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NBA Draft: Did the Boston Celtics trade down for Jayson Tatum?

Jayson Tatum has been described as Paul Pierce 2.0. So, what’s the truth about this talented rookie?

NCAA Basketball: Duke at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With the surprise decision to trade the Boston Celtics’ #1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft for Philadelphia’s #3 pick (plus a future pick), Danny Ainge shocked the basketball world. Now everyone is trying to predict the enigmatic GM’s next move.

Wild theories have emerged on possible trade scenarios involving Jimmy Butler or Anthony Davis or numerous other dream targets as everyone speculates on the Celtics’ future. Yet it may be simpler than trying to leverage the right type of deal or creating the right cap situation. In fact it may be exactly as Ainge himself has said,

“We think there’s a really good chance that the player we’ll take at three is the player we would have taken at one.”

So if that is the case who is it that the Celtics are so excited about that they’re willing to gamble dropping down in the draft and relying on two other GMs to not see what Danny sees?

Conventional wisdom has said the Celtics are looking hard at Josh Jackson, while others favor Jonathan Isaac who is a bit of a dark horse in the race for the 3 spot, and some have theorized that this all might be a long con for the Celtics to sneak in and nab Lonzo Ball.

For me, Jayson Tatum is the most intriguing prospect likely to be available at the 3 spot in the 2017 NBA Draft. Tatum is a versatile offensive wing who can create his own shot, perform in the post and blow by defenders using solid footwork and superior speed.

He brings a variety of tools that the Celtics need, including his ability to create out of isolation, which would free up pressure currently heaped onto Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford. Plus, he could act as a perfect complementary player to the young guns already on the Celtics roster. Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier would all benefit from having some additional scoring added to the second unit, and that’s exactly what Tatum can bring.

Tatum’s freshman season at Duke saw him post strong numbers amid high expectations. The 19-year-old forward averaged 16.8 points per game, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists. At 6’8” with a 6’11” reach and a strong frame, Tatum has a solid basketball body.

He also showed a high basketball IQ and displayed a maturity to his game, though he still made his fair share of mistakes like any young player does. However, most of the issues with Tatum’s game that have been flagged by scouts—such as occasional lapses in concentration leading to inconsistency on defense and streaky shooting—are the type of things that most rookies will need to work on when adapting to the NBA.

It’s worth mentioning that even before the sure-to-be-infamous trade deal was made, former CelticsBlog staffer, current writer for the Ringer, and general NBA Draft guru Kevin O’Connor argued that Jayson Tatum was someone he would trade down for. Also, out of all the prospects the Celtics have seen Tatum, is someone they have apparently been particularly excited about, having seen him once in LA and then again in Boston. The more hyperbolic have even gone as far as to say Jayson Tatum could be Paul Pierce 2.0, though the rookie has a long way to go before any favorable comparisons to the Truth can honestly be justified.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Duke vs Troy
Jayson Tatum’s offensive versatility makes him an exciting prospect who could bring a boost to Boston’s scoring.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After spending weeks full-time on the Fultz hype train, it might be difficult for some Celtics fans to adjust their expectations and see how the No. 3 pick could end up being a better deal. But rather than having to figure out how to add another young point guard into an over-stacked rotation, the Celtics can now add a versatile scorer at the wing position with skills that can be easily incorporated into the current system.

Right now the Celtics are combing through free agency options looking for a player who can swap between the 3 and the 4 and provide an extra outlet on offense. While he might not be Paul Pierce 2.0 (at least not yet), Jayson Tatum does bring a variety of tools that the Celtics covet, and his versatility and offensive ability could be exactly what the Celtics have been looking for.

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