The Boston Celtics have reached the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010, powered by an impressive postseason run by superstar forward Jayson Tatum.
Tatum has been a two-way monster in these playoffs, averaging 27.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.9 blocks per game while taking on some of the toughest defensive assignments opposing teams have to offer. His efforts against the Heat earned him the first-ever Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP trophy, adding to what has already been an impressive playoff resume for the 24-year-old.
Tatum already has three All-Star nods (two as a starter), two All-NBA honors (one First Team) and is no stranger to deep postseason runs, already reaching the Eastern Conference Finals three times.
The Celtics’ franchise player has done nothing but surprise since the moment he stepped into the league, but how did he end up in Boston in the first place?
Celtics win 2017 NBA Draft Lottery with Nets pick
Despite finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference in 2017, the Celtics also won the NBA Draft Lottery.
Boston owned the rights to the Nets’ 2017 first-round pick as a result of the 2013 trade that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn in return for four first-round picks.
The Nets entered the NBA Draft Lottery with the highest odds to earn the No. 1 pick at 25.0 percent and it cashed out, immediately sending the pick to Boston.
Celtics trade No. 1 pick to 76ers for No. 3 pick and future first-rounder
With the 2017 NBA Draft approaching, the top prospects in the class began to take shape. Washington guard Markelle Fultz was the projected No. 1 pick, but the Celtics already had a jam-packed backcourt of Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown – the latter three of which they drafted in previous years.
After Fultz, other prospects like UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, Kansas’ Josh Jackson, Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox and Duke’s Jayson Tatum were seen to be next in line.
The Celtics had their eye on one player in particular but felt confident he was going to be available even if they traded down from the No. 1 pick. Meanwhile, the 76ers made it very clear they wanted to add Fultz, a prolific scoring guard, to their core of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
The Celtics traded the No. 1 overall pick to Philadelphia in return for the No. 3 overall pick and a future first-rounder, paving the way for the 76ers to draft their guy.
How did Tatum fall to No. 3 overall in 2017 NBA Draft?
As mentioned above, the 76ers acquired the No. 1 pick with all intentions of selecting Fultz.
Fultz was a top-10 scorer in the country during his freshman year at Washington – averaging 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists – and gave Philadelphia a different dynamic in its backcourt alongside Simmons.
The Celtics had no intentions of selecting Fultz and because the Lakers had the No. 2 pick and it was no secret they were targeting UCLA’s own and a California native in Ball, it meant Boston would still get its top prospect at No. 3.
With the third pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics select, Jayson Tatum from Duke University.
After the draft, Celtics president Danny Ainge admitted the franchise was selecting Tatum even if they kept the No. 1 pick.
“We liked his size and length and rebounding and shooting. [His] Intelligence [and] character,” Ainge told the media. “There’s a lot to like about Jayson; he’s going to be a terrific player.”
Tatum also said his college head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, hinted at the idea of Boston liking the Duke freshman with its first pick.
“[Krzyzewski] called me and talked about how Boston wanted me to come up there for a workout, and he was just ranting about how great of a person [coach] Brad Stevens is, and that Coach K would love the opportunity if they would pick me, and he really wanted me to go up there and work out for them,” Tatum said.
“I was all for it. It worked out. I had a great time up there on my visit and obviously, they enjoyed me.”
A few years later, after the Fultz experiment failed in Philadelphia and the No. 1 pick was traded to the Magic, Yaron Weitzman, the author of a Sixers “Process”-era book, Tanking to the Top, revealed Tatum was nowhere to be found on the 76ers’ draft board.
“[Brett] Brown loved Jonathan Isaac,” Weitzman wrote. “[Sixers GM Bryan] Colangelo liked him too, but he was also intrigued by Kansas wing Josh Jackson and Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox. [Colangelo] had all three ranked ahead of Tatum.”
As they say, the rest was history as Tatum landed with the Celtics, developing into a franchise cornerstone for years to come.