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Ainge continues Celtics youth movement

By: Cory Hughes

The Celtics traded down, stockpiled more picks and got perhaps the best scorer in the draft. What a draft for them.

On draft night itself – a few days after making a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers to move down from the No. 1 pick to the No. 3 pick – Danny Ainge chose not to make another move. Some Celtics fans were hopeful he’d make a big trade to acquire a star player who would give Boston the upper edge on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. There were talks of interest in trying to get Kristaps Porzingis, but Phil Jackson wanted way too much for him. He also wasn’t buying Jimmy Butler at the price the Bulls had, and Ainge had no interest in giving up any assets for Paul George on a one-year rental.

Ainge ended up doing what he should have done in this year’s draft, moved forward with the Celtics’ youth movement. With the third pick, the Celtics took Duke’s Jayson Tatum, a forward who surprisingly thrives on his offensive game; a type of player Ainge does not usually go for. Ainge’s history suggested that he would go more for players like Kansas’ Josh Jackson or Florida State’s Jonathan Issac, but Tatum was his guy, and since he was comfortable in moving back, it’s very possible Tatum was Ainge’s top guy entering this draft.

Tatum was a five-star recruit out of high school and ranked this in his class only behind Jackson and teammate Harry Giles. In Tatum’s one season at Duke he averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He was proving to be the most prolific scorer in the entire draft class.

At 6-foot-8, 205-pounds, the question now is where for the Celtics play him. He doesn’t have the exact skill set needed to play out on the wing, but he would need to gain weight to play power forward. Celtics coach Brad Stevens doesn’t seem too worried though. Stevens said it does not matter what particular position Taytum gets labeled. He can just be a playmaker. Stevens also did not seem too worried about the teenager’s transition to the NBA.

Part of Taytum simply getting older and participating in NBA team workouts, he’ll get bigger, and he’ll get more mature. Added strength will help him from being bullied by 30-year-old men in the paint. And it will help him get better defensively and be more consistent on the court. And with more practice, he should improve his 3-point shot, which he made at a 34-percent clip in college.

There will be a lot of pressure on Tatum, especially considering the Celtics traded the opportunity to draft Markelle Fultz to get him. However, it does seem like they got the guy they wanted and the right guy for their team while continuing to load up on picks for the future. By moving back two spots Ainge added the Lakers’ 2018 first round pick and the Kings’ 2019 first round pick. Considering both the Lakers and Kings are rebuilding teams out in the western conference, they should be pretty high draft picks too. Who knows what Ainge will turn those two draft picks into. There already looks to be great options leading next year’s draft class.

Drafting Tatum and stocking up on future draft picks wasn’t the flashy win-now type of move, but looking at how the Golden State Warriors have built their current dynasty by drafting three of their top stars (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green), Ainge seems to have been taking notes. He should still bring in a player through free agency, but he won’t overpay in a trade for the price of future young talent.

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Cory Hughes

Growing up in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts, Cory grew up with a love of football. But believe it or not, it did not start because of Tom Brady or Bill Belichick. It started with guys like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs. He's probably the only person in the New England area that doesn't have a Tom Brady jersey in his closet. As an adolescent Cory played every sport that was available to him. He was the starting Defensive End on his Pop Warner A Team and had with sacks. Cory was also the starting center for his middle school basketball team that won a league championship with an undefeated season. However, after not growing more than two inches in high school, he decided to drop basketball and pick up wrestling. His sophomore year while wrestling, MMA started to grow and the big fight everybody was talking about was Quentin 'Rampage' Jackson vs. Chuck Liddell. Watching Jackson's slams, he was hooked to MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Not long after he started training in that as well. In just over two years he got his blue belt in martial arts. So it's a great mix of sports that he loves and that eventually sparked his interest in sports journalism.

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