Celtics Pick Jayson Tatum No. 3 in 2017 NBA Draft After Trading Down from No. 1

The Boston Celtics selected Duke forward Jayson Tatum with the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA draft on Thursday.

The Celtics welcomed Tatum to his new team:

FS1’s Nick Wright thought Boston got a lot of value from its trade with the Philadelphia 76ers after trading out of the top spot:

Fox Sports’ Skip Bayless also preferred Tatum over Josh Jackson:

WBZ NewsRadio’s Adam Kaufman sees Tatum fitting well with the Celtics 2016 first-rounder Jaylen Brown:

Tatum was fantastic for Duke in his lone season with the Blue Devils, averaging 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He finished second on the team in scoring behind Luke Kennard but established himself as the team’s most talented player down the stretch.

Indeed, Tatum had a pretty epic freshman season, as Sam Vecenie of the Sporting News noted:

Derek Bodner of Draft Express said in his scouting report the Duke prospect, “Tatum stands just over 6’8″ in shoes, with a 6’11” wingspan and an upper body that looks as if it can fill out over time as he matures physically. He combines that with an advanced, diversified skill level and flashes of two-way potential, which makes it easy to see why Tatum has been a top rated prospect all season long.”

As Bodner noted, Tatum is a smooth athlete and is fantastic in isolation, using a diverse array of moves to create separation off a defender or easy looks at the basket. 

Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report called Tatum “the 2017 NBA draft’s most advanced, one-on-one scorer,” adding that he can get create shots shots “from every spot on the floor, whether it’s the top of the key, the wings, the elbows or short corners.”

Vecenie further elaborated on Tatum’s ability to create space for his shot: 

He also showed the ability to be effective as a catch-and-shoot option, shooting 40.5 percent in those scenarios.

Because of those skills, Tatum is often thought of as a safe prospect, though Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports thinks his potential is limitless: 

Rothstein also compared him to an established NBA star:

Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com had a different player in mind:

Tatum isn’t without his weaknesses, however.

Bodner questioned whether Tatum would be able to regularly get to the basket against the NBA’s better athletes, as he doesn’t possess elite burst or explosiveness. His handle needs some work as well, as does his passing, and while he has upside as a defender—namely if he adds bulk and is able to spend some time playing as a stretch-4 in the NBA—he has work to do in that department.

Still, watch enough of Tatum and it’s hard to ignore how polished he looks on the offensive end. Even if Tatum doesn’t ultimately become a true No. 1 scorer for an NBA team, he has the ability to slot in nicely as an excellent sidekick in that regard. And if he improves his handle, ability to attack the basket and passing, it isn’t hard to envision an NBA offense running through him in the future.

In other words, the Celtics and their fans have a lot to be excited for in the coming years.

In Boston, Tatum will be competing for playing time on the wing with players like Brown and Jae Crowder, though the Celtics could potentially deal one of those players. He offers far more offensive upside than either player, though both Brown and Crowder are better defenders.

Tatum could also see some time playing as a small-ball 4 in Boston, a role he often occupied for Duke. And while the team’s offense will still run through Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford, Tatum comes into the NBA polished enough to make an impact on offense immediately. 

Playing time won’t be guaranteed, but Tatum should at least carve a small role for himself in Boston next season.

The real intrigue, however, may be that Tatum will now forever be compared to Markelle Fultz, the top overall pick and the player the Celtics could have selected had they not traded the pick to the 76ers. Trading that pick and selecting Tatum will be remembered as a definitive move for Danny Ainge’s tenure and will be one of the storylines that accompanies Tatum in his Boston career.

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