By Dylan Porcaro
Despite many mixed feelings around the city on Danny Ainge’s decision to move down in the draft and punt on the number 1 pick, he undoubtedly made the right selection for the Celtics. Let’s start from just the pure basketball point of view. It seems as if every first round draft pick in the Danny Ainge regime has followed the same trend. Whether it be Tony Allen at number 25, Avery Bradley at 19, Marcus Smart at 6, or even Jaylen Brown at 3 last year, Ainge appears to be intrigued by guard/wing players with scouting reports that say “great defender, can drive to the hoop, shot needs work but will eventually come.” Not to say there’s anything wrong with defense first type players, but especially with the way this current Celtics team is constructed, wouldn’t an offensive gifted player be nice?
Well this time Danny saw his chance and he took it. Jayson Tatum averaged 16.8 points a game this past year at Duke and is considered one of the best offensive players in this draft class. Although Fultz averaged 23.2 points a game and is considered better by some, he won 9 games this past season. Tatum won nearly half of that in 4 days in the ACC tournament. Sure, there’s no question he had much better talent around him than Fultz did. With that said, in all 4 games that Duke won in the ACC tournament, Tatum was the team’s leading scorer and the clear cut leader as he took over each game. No team has ever won 4 games in 4 days in ACC tournament history until Duke did so this year, further proving his dominance.
One of the knocks on Fultz is that he doesn’t have a great mentality, as there are reports that he didn’t care after losses and didn’t mind playing on a losing team. Tatum has a winner’s mentality not only on the court, but also off of it. About a year ago when he was graduating high school, he wrote an article for “The Players’ Tribune” about his life off the court. He discussed how when he was only 8 or 9 years old, his mom and him came home to a letter notifying them they were evicted. His mother was able to figure it out and keep the house, but from then on Tatum made a strong effort to make things easy on her. Between finding his own rides to practices, making sure he got good grades in school, or helping clean around the house, Tatum grew up fast. One day his mom came home with his report card which had two C’s. The following weekend he had a big tournament but she wouldn’t let him play in it because of his mediocre grades. It’s a common perception that the best student athletes are able to just get by in school without having great grades because of their talents, but in this case it’s evident that Tatum had to perform well in the classroom.
Tatum will fit in perfectly with the Celtics as they’ve been lacking a wing type player that can both drive and shoot. Sure, there will most likely be people in front of him as there are many rumors about Gordon Hayward or Paul George coming to town (or even both), but long term it made so much sense to take Tatum. Coming off of a year at one of the most prestigious basketball schools in the nation and being a key part of the team, there’s a good chance Tatum is more ready than the typical one-and-done freshman.
Photo (John Wilcox)