The 3rd overall pick in the 2017 draft, Jayson Tatum has shown how skillful of a player he is and how he can make an immediate impact for the Boston Celtics. Tatum has shined so far in summer league action, out-dueling the two players who were selected before him in the draft, Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball.
In the Celtics game vs. the Sixers, Tatum put up 21 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals and 3 assists. Fultz scored 17 points and added 2 rebounds with 3 blocks. This was an exciting first game for the Celtics in the summer league because there will always be speculation if it was the right move for Danny Ainge to trade down from the #1 pick and pass on Fultz to draft Tatum. Well, in this first game, both rookies showcased their talents and both did not disappoint. Tatum was better in the game however, and he also added the game-winning shot with 5.7 seconds left on the clock to defeat the Sixers.
The Celtics and Lakers game sold out days before the scheduled contest, which is just unheard of for the summer league. That’s how excited fans were in hopes that these young rosters both teams posses with young talent, will reform the great rivalry of Boston and LA. All eyes were on Tatum and Ball in this one. Tatum had been great in all the Celtics three prior games. The case was the not the same with Ball, who struggled mightily in his summer league debut, shooting just 2/15 from the floor and 1/11 from 3 and finishing with just 5 points. Ball was not a disappointment in the game against the Celtics however, as maybe the jitters wore off, as he registered a triple-double consisting of 11 points, 11 boards and 11 assists. But the story was still on Jayson Tatum as he outplayed Ball, leading the Celtics to an 86-81 victory over LA with 27 points and 11 boards.
Following the game against the Lakers, former Celtics player and current coach, Walter McCarty had high praise for Tatum, “He reminds me of Paul Pierce when he was young… He has that ability just to be cool. He doesn’t get too frantic. He doesn’t get nervous. He just lets the game come to him. And he’s got a quiet swag about him. It’s really fun to watch him when he does it. I get excited just watching him. And we’ve just got to keep building on that.”
In a previous article I wrote on the Celtics, I had the same take as McCarty, saying that while watching Tatum play at Duke, I noticed a lot of similarities between his game and Pierce’s. Pierce was a very athletic player, but at the same time he played at his own pace and never forced or rushed anything, he just let the game come to him. The same can be said about Tatum. We can see the athleticism with Tatum and his size is similar to Pierce’s. But where I see the biggest comparison comes from their ability to beat the defense in a number of ways, playing at their own pace, and taking what the defense gives them rather than forcing or rushing their game. Anytime a player can come in as a rookie and draw comparisons to one of the best players to ever play for the franchise they just got drafted to is impressive, and Tatum has shown his capability and high potential.
Tatum is now averaging 20.8 points and 10 rebounds, including three double-doubles for the Celtics through their four games played thus far in the summer league. Danny Ainge saw something in Tatum, saying he would’ve drafted him #1 overall if he could not find a partner to trade with and move down in the draft, and now Tatum is showing why he could have been the #1 pick with his great play.