What if the Philadelphia 76ers hadn’t traded the No. 3 pick and a protected first-round pick to the Boston Celtics in order to draft Markelle Fultz instead of Jayson Tatum? A young core of Tatum, Joel Embiid, and Ben Simmons would wreak havoc in the Eastern Conference.
Could’ve. Should’ve. Would’ve. The Portland Trail Blazers could have drafted Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant on separate occasions. They didn’t. Whatever happened, happened. You have to live with what happened as a franchise because every player in the first round looks promising.
Markelle Fultz was considered the most promising young player in the 2017 NBA Draft, and Philadelphia was keen on doing anything to get him. Taking Fultz would mean teaming up with Ben Simmons as a one-two punch combination at the point guard and shooting guard positions. While Simmons would penetrate as a threat to score and set up his teammates, Fultz would knock down three-pointers, cut to the rim, and work off the ball. That’s what they imagined. Well, in 2017-18, despite injuries, Fultz did not live up to expectations in his rookie season and his shooting stroke was gone. Fultz in his University of Washington form made sense for Philadelphia. Looking back, Tatum could have been a better choice.
In 14 games in 2017-18, Fultz averaged 7.1 points, 3.8 assists, and 3.1 rebounds in 18.1 minutes per game off the bench. At 19-years-old going on 20—he is still years from his prime and even showed great glimpses in a small sample size, including becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double.
But, I’ll say it again… if Philadelphia had chosen Jayson Tatum, the 76ers would be dangerous.
Though the NBA world sees Boston’s Jayson Tatum as the third-best rookie behind Ben Simmons and Donovan Mitchell, what he did in his rookie season and into his first postseason has been incredible. Tatum’s maturity on the court, ability to succeed in the clutch and efficient jump shot shows Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge knew what he was doing when he planned out taking Tatum.
Tatum is a part of Boston’s youth movement. Along with Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier, Tatum stepped up tremendously in his first season helping the injury-plagued Celtics to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward’s absence meant big shoes to fill, and Tatum took full responsibility averaging 13.9 points, 5.0 assists, and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 47.5% from the field and sniping 43.4% three-pointers.
A three-headed monster of Tatum, Simmons, and Embiid, surrounded by pieces like J.J. Redick, Dario Saric, and T.J. McConnell would be a spotless lineup. All young talented guys with no traffic with playing time. Philadelphia’s situation in 2017-18 included three point guards in Simmons, McConnell, and Fultz sharing time.
Jayson Tatum and Markelle Fultz played against eachother in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series between Boston and Philadelphia and Tatum came out on the winning end with his team and individually, to say the least.
Tatum averaged 23.6 points per game helping Boston defeat Philadelphia in five games, while Fultz did not see the court once in the second-round matcup. T.J. McConell outplayed Fultz in the beginning of the postseason, and Brett Brown made an executive decision to not play the rookie at all for some reason.
We all know Danny Ainge was loving this…
— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) May 4, 2018
It is way too early to write off Markelle Fultz but looking at what Boston recieved in return (Tatum and a future first-round pick) for him is cringeworthy. And remember, nobody could predicted Fultz would hurt his shoulder and his jumpshot would be broken. It was, and still is very possible that Fultz could grow to become better than Tatum.
Looking at their rookie seasons, though… Danny Ainge strikes again.
The talk of the NBA world prior to the 2019 NBA Trade Deadline was New Orleans Pelicans fo…