Celtics

If not Fultz, Celtics could opt for NBA-ready Tatum of Duke

If not Fultz, Celtics could opt for NBA-ready Tatum of Duke

Everyone assumes the Celtics will take Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick in the draft . . . but what if they don't? What if they turn to another of the prospects? This week, we'll look at some of the players who might interest the Celtics in that 'What if?' scenario: TODAY: Duke's Jayson Tatum. 

Nearly every mock draft has the Celtics selecting Washington guard Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 overall pick. And rightfully so. Fultz is the most complete player at this moment and still has room to improve greatly. 

INSTEAD OF FULTZ, WHAT IF CELTICS DRAFT . . .

Still, if Danny Ainge decides to either trade back or in the words of the great Muhammad Ali, “shock the world” and not take Fultz, the guy he should target is Duke’s Jayson Tatum.
 
The 6-foot-8 Tatum is one of the few guys in this draft who can help the Celtics immediately. In his lone season at Duke, he averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in 33 minutes per game. Impressive numbers for a freshman who just turned 19 in March. There are several reasons why Tatum should be the guy if Ainge goes elsewhere from Fultz.
 
THE GOOD

Tatum has an NBA-ready body. At 6-8 and 204 pounds, Tatum resembles the NBA version of Greek God Adonis. He has a chiseled body and with a 6-11 wingspan he can come in and contribute right away. Plus, he’ll only get bigger and stronger, which should strike fear in opponents.
 
He’s also extremely versatile on the offense. He’s been compared to Danny Granger and Allan Houston. But a better comparison may be Paul Pierce. That’s right Celtics fans, Tatum has a lot of Pierce’s game in his repertoire. He’s a natural scorer who can beat you a number of ways on the offensive end. He’s deceptively shifty with the dribble and, just like Pierce, he has amazing footwork.
 
He also has a throwback mid-range game, reminiscent of Pierce. And he fills a need for the Celtics. He was one of the best 1-on-1 players in college, so when the Celtics need a bucket, Tatum will be able to get it. How many times have we said the Celtics need someone who can create his own shot? Well, Tatum is that guy.
 
One Eastern Conference scout tells CSNNE’s A. Sherrod Blakely, "Tatum has a tremendous feel for the game. He has that high basketball IQ thing going for him that Brad Stevens loves in a player. Good shooter, decent ball-handler...solid in a lot of areas but not great at any one thing.”
 
Another area where he’ll be able to help the Celtics is on the glass. Tatum was a very good rebounder at Duke, especially on the defensive end. His defensive rebounding rate was 19.7 percent. To put that in context, Draymond Green’s defensive rebound percentage was 20.4. So, Tatum is not that far behind one of the best All-Everything guys in the NBA.
 
But Tatum does have a few limitations.
 
THE BAD
He’s a good 3-point shooter but not necessarily great. He shot a respectable 34.2 percent in his lone season at Duke but that was from college range. The NBA 3-pointer is three feet farther out (23-9 vs. 20-9), so he’ll have to improve on his jump shot. With that being said, Paul Pierce only shot 33.5 percent in his final season at Kansas and he turned into a pretty good NBA 3-point shooter.
 
While I think he’s extremely versatile on offense, the same NBA scout doubts his versatility saying, “My biggest concern with him is his versatility. Like I said, he can do a lot of things pretty good. But he doesn't have the kind of size or length to play anywhere other than small forward.  He doesn't have the length or strength to really be a small-ball power forward, and he doesn't shoot the ball well enough right now, to play off-guard.”
 
I, however, do feel he can play both forward spots, especially when an opposing team goes small.
 
At the end of the day, Tatum is an NBA-ready player who can step in and fill several needs for the Celtics. I feel he’ll be an All-Star caliber player who will consistently score 18-25 points a game in his NBA career. As the scout said, “Still, he's a good player and honestly, probably the safest pick when you're talking about the guys talked about as top-five, top-six picks."

Marcus Smart says he's 'strong enough to get back out there'

Marcus Smart says he's 'strong enough to get back out there'

MILWAUKEE – With Boston’s 104-102 Game 3 loss to Milwaukee, the Celtics are guaranteed a return trip to Milwaukee for Game 6 later this week.

