Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge says he would have drafted Jayson Tatum No. 1 overall had he retained the pick instead of trading it to the Philadelphia 76ers.
“Yes, we would have picked him with the first pick,” Ainge said according to CSN New England. “But the draft was very even, we felt, at the top all the way through maybe five or six. And it was very difficult. There was a lot of players we liked in this draft.”
Tatum is touted as the best offensive prospect in this draft. He’s drawn comparisons to both Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony as a feared isolation scorer who gets buckets from all over the floor. He was ranked interchangeably with Kansas’ Josh Jackson, whose versatile game on both ends projected him as a top-four pick on Thursday.
The Celtics, of course, never got to make the first pick in the draft. Instead, they drafted No. 3 overall and got an early first-round pick in either 2018 or 2019 from Philly. Tatum was still available, so it all worked out.
SB Nation’s college basketball maven Ricky O’Donnell gave the Celtics a C for their draft night, which also included drafting Semi Ojeleye, Kadeem Allen, and Jabari Bird.
The Celtics could have had Markelle Fultz, the player I consider to be the best guard prospect in the draft since John Wall in 2010. Instead, Boston traded its No. 1 pick to the 76ers for No. 3 and a premium future pick. I like the fit with Tatum to the Celtics — he’s a pure scorer who should learn to share the ball under Brad Stevens and will complement Jaylen Brown well. Still: I’d rather just have Fultz.
Ainge has been a wizard in stockpiling draft assets, but he’s yet to hit a home run with any of his selections. In Tatum, Ainge sees his next Pierce. And if his game lives up to the hype as he develops over the years, the Celtics could have something special down the road.
But if it doesn’t, fans will be thinking about what could have been at No. 1. That’s a lot of pressure if you’re Danny Ainge.