Duke

Boston? Phoenix? Duke’s Jayson Tatum awaits NBA Draft fate

Duke forward Jayson Tatum (0) races between Troy forward Jordon Varnado (23) and teammate guard Kevin Baker (0) to go in to score against at the NCAA tournament on March 17, 2017, at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.
Duke forward Jayson Tatum (0) races between Troy forward Jordon Varnado (23) and teammate guard Kevin Baker (0) to go in to score against at the NCAA tournament on March 17, 2017, at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C. cliddy@newsobserver.com

On the eve of the NBA Draft, Duke’s Jayson Tatum says he still doesn’t know where he will land despite working out twice recently for the Boston Celtics.

“I’m still uncertain,” the soft-spoken Tatum said Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan during NBA draft media day.

The 6-8 Tatum worked out for Boston on Monday after news broke that the Celtics had dealt the No. 1 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the No. 3 pick and a future first-round pick. The Sixers are expected to take Washington’s Markelle Fultz with the first pick.

“They went great,” Tatum said of the Celtics’ workouts. “The first workout, they came and watched me work out. This past Monday, I actually went to Boston and they put me through a workout and it was great. I got to spend time with (general manager) Danny Ainge, coach (Brad) Stevens and the other staff and hang out.”

DraftExpress.com currently has the Celtics taking Tatum at No. 3, while ESPN’s Chad Ford has him going to the Phoenix Suns at No. 4.

Asked how he reacted to the trade, Tatum said, “You know, I was surprised because they had the No. 1 pick but they know more than I do so when they called me for a workout I was like, ‘sure.’ I was excited.”

Tatum said he was “under the weather” during his time in Boston and just went to “lay down after the workout” so he didn’t get to tour the city.

Boston is in the market for wings to couple with guards Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley. Ainge felt comfortable dealing the No. 1 pick knowing he could still land a wing – either Tatum or Kansas’ Josh Jackson (who has not worked out for Boston) – at No. 3.

“I talked about that with coach Stevens and he said guys at my size and my position and are able to hit open shots and defend the one through the four, it’s hard not to play those guys so that’s how he looks at using me if they were to draft me,” Tatum said.

The St. Louis native averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in his lone season at Duke, helping the Blue Devils win the ACC tournament at Barclays Center. He has heard the criticisms that he lacks the foot speed to defend NBA wings and the size to guard NBA power forwards, but he’s confident he can do both.

“Yes, I definitely have confidence in myself that I’ll be able to hold my own and be able to defend threes and fours,” he said.

Luke Kennard, Tatum’s former Duke teammate and a fellow projected lottery pick, says whoever lands Tatum is getting a bona fide scorer.

“Jayson’s a talented player,” Kennard said. “I knew that from the start of his freshman year. As soon as he stepped on campus, he was going right at everybody. He competes, he loves to win, he’s just a unique player. He can score in any way, I don’t think anybody can stop him, honestly.”

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