BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Celtics made the first move of this year’s NBA draft days before it began when they traded the No. 1 overall pick to Philadelphia in a move to add to an already rich cache of future selections.
On draft night, they still grabbed one of the most NBA-ready players available.
Boston selected St. Louis native (Chaminade HS) Jayson Tatum with the No. 3 pick Thursday, adding a 6-foot-8 small forward who was a polished scoring threat during his lone season at Duke. The 19-year-old was a third-team All-ACC selection, averaging 16.8 points while shooting 45.2 percent from the field.
It was the second straight year the Celtics have chosen third overall. Boston selected Jaylen Brown with its first round pick in 2016.
Tatum said he feels fortunate to be joining a contender immediately.
“It’s great,” he said. “I think that I get to learn that much more, especially from a veteran team that knows what it takes to get there. I can’t wait to go and learn from Coach (Brad) Stevens and Isaiah Thomas and just everybody on that roster.”
As part to the deal with Philadelphia, Boston will also receive a first-round draft pick in either 2018 or 2019 — giving it even more bargaining chips to bolster its roster during free agency.
Tatum gives the Celtics some immediate rotation flexibility, with the ability to play both forward spots and defend as many as four positions.
They have been high on Tatum throughout the draft process, and brought him in for a private workout late last week. Tatum said he stayed in contact with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski throughout the draft process, and it was Coach K who encouraged him to take the Celtics up on their invitation.
“He was just ranting about how great of a person Brad Stevens is,” Tatum said. “He really wanted me to go up there and work out for them. I was all for it. It worked out.”
Boston also brought in No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz, but drafting the Washington product would have likely meant a move from point guard to shooting guard, with an All-Star in Thomas already on the roster.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he ultimately felt comfortable trading the top pick to the 76ers because he thought the player he planned to take at No. 1 would still be around at No. 3.
He turned out to be correct.
“That’s a great compliment, especially with all the great guys in this class. The two guys that went ahead of me, they’re great players, but I’m glad at how it worked out, so I’m happy,” Tatum said of Fultz and Lonzo Ball.
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