Celtics Draft Analysis: Jayson Tatum Pick Continues Boston’s Steady Climb

by abournenesn

Jun 23, 2017

BROOKLYN — The Boston Celtics have a plan. And despite the endless rumors and smokescreens, they’re sticking to it. (For now, anyway.)

For the second consecutive year, the C’s entered draft night at Barclays Center with the third overall pick and actually employed it, taking Duke forward Jayson Tatum in the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday.

Tatum was one of four total selections for president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who, as usual, kept Celtics fans on the edge of their seats amid reports he might try to trade for Kristaps Porzingis or Jimmy Butler.

Ainge went with the safe bet, though, spurning the more athletic but more volatile Josh Jackson to take a well-rounded 19-year-old who appeared mature beyond his years as he addressed the media in Brooklyn.

“There’s so much more ahead that I want to accomplish,” Tatum told reporters, “and I’m excited I get to do it with the Boston Celtics.”

Of course, there’s always the possibility “Trader Danny” strikes again once free agency begins July 1, swinging Tatum in a trade for Paul George or making a similar big splash. But Boston’s actions Thursday night suggest an awareness of the NBA landscape: The Golden State Warriors are a cut above the rest of the NBA, so the best path lies in using the team’s many assets to build toward a bright future.

That path took a surprise twist a few days ago when Ainge shockingly traded the Celtics’ No. 1 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the No. 3 selection and a future first-rounder. His explanation — that Boston would have taken Tatum No. 1 overall had they kept the pick — leaves Celtics fans left wondering what could have been with Markelle Fultz, as it’s now their turn to “Trust the Process” on Ainge’s decision-making.

Yet it’s hard not to leave Thursday night feeling good about Boston’s moves. Tatum can guard multiple positions defensively and is a polished scorer, something the Celtics are lacking on the wing. The C’s also added a steal in the second round by drafting SMU forward Semi Ojeyele with the 37th overall pick.

Ojeyele is an absolute bulldozer at 6-foot-7, 235 pounds, and is another versatile defender to add to Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ arsenal. Add in Ojeyele’s impressive offensive game — 18.9 points per contest last season — and the critics seem to think Boston got quite the steal.

The Celtics’ maneuvering from years past landed them two more picks late in the second round, which they used on Arizona guard Kadeem Allen at No. 53 and Cal guard Jabari Bird at No. 56.

There’s a good chance both players don’t figure into Boston’s long-term plans, which could include a serious run at an NBA championship in the near future. Tatum will join last year’s No. 3 pick, Jaylen Brown, to form what could be a tantalizing 1-2 punch for years to come. If Ainge adds a high-end free agent such as Gordon Hayward to the mix — even at the expense of losing Jae Crowder or another member of the Celtics’ current core — it could push Boston’s ceiling even higher after a run to the Eastern Conference finals last season.

To be sure, the C’s aren’t at the top of the mountain yet. But they took another step upward.

Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images

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