At that point in the series, both team’s depth will be an issue.

Boston’s depth hasn’t been great, but it potentially could be better if Marcus Smart is cleared to play following a right thumb injury suffered last month.

The 6-foot-4 guard will have a check-up on Tuesday and if he’s cleared to resume practicing with the team, that would pave the way for him to be available to play in Game 6 on Thursday.

“That’s the plan. We’re still on the same track,” Smart said.

Smart has been working diligently with the training staff since he had his right thumb surgically repaired last month.

“I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there,” Smart said. “I’m just waiting for the OK.”

MORE CELTICS:

In the meantime, Smart has been walking around with one type of splint to help insure that he doesn’t accidentally bump his thumb and potentially do damage to it. That splint is different than the one he will play with upon getting cleared to return to action. While the idea of playing with a splint may not seem ideal, Smart said he’s comfortable shooting with it.

Before playoff games 2, 3 and 4 of this series with Boston, Smart has been on the floor prior to the game working on his perimeter shooting, dribble-drive, pull-ups, free throws and pretty much anything he does shooting-wise during a game. Smart has also worked on his conditioning, lateral quickness drills and other work to help strengthen his core, all done with him returning sooner rather than later. 

But ultimately, it is Smart's comfort level with his right hand and the splint that he'll play with, that will determine what kind of impact one can expect once he returns to action. 

“It feels like it’s nothing there,” Smart said of playing with the splint. “To have that comfortability in my dominant hand, my shooting hand, that’s a good feeling to have.”

Smart, who has distinguished himself as Boston’s top perimeter defender, has appeared in 54 games for the Celtics this season. The fourth-year guard averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds this season while playing 29.9 minutes per game.

MORE CELTICS

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Frustrations continue to mount for Morris as Celtics drop Game 4

Frustrations continue to mount for Morris as Celtics drop Game 4

MILWAUKEE – Marcus Morris, in an iso situation with a chance to tie the game up and potentially force overtime. 

If you’re the Boston Celtics, you’ll take that scenario without hesitation. 

But this was a road game, in Milwaukee, a place where very little has gone the way Morris intended.

Sunday was yet another one of those days for Morris, whose shot was off the mark as time expired in Milwaukee’s 104-102 Game 4 win which tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece heading into Tuesday’s pivotal Game 5 matchup at the TD Garden. 

After the game, Morris said the shot felt good on the release and he thought it was going in. 

The man defending him, Khris Middleton, felt the same way. 

“I just tried to contest it,” Middleton said. “He took a lot of tough shots. He’s a tough-shot maker. I just tried to challenge it. He got me with the same move in the first half and made it. This time I challenged it, used my length and I thought it was good from my view but it just went a little bit long.”

Morris led the Celtics bench with 13 points, but only shot 4-for-14 from the field. 

As you listen to Morris following the Game 4 loss, it’s hard to tell whether he’s more consumed by the disappointment of how this series has played out the last two games, or frustration over more and more attention being paid to him and his interactions with game officials. 

The 6-foot-9 forward was recently fined $15,000 for critical comments following Boston’s Game 3 loss. 

And it’s clear that he’s still trying to figure out why things have been as they are with him and officials.

“I mean, I don’t know … one thing is every day I come out here, I put my hard hat on,” Morris said. “And I love to play this game. It’s just … game-in and game-out, it’s the same thing. I’m not doing a lot of chit-chat. I’m being physical and I’m watching these other games and they give them warnings and … if it’s me a technical foul. You come to work every day and put your heart and soul into something, and you feel like it’s a quick whistle on you. That’s just how it goes.”

While the whistles may seem to come quicker on him than a lot of other players, that should not have as big an impact on the way he has struggled shooting the ball in the last two games. 

In Games 1 and 2 in Boston, Morris averaged 19.5 points per game while shooting 45.2 percent from the field. 

When the series moved to Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4, Morris’ scoring average dropped to just 10 points per game courtesy of him connecting on just 27.3 percent of his shot attempts. 

 The bottom line is clear: Boston has to play better on many levels, in order to regain control of this series. 

And part of that improvement involves Morris.

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