Morrow: Celtics got the right guy in Tatum
When the news about the Celtics trading the first overall pick to Philadelphia 76ers broke, I was upset. Partially because I, as a Boston fan, was looking forward to Markelle Fultz, and I think had already begun thinking of him as a Celtic. But also because I was 90 percent finished with an article titled: "The Pros and Cons of the Celtics Moving on from Isaiah Thomas," and without drafting Fultz, that topic became moot.
The more I thought about the move, the more I was OK with it. Yes, Fultz is great. But this way, the Celtics don't have to go through the headache of deciding what to do with Thomas (trade him? Let him walk? Give him the max?). This way, keeping Thomas is a no-brainer, and that's a good thing; Boston would riot if Thomas was traded; he's probably the city's biggest sports hero not named Tom Brady.
Immediately after the Celtics traded the first pick, the chatter among NBA fans had begun. "Who will the Celtics take?" "Will they trade the pick?" At the time, the consensus seemed to be that Boston would probably take Josh Jackson, the player many considered to be the third- or even second-best prospect in the draft.
My gut reaction to the idea of drafting Jackson was negative. I wasn't excited about him the way that I had been about Fultz. Don't get me wrong, Jackson's was an exciting college athlete, and is a terrific pro prospect. But for Boston, drafting Jackson wouldn't have made any sense, unless they intended on trading him.
In last year's draft, the Celtics used the third overall pick to draft an athletic wing with high defensive upside. Why make the exact same move with the same pick two years in a row? With Jaylen Brown on the roster, drafting Jackson would have been a redundancy.
Plus, another defensive-minded player with a questionable outside shot is not what the Celtics need. They already have Brown. They already have Marcus Smart. They already have Terry Rozier. The defense is there for Boston; Avery Bradley, Smart, Jae Crowder and Al Horford are all terrific on that end, and Brown will be soon.
What the Celtics need is scoring. Thomas is one of the best scorers in the world, but he can't do it all. The Celtics boasted a top-10 offense last season, but it needs to be better if they hope to be legitimate title contenders. They need secondary scorers to take the load off of Thomas' shoulders at times. Bradley, Horford and Crowder aren't bad, but aren't elite shot-creators.
Defense is extremely important in the NBA, but offense is paramount. With Jayson Tatum, the Celtics drafted for offense, not defense. Rather than draft a good defender and hope he develops into a scorer, the Celtics have done the reverse.
Tatum can flat out score and has the tools to be a good defender down the road. He's 6-foot-8 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan. He can score in a variety of ways. He can take slower defenders to the rim, and has shown a serious knack for getting buckets in the midrange. While he isn't yet an elite three-point shooter, he's flashed that range and is young; he turned 19 less than two months ago.
Even with an inconsistent three-point shot, Tatum is a terrific scorer in isolation. The Celtics need a player who can go get them a bucket when they need it when Thomas is gassed. Tatum can be that guy. He can put the ball in the basket, and that has value. The rest of his game (range, playmaking, defense) will come. For now, he should be able to provide the Celtics with a much-needed scoring spark.
The Celtics drafted for talent and fit with this pick, and I love it.