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2017 Celtics draft quiet despite hype

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2017 Celtics draft quiet despite hype (AP file photo)

C’s select Duke forward Jayson Tatum with third pick

Celtics fans could be forgiven for feeling a little déjà vu with this year’s draft, like it was 2016 all over again.

For starters, they had the number three pick again. And both seasons featured the C’s right in the middle of trade rumors and it seemed as though high-profile trades were imminent. And both times, GM Danny Ainge decided to stand pat and keep the young prospect.

This year’s pick? Duke forward Jayson Tatum.

The 19-year-old Tatum averaged close to 17 points and seven rebounds in his freshman season at Duke. Tatum led the Blue Devils to a conference championship, but the team would go on to lose to South Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament. He is said to be an elite scorer who needs to put in work on the defensive end.

If that’s the case, he can fill a much-needed role on the Celtics, that of someone other than Isaiah Thomas who can create their own shot. The 6’8” forward is slated to be a small forward – the same position as last year’s number-three pick Jaelyn Brown. That said, with more and more NBA teams going small, expect him to see a lot of time at power forward.

When the Celtics traded the first pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for the number three pick and a future first-rounder, it initially seemed as though the Celtics would draft Kansas forward Josh Jackson. But Jackson, a freak athlete with a hard-nosed game, decided to not even work out for the Celtics. As the draft grew closer, conventional wisdom swung toward the Celtics selecting Tatum. In fact, Ainge said after the draft that he would have taken Tatum first overall.

Coach Brad Stevens likes Tatum’s versatility. When asked about what position he expected him to play, Stevens said “it does not even matter.” He went on to say that he likes how many positionless players that are now Celtics – players that can pass, shoot and dribble. Tatum adds to that.

The NBA champion Golden State Warriors’ whole team consists of many positionless players, so I like the direction the C’s are going in. Jaelyn Brown also fits into that mold, so it’s clear the Celtics are following the league in that direction and gathering that type of player. And with Tatum, the Celtics get offensive skills that are much higher than Brown’s. I'll give the pick an A.

While I think that Tatum is going to be a good player in this league and I like the draw from the Celtics, the real story of Boston’s draft is that no trades were made for the impact player the team needs.

We’ve been hearing rumors of moves for what seems like forever. Pre-draft, there were numerous reports that the Celtics and Knicks were discussing a possible trade centered around New York’s 7’3” Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis, a 21-year-old stud already averaging more than 18 points per game, is a future star. The Latvian native shoots the ball about as well as a seven-footer can; his play would be perfect for the Celtics. Porzingis, who skipped his end of season exit meeting, has not talked to the Knicks this offseason. Offers were exchanged, but a deal couldn’t be struck. A missed opportunity for Ainge and the Celtics.

Rumors also came out before the draft about the Celtics turning down a trade for star Chicago Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler. The trade was said to be a straight-up exchange, the third pick for Butler. Again, no deal. Butler ended up being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

There were even murmurings DURING the draft. Right after the Celtics made their selection, it was rumored that they were in talks with Indiana for Pacers star Paul George. Again, nothing.

Eventually, Danny Ainge and company are going to have to pull the trigger. No one is winning anything without one of these stars. A risk is going to have be taken. I don’t know how many more of these rumor situations I can take; for the sake of my sanity, something needs to happen. This was far too much buildup for an undeniably talented teenager who nevertheless will require time to blossom.

The Celtics did end up making three more picks in the draft’s second round. With the 37th pick, they ended up with small forward Semi Ojeleye from Southern Methodist. At the 53rd spot, they chose Arizona point guard Kadeem Allen. And with the 56th pick they nabbed 6-6 shooting guard Jabari Bird. Being second-round draft picks, their futures with the Celtics are likely spent in Portland with the Red Claws. But you never know – for instance, Ojeleye did average 19 points and nearly seven boards at SMU. Some peg him as having the same kind of versatility as Tatum and Brown.

Just because a trade wasn’t made on draft night doesn’t mean one isn’t coming; the possibility still exists this offseason. I expect the Paul George rumors only got warm during the draft and will heat up to blazing over the next few weeks and months. The Celtics will also be active in free agency with Utah’s Gordon Hayward and there are rumblings that Clippers forward Blake Griffin has expressed interest in the C’s.

So yeah - the 2017 draft was pretty mild, but there's still a long way to go this offseason. Stay tuned!

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