The Boston Celtics selected Duke forward Jayson Tatum third overall in the 2017 NBA draft. The standout Blue Devils forward averaged 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game in his freshman season in Durham before declaring for the draft.
He was the key player for a Duke team that made the second round of the NCAA tournament before being upset by South Carolina. Tatum had an outside chance to get drafted as high as No. 1 overall until the Boston Celtics traded their pick to the Philadelphia 76ers. He was subsequently projected to fall anywhere between No. 3 and No. 6.
Tatum came into his freshman season a highly touted recruit after competing with Team USA before his first year in college. He is a versatile combo forward who can score in a variety of ways, including behind the arc (.342 three-point percentage), in transition, and off the dribble.
Why should Celtics fans be excited about Tatum?
He’s a gifted scorer
Tatum’s drawn comparisons to Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce. That’s because he’s the best frontcourt perimeter scorer available in the draft. The Duke forward picked defenders apart with jab steps and pump fakes alike.
For a college freshman, his post repertoire looks refined. Tatum’s shown glimpses of a player that could become a go-to inside-outside scorer in the NBA.
He stood out from the pack
On a Duke team where Grayson Allen entered the year the best player in college basketball and Luke Kennard was the leading scorer, the 19-year-old Tatum separated himself as a top prospect in a loaded draft class.
That’s because we knew he was good before he committed to Duke. Tatum is a versatile wing who’s likely still not finished growing. Furthermore, he’s a young player who can absorb basketball knowledge like a sponge. The Celtics can mold him into the wing they need him to be.
He’s one hell of an athlete
Here’s Jayson Tatum posterizing a helpless international big man during the 2015 FIBA U-19 World Championship:
Here’s Tatum catching a mean put-back dunk during Duke’s NCAA tournament run:
And here’s him dunking all over Kennedy Meeks:
Jayson Tatum's poster dunk on Kennedy Meeks was INSANE!! Another instant classic last night between Duke and UNC. pic.twitter.com/Ru0xidKgGi— LeadingNCAA ™ (@LeadingNCAA) February 10, 2017
Tatum’s not an explosive athlete, but he’s a confident one.
Is there any reason to be nervous about Tatum?
Tatum’s developed a bit of a reputation as a ball stopper. Naturally, any comparison to Anthony and Pierce would result in that stigma. Tatum can score, but he uses his footwork and puts the ball on the ground instead of making snap decisions. Teams have generally shied away from iso-ball as the game continues to evolve.
As JZ Mazlish also pointed out in his April analysis of the Duke forward, Tatum falls into a category of traditionally overrated combo forwards. Those include guys like Rudy Gay, Tobias Harris, Jeff Green, and Harrison Barnes — players who develop into solid rotational players (in Gay’s case, a fringe All-Star), but nothing more.
Tatum has the tools to become a very effective player at the NBA level. But it’s up to Celtics player development staff to push him up to the next tier.
Tell me something else about Tatum
Tatum shot 34 percent from three-point range with a jump shot some considered broken. He spent time with highly regarded NBA trainer Drew Hanlen to fix his form.
Here’s Tatum now drilling 17-straight NBA threes in practice:
If he could, that would be enormous.