Nick Wright believes the Celtics made the right move by agreeing to a five-year, $195 million max contract extension with Jayson Tatum.
That said, Wright isn’t totally sold the investment will payoff for Boston.
The FS1 pundit has serious reservations about the Celtics’ potential to win an NBA championship with Tatum as their best player, which is the direction Boston is headed after locking up the 22-year-old.
“Of course you give him this deal. Just like of course you give Donovan Mitchell this deal (with the Utah Jazz) even though you know if either one of these guys is my best player, I can’t win the title,” Wright said Tuesday on “First Things First.” “The Celtics are stuck. Celtics fans love sending me the video last year of when I called last offseason a disaster. But I was right. And this offseason’s even worse.
“You lose Gordon Hayward for nothing, I do like them adding Tristan Thompson, but they’re stuck. The rest of the East that matters got better — the Sixers got better, the Bucks got better, the Nets obviously got massively better, the Heat, who you couldn’t beat last year, at least stayed the same, and the Celtics have been going in reverse.”
The Celtics fell two wins short of the NBA Finals this past season, losing to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. It was Boston’s third trip to the conference finals in four seasons, with the Celtics coming within one victory of advancing past LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018.
It’ll be even more difficult for the Celtics to get over the hump in the 2020-21 season, though, as they lost Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets and the Eastern Conference looks stronger. Tatum’s continued development ultimately could determine Boston’s ceiling, now and over the next decade-plus.
“In the last 30 years, we have two champions that didn’t have a league MVP on their roster: the 04 Pistons and the 2018 Raptors,” Wright said. “So unless you think Jayson Tatum is going to be a league MVP, the answer is, he’s a really, really good player that can’t be the No. 1 on a champion.
“That’s fine. But that’s not what the Celtics signed up for when they thought they had the greatest haul of draft picks ever.”
Tatum, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, has steadily improved in his three seasons since entering the league. He’s coming off a 2019-20 campaign in which he averaged 23.4 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists while earning his first All-Star selection and All-NBA Third Team honors.