The Boston Celtics were able to draft Jayson Tatum with the third pick in the 2017 NBA Draft directly due to the compensation they received from the Brooklyn Nets when they traded Paul Pierce (among others) in 2013.
After watching him perform this summer, it appears as though the newly-retired Pierce approves of Boston’s decision to take the versatile and skilled forward out of Duke University.
Not only does he approve, but Pierce firmly believes that Tatum is more mature now than he was mid-way through his Hall of Fame caliber career.
“He looks like an older version of me, when I started doing the step-back and stuff,” Pierce said in an interview with A. Sherrod Blakely of Comcast Sports Net New England. “When I’m watching him, he looks like a mature version of my game, like sixth, seventh, eighth year. He sees the defense. He knows what’s going to happen before it happens. He understands his position, footwork, his step-back (jumper) is there. His offensive repertoire seems complete. The sky is the limit for that kid.”
Over the years, Pierce has undoubtedly seen a number of incredibly talented players enter the league. But, most of them lacked a certain x-factor. Luckily for the Celtics, Pierce believes that Tatum possesses the internal drive and hunger that’s necessary in order to have an ultra-productive pro career.
“The thing I see, what makes the guy special, there’s a lot of talent in the league. There’s no question about it,” Pierce said. “Your mentality, your drive, how great you want to be, that’s what separates the good from the great ones. You look at guys from the past, like Kobe (Bryant’s) determination, his competitive spirit. You see guys that were just as talented, they didn’t have the same competitive spirit so they could not reach the levels of other greats.”
Pierce added, “that’s the biggest thing, the mentality, having a competitive spirit because there’s so much talent, and it’s about how hard you work and the mentality you bring every single night.”
Since Jae Crowder was included with Isaiah Thomas in the blockbuster Kyrie Irving deal earlier this offseason, Tatum will likely be able to carve out a large role immediately in his rookie season.
Since Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford are most likely guaranteed starting roles, Brad Stevens will have to determine how many minutes Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart, Guerschon Yabusele, Aron Baynes, Terry Rozier and Daniel Theis (along with whoever else makes the roster) play either in the starting five or off the bench.
Nonetheless, judging by his draft position and what he did in the Summer League, Tatum should have a major role and could very well find his name in the starting five when the team opens the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers on October 17.