Nearly six months ago Danny Ainge enraged most Celtics fans and had most NBA onlookers scratching their heads when he traded away the No. 1 overall pick to Philadelphia in exchange for the No. 3 overall pick and a future first round pick.
Boston fans were already researching how to get their hands on Markelle Fultz jerseys as Fultz had been widely regarded as the top talent in the 2017 draft for months. But as he often does, Ainge went against the grain and against common thinking. Today, Ainge again looks like a genius as he has already “won” the blockbuster of a trade.
Fultz looked sheepish in the summer league, starting shooting free throws like a fourth grader, and then got hurt. The pick they got from the Sixers looks like it’s going to be a great one. The Celtics will get the Lakers pick via Philly if the Lakers hold a pick between No. 2 and No. 5 in this upcoming draft. And finally, the man that the Celtics drafted No. 3 overall, Jayson Tatum, easily looks like the best talent from the Class of 2017.
In an NBA world where top-notch shooting is the attribute most wanted by teams, the Celtics may have the best young shooter in the league in Tatum. That was ever-so apparent Monday night at the Garden in the C’s 111-110 victory over the Bucks. Tatum went 4-of-4 from 3-point range in the first quarter and had 14 points right out of the gate. When it comes to 3-point percentage this season, Tatum is shooting an absurd .513. It’s easily the best mark in the NBA, 30 percentage points ahead of the next best dude (Chandler Parsons at .483).
As Scott Maxwell of BostonCelticsForever pointed out on Twitter Monday night, Tatum’s 3-point percentage is currently higher than Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball’s free throw percentage (.500).
The great thing for Celtics fans is that typically players get better with age when it comes to shooting. With his pedigree, the 19-year-old Tatum could legitimately become the best shooter the NBA has seen since Steph Curry came along.
“The thing about [Tatum] is when he came in for his [pre-draft] workout, he made a lot of shots and it looked effortless,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said this week. “That’s usually a pretty good sign. It didn’t look like it was just one of those days where he was just hitting everything. He would miss two in a row and it wouldn’t dissuade him from hitting the next one. He had no thought about making the next five, he just kept shooting. For a guy with his frame, he shoots it effortless. He’s gonna be able to shoot it deeper, he’s gonna be able to make it off running once he gets a bit stronger and more used to everything else. He’s gonna be one heck of a shooter.”
A better Tatum comparison than Curry is probably Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is 6-foot-8, as is Tatum and both players came from big-time college basketball programs (Anthony with Syracuse and Tatum with Duke). Both also played college ball for just one year and both enjoyed sterling rookie shooting campaigns in the NBA. Anthony averaged a whopping 21.0 points per game in his rookie year. Tatum is currently averaging 13.9 (sixth among rookies).