2017 Draft shows what the Celtics are building towards

Fox Sports/Associated Press

The Boston Celtics selected Duke forward Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.

The pick, which was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers after for the №1 pick, was rumored to go in several different directions. This included trading the pick for Paul George, Jimmy Butler or Kristaps Porzingis. Kansas forward Josh Jackson was also speculated to be the third pick.

But the Knicks were asking for too much in return for Porzingis. The Bulls traded Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves before the Celtics were on the clock. And trade efforts for George had “stalled” during the draft.

Amidst all the speculation, the selection of Tatum confirms one thing, that Danny Ainge believes he is the best player in this draft. And not only that, signs point to Tatum being a central piece to the Celtics future.

When the Celtics traded down from the first pick to the third pick earlier this week, nearly everyone was confused. But we should’ve expected this.

“We think there’s a really good chance the player we’ll take at [No.] 3 is the same player we would have taken at [No.] 1. So this was a great opportunity to acquire an impactful asset,” Ainge said after the completion of the trade.

On the same day the trade was completed, Tatum was in Boston for a private workout. This came after he was “impressive” in an earlier workout that the Celtics attended.

The Celtics knew that Tatum was the guy that they wanted, which was evident by head coach Brad Stevens’ quotes after the Celtics selected Tatum.

“I think the biggest thing is that we really like Jayson,” Stevens said on why the Celtics picked Tatum. “We think Jayson can play a variety of positions with a variety of guys. I think that, in this kind of position-less league, those guys are really valuable.”

Stevens also focused in on Tatum’s offensive skills, which make him a special player.

“His ability to score against any variety of defenders and his ability to post smaller guys but also stretch out bigger guys allows him to play with whoever else is on the floor,” Stevens said.

Stevens also suggested that Tatum would play both forward positions.

The biggest sign of confidence that the Celtics have shown in the Tatum pick is that they refused to trade this pick for Butler or George.

And it’s not a surprise as to why the Celtics feel this way. It’s not often that rookies enter the league with the scoring ability that Tatum has. He has the potential to become a team’s go-to scorer in a league that’s looking for scorers now more than ever.

The Tatum pick is also a good sign for Jaylen Brown, who was the third overall pick in the 2016 Draft. Brown’s ability to drive to the hoop meshes well with Tatum’s scoring ability.

The Celtics could also use Tatum’s scoring ability. After Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics didn’t have a clear go-to scorer with the ability to create their own shot. This was one of the reasons why the lost to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Celtics are expected to go after Gordan Hayward and Blake Griffin in free agency this summer, and if they sign one of them, they’ll be in a bit of a jam at the forward spot. But I’d still expect Tatum to get around 20 minutes per game off the bench (for reference, Brown got 17 minutes per game this past season) because he’s going to be the Celtics best bench scorer.

Tatum’s defense has been a big weakness of his, but defense skills can be acquired through development.

The big thing that we learned about the Celtics on Thursday night was that they’re not only building for 2018, but they’re also building for 2025.