BOSTON (CBS) — After being drafted with the third overall pick at Thursday night’s NBA Draft, Jayson Tatum will bring his NBA-ready offense to the Boston Celtics next season.
The 6-foot-8 forward dazzled the nation with his array of offensive moves in his one season at Duke, averaging 16.8 points off of 45 percent shooting. He should be able to score at the next level the second he takes a step on the floor for Boston.
But will the versatile Tatum be playing small forward or power forward for Boston? He has the ability to play both, but Celtics head coach Brad Stevens isn’t saying.
“It doesn’t matter,” Stevens told reporters shortly after Boston made their first selection on Thursday.
Fair enough. Part of what made Danny Ainge and the Celtics’ brass fall in love with Tatum was his versatility, and Stevens must be salivating at all the ways he can deploy his new player.
“We think Jayson can play a variety of positions with a variety of guys. I think that, in this kind of position-less league, those guys are really valuable,” said Stevens. “A couple of years ago, I talked about how we were thin on guys that could play a number of different positions, when you talk about, really, 2-3-4. Now we’re starting to really — we’ve got a lot of position-less players that can dribble, pass, and shoot. That’s a good thing.”
Defense is one of the few knocks on Tatum, so which position will he guard, one reporter dared to ask on Thursday night.
“Whoever,” Stevens replied.
The C’s head coach did expand on Tatum’s defense, saying that Tatum is just like any other 19-year-old coming into the NBA.
“He’s got to get better on both ends of the court and that’s for any young guy. We said this about Jaylen last year: It just takes time to be as good as you want to be,” said Stevens. “Again, his ability to score against any variety of defenders and his ability to post smaller guys but also stretch out bigger guys allows him to play with whoever else is on the floor.”
Tatum knows that he’ll have to earn his minutes in Boston, and it’s his defensive versatility that will help him do so.
“[Coach Stevens] just said guys that are my size and are versatile, offensively and defensively, it’s hard not to play those guys,” Tatum said after being drafted.
Stevens said the Celtics worked out Tatum twice ahead of the draft, once in Los Angeles and then on Monday in Boston. Tatum was actually sick when he worked out for the C’s earlier this week, which he didn’t disclose until after the workout was over.
From what Tatum showed them on the court, they couldn’t tell he was under the weather.
“He never changed his expression. Never changed his expression, went at a high tempo, but when he missed a shot he never showed anything but resolve to make the next one,” praised Stevens. “He’s a really skilled player, really talented scorer. Great kid, great work ethic. We’re excited to have him aboard.”
No matter how Stevens plays him, it sounds like Tatum will fit in just fine with the Boston Celtics.