable threat next to Isaiah Thomas who can create his own shot. They could certainly mitigate that problem with the addition of Hayward or George, but Boston has to be happy to have a player with as much potential offensively as Tatum.
He also projects to be a strong defender. Boston’s brass thinks Tatum will help the Celtics guard across the board. He is a long defender at 6’8” who is quick enough to stay with offensive players while moving laterally. It’s up to him to stay mentally engaged on defense. It’s also important for his body to continue filling out so he’s strong enough to be physical with some of the more athletic players in the league.
Regardless, Boston seems to have got the player they wanted. The Celtics front office has gushed about the kid and the current players on the roster have shown him love all around. We’ll get our first look at Tatum’s game during the Utah Summer League. Boston’s first game is against the Philadelphia 76ers on July 3. Tatum and Fultz will each be trying to justify their draft positions.