Celtics

Celtics

The 2017 NBA Draft is going to be the subject of much debate for the next decade after so many talented players were selected in the first round.

Several of those players already are playing leading roles on their respective teams. The four best players from the 2017-18 rookie class right now are Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons (drafted in 2016 but was a rookie in 2017-18 due to injury), Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Sacramento Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell.

ESPN recently polled league executives and coaches and asked them to rank these four players using a points scale, and the results were pretty interesting.

Here's the final tally:

1. Ben Simmons (55 points)
2. Donovan Mitchell (48)
3. Jayson Tatum (43)
4. De'Aaron Fox (34)

League executives had varying opinions on Tatum. One exec from the Eastern Conference said, per ESPN's Tim Bontemps, that Tatum is "the most well-rounded."

Others were not willing to bestow the same kind of praise on Tatum.

"Tatum might be Carmelo [Anthony]," one West executive said. "He needs the ball in his hands."

"Tatum is a complementary player," an East executive said.

There's enough evidence to show Tatum is not merely a complementary player.

After all, he led the Celtics in scoring during the playoffs last season, and they ultimately came within one win of dethroning the Cleveland Cavaliers and reaching the NBA Finals. Tatum also was Boston's best player when it defeated the favored Philadelphia 76ers in a five-game conference semifinals series. He averaged 23.6 points over the five games and outplayed Simmons, who had a horrible series, by a wide margin.

 

Tatum hasn't made the kind of second-year jump many people predicted, but in fairness, expectations for him entering 2018-19 were a little too high to begin with. He's had to adjust with the Celtics returning Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward into the mix, and opposing teams also have a whole season of film to look at when devising game plans to stop him. Tatum still is playing pretty well all things considered, though. He's improved his scoring, assist and rebounding averages over last season, while also shooting a better percentage from the free throw line.

No one will care about Tatum's inconsistent regular season if he takes his game to a higher level in the playoffs, and we already saw him show last April and May he's capable of rising to that challenge. 

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