Three days after working out in Boston, Duke’s Jayson Tatum was picked by the Celtics at No. 3 in the NBA Draft at Barclays Center on Thursday.
The Celtics earlier this week traded the No. 1 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 3 pick and a conditional 2018 first-round pick. The Sixers then chose Washington guard Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick, while the Los Angeles Lakers then selected UCLA’s Lonzo Ball at No. 2.
“Yeah, this has been a great night,” Tatum said. “It’s been a dream come true. You know, just making it to the NBA and being drafted by a great franchise like Boston. I’m excited just to bring a lot of versatility and just accepting my new role and just trying to be the best at whatever Coach (Brad) Stevens wants me to be.
This marked the fourth straight year Duke has produced a top-3 pick, following Jabari Parker (2014), Jahlil Okafor (’15) and Brandon Ingram (’16).
“I know, it’s the best night ever,” Tatum said. “For me and my mom for everything we’ve been through and even for my Dad and everybody back home in St. Louis and the Duke family and everyone is happy for me.”
Asked what he planned to do with his newfound riches, Tatum said, “I would love to pay that mortgage out. Pay for bills and utilities and take that burden off their shoulders.”
The Celtics selected the 6-8 Tatum because they badly need a wing player to complement guards Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley. Boston had also reportedly considered Kansas’ Josh Jackson, but he never worked out for Boston.
It is the second year in a row Boston has taken a wing player with the No. 3 pick, following Cal’s Jaylen Brown a year ago.
“(Tatum) has Paul Pierce-like moves, he will be the perfect fit for the Celtics,” former Duke point guard Jay Williams said Thursday on SportsCenter. “Jaylen Brown gives you defense, Jayson Tatum gives you instant offense.”
Tatum averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds for the Blue Devils in 2016-17, ranking second on the team and among ACC freshmen in both categories. He shot 45 percent from the floor and 85 percent from the free-throw line in 33.3 minutes per game.
“I think he’s a great player on the next level,” ESPN’s Jay Bilas, a former Duke forward, said Thursday on ESPN’s Mike & Mike. “Now is he gonna be the type of guy that is the franchise player and carries a team to a championship? I don’t see him being a LeBron-type player in that way, but I didn’t see Steph Curry being that, either. But he’s really talented offensively, and I think he’s still just scratching the surface of what he’s going to be.
“He’s kind of an isolation scorer that’s got great length. He can shoot it. He makes 85 percent of his free throws.”
As for his workouts with the Celtics, Tatum said Wednesday:
“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.”
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge felt comfortable dealing the No. 1 pick knowing he could still land a quality wing – either Tatum or Jackson at No. 3.
“I talked about that with coach (Brad) 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.
Tatum became the 22nd lottery pick from Duke and the 22nd for head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“Jayson’s skill set and work ethic will make him a star with the Boston Celtics,” Krzyzewski said. “His game translates to the NBA as well or better than anyone else in the draft. The Celtics are getting a humble, thoughtful, talented young man who should be able to help them right away.”