Celtics

Exec sees Jayson Tatum in NBA Draft's consensus No. 1 pick

Celtics

What's with all the hype around Cade Cunningham, you ask? Why is he considered the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft?

For Boston Celtics fans, this take from a Western Conference executive should explain.

"He has it. He surveys the game for the first 15, 20 minutes, then says 'what do we need?' And he does it," the executive told The Athletic's David Aldridge

"... (Cunningham)’s Jayson Tatum. Same size. Can score from anywhere on the court."

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A 6-foot-8, 220-pound wing out of Oklahoma State, Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists for the Cowboys last season as a consensus All-American and the Big 12 Player of the Year. The 19-year-old is a virtual lock to go to the Detroit Pistons at No. 1 and has perennial All-Star upside.

The Tatum comparison makes sense, too: Tatum has an almost identical frame (6-foot-8, 210 pounds) and is an effortless scorer at all three levels. Cunningham actually has a better 3-point shot than Tatum did coming out of Duke (40% versus Tatum's 43.2% for the Blue Devils), but Tatum has blossomed into a 39.6% 3-point shooter at the NBA level.

It's easy to see a young Tatum when watching Cunningham's Oklahoma State highlights.

Assuming the Pistons draft Cunningham, they'd be thrilled if he followed Tatum's path. The 23-year-old is a two-time All-Star through four NBA seasons and already is a top-20 player in the league (arguably top-15 if you thought he should have made Third-Team All-NBA this season).

 

As the Philadelphia 76ers found out in 2017 when they took Markelle Fultz two picks ahead of Tatum, the No. 1 pick isn't always a slam dunk. So, it will be interesting to see whether Cunningham can chart a path similar to Tatum's in the NBA.