Jayson Tatum should be untouchable.
Yes, this is coming from someone who wanted Danny Ainge to keep the No. 1 overall pick two years ago and draft Markelle Fultz. I was wrong. Ainge was right.
Here’s hoping the Boston Celtics get it right again. They’ll do so by holding on to Tatum.
Ainge will surely be tempted this summer to add Tatum in a deal that would bring Anthony Davis to Boston, especially if he’s able to both convince Kyrie Irving to sign a long-term contract and get Davis to agree to terms on a long-term extension before finalizing a trade. Still, the Celtics should stand firm that a package surrounding Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and the Memphis draft pick is better than what anyone else in the NBA can offer.
That Memphis pick, by the way, is top eight protected in 2019, top six protected in 2020 and unprotected in 2021. Given how bad the Grizzlies are, it’s an extremely valuable asset, even with the unknown of what pick it will be.
But I digress. The Celtics should stand their ground with the Pelicans. You can’t have Tatum. I don’t care how bad you want him. He’s ours, and that’s that.
The aforementioned scenario where the Celtics could keep Irving and trade for Davis while holding on to Tatum would be great, but there’s no guarantee that Irving wants to stay in Boston, and there’s plenty of speculation that Davis only wants to be in L.A. In a league where All-Star players have most of the leverage, Ainge really has no control over where Irving and Davis want to play long-term, even if he was willing to part ways with Tatum.
Wednesday morning on ESPN, Jalen Rose said, “This will be Kyrie Irving’s final season with the Celtics.”
The assumption here is that Rose is giving an informed opinion. As a former player, he’s well connected. And he proclaimed Irving’s final season in Boston with conviction.
But does he really know anything the rest of us don’t?
Irving will be a free agent this summer. After his name was recently linked to a Ric Bucher report that said he was genuinely interested in joining LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers, Irving responded to the media with an “I don’t owe anybody [expletive].”
Was he talking about his future with the Celtics? Or was he just telling the media to stop asking questions about his future? Or was it both?
Either way, he’s right. He doesn’t owe anybody anything. Not the Celtics, not the media, nobody. And he can do whatever he wants this summer. The summer after that, Davis can also do whatever he wants as a free agent.
If both Irving and Davis want to play for the Celtics long-term, then Ainge should be able to make it happen because again, Irving and Davis are the ones who hold all the cards — sorry David Price, the phrase actually makes sense in this instance.
There is one card that Ainge holds right now, though, and that’s Tatum: a 20-year-old, 6-foot-8 shooting forward who has certainly not disappointed since being drafted third overall by the Celtics in 2017.
Tatum helped lead the C’s to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last year while still wearing diapers, averaging 18.5 points per game in the playoffs while playing 36 minutes per game in those 19 playoff games as a rookie.
He can shoot, he’s got handles and can finish around the basket with the best of them. Tatum is a stud who has all the tools to be a legend. Ainge knew it. That’s why he was so locked in on him at the 2017 Draft.
The only thing Tatum has done since then is prove Ainge right and prove me wrong. And the only thing that’s changed since then is the possibility of pairing Irving and Davis in Boston as the NBA’s next version of Vince McMahon’s Mega Powers.
But, again, that might be out of the Celtics’ control. What is in Ainge’s control is Tatum, a future All-Star who will soon be a player that other All-Stars want to join forces within their quest for an NBA championship.
This summer, the Celtics should make it a point to prioritize that control.
Make Tatum untouchable.
Listen to “The Danny Picard Show” on PodcastOne, iTunes, and Spotify. Follow him on Twitter @DannyPicard. Subscribe to YouTube.com/DannyPicard.