The circumstances around the arrival of Jayson Tatum in Boston are…peculiar. The Celtics hit the jackpot with the number one pick after years of being screwed by the ping-pong balls. In a draft that was both deep, and filled with potential franchise-altering talent, Boston held the reigns. Fans could hardly contain themselves after combing through highlight clips of Markell Fultz, the presumptive top pick out of Washington. Then Danny Ainge trades the pick. The team drops down to the third pick, Fultz heads to Atlantic division rival Philadelphia, and Tatum lands in our laps. Oh how quickly things can change.
Tatum slid under the national radar while people were more enamored with Fultz and Lonzo Ball. He wasn’t as flashy as Ball, and Fultz put up much better numbers on a bad team. After missing his first eight games at Duke with a foot sprain, it took Tatum time to adjust to the college game. As the season went on, he got more comfortable, and started to show off one of the most polished offensive games in college basketball.
Ainge has a track record of drafting long, athletic players whose offense needs work. After moving from one to three in the draft, the choice came down to Tatum, or Kansas star Josh Jackson. He picked Tatum, and immediately added a potent scorer to the team. While he certainly has holes in his game, Tatum proved he was every bit as talented on offense as advertised. He torched defenses with midrange jumpers and savvy moves around the basket throughout Summer League play. His outside shot needs work, but he has been able to knock them down when left open. While the numbers have dipped in the preseason, his game is drawing rave reviews from Boston royalty:
— A. Sherrod Blakely (@ASherrodblakely) September 14, 2017
Tatum does have a similar build and offensive game to a young Paul Pierce. He’s not the most athletic, but his basketball IQ is through the roof. The typical rookie mistakes have, and will, happen, but his maturity will give him an advantage on the competition. He has also shown a willingness to compete on the boards and the ability to defend multiple positions.
With Marcus Morris expected to miss time to start the season, Tatum will be thrust into a starting role. With a potential starting lineup of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Tatum, and Al Horford, the third pick in the draft will need to contribute right away. Starting on a team with high expectations may seem overwhelming, but this situation is ideal for Tatum. With Irving and Hayward garnering most of the defensive attention, he will have plenty of open shots on offense. The positive strides on defense will be what the starting unit needs from him. If he can keep guards in front of him and execute switches, any offense he can produce is icing on the cake.
EXPECTATIONS FOR TATUM
Expectations are always high for a top-three pick, but expectations might be even higher for Tatum. He and Fultz will always be linked after the trade, and he will have to live up to the expectations of a number one pick. He has shown that he has the skill, the drive, and the mentality to be a winner. Tatum may not be the pick Celtics fans wanted at first, but he is here and ready to help this team win. Just ask Horford: