The 2017 NBA draft class proved rich and full of talent. Two names that echoed throughout the league were Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball. Other prominent names included Josh Jackson, DeAaron Fox, and Dennis Smith Jr. This class overshadowed a player who had all of the assets to be great in the NBA — Jayson Tatum.
The Celtics had the ability to draft Ball or Fultz. Instead, they made the decision to trade with the 76ers for the third overall pick. This resulted in Fultz being drafted first overall with the 76ers, Ball drafted second to the Lakers and Tatum drafted third to the Celtics. This lead to a question that has been and will continue to be asked — did the Celtics make the right decision in choosing Tatum over Fultz?
As it stands right now, the Celtics did make the right decision. Even their head-to-head matchup had something to say about it.
Tatum > Lonzo & Fultz pic.twitter.com/mIHq5p3Aa7
— J.WALL SZN (@JohnWallGOAT1__) October 21, 2017
Tatum has cracked the starting lineup
Jayson Tatum began the season in the starting lineup, and was named a starter before Hayward’s injury in the season opener. He has become an essential piece of the number-one seeded team last year. Fultz is coming off of the 76ers bench (who did not make the playoffs last year). Not only is Tatum starting, he is averaging 33 minutes per game, compared to Fultz with 19 minutes per game.
This is significant playing time and experience, especially with the injury to Hayward, because of the accelerated maturation process. Tatum is taking advantage of this role, averaging 14.2 points per game, and shooting 48 percent in a league of grown men. Fultz is averaging six points per game, and shooting 33 percent.
Fultz has looked horrendous from the free throw line
Due to shoulder soreness, Fultz’ free throw form has looked worse than a typical big man in the league. This form has led to 50 percent free throw shooting for Fultz, only attempting 12 free throws in four games. Tatum has averaged 86 percent on 22 attempted free throws in five games. Fultz shot 65 percent from the stripe in college, compared to Tatum’s 85 percent.
RT if Markelle Fultz has a worse Free Throw motion than Shaq. pic.twitter.com/wyYgU99m5z
— Clever Hoops (@CleverHoops) October 18, 2017
Tatum has been the better defender/rebounder
A big part of the Celtics blueprint has revolved around defense, and Tatum brings excellent defense and rebounding, while having a 6’8 frame. He now has recorded five blocks and six steals, compared to Fultz who has one block and two steals. He also has won the rebounding battle while averaging 6.6 boards, compared to Fultz with 2.3.
Prior to hosting the 76ers in the TD Garden, Brad Stevens spoke about his tremendous defensive efforts.
“I don’t know if surprised is the right word, but Jayson Tatum’s defense is beyond his years,” Stevens said, via masslive.com. “He’s very savvy and very long. He uses his length. His arms are out and he gets his hands on balls and deflects passes and discourages drives just because of his length. I think he’ll continue to get better and better with the other stuff systemically, but he’s done a good job for a young guy so far.”
The season is young, and injury has been the reason lack of production from Fultz. Only time will tell if the Celtics ultimately made the right decision, but at this moment, Tatum is the more complete player. We’ll see how he does when the Celtics face off against the Spurs tomorrow night.