Count NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving among those impressed with former Duke standout and current Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.
So impressed, in fact, that Dr. J wishes the Philadelphia 76ers, the organization he played 11 seasons for, would have taken Tatum with the first overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
“Tatum probably should have been the first pick in the draft,” Erving said Thursday morning on ESPN’s Get Up! “Tatum has been awesome. When you get a player who can raise the level of his game come playoff time, then you’ve got somebody special, because usually after college, it’s tough to make it to the next level. That’s why only a handful of players really make it to the next level.”
— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) May 4, 2018
The Sixers instead chose Washington guard Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 pick. Tatum fell to the Celtics with the fourth overall pick. Boston originally had the top pick before trading it to Philadelphia.
Tatum scored 28 points on 8-of-16 shooting in the Celtics’ 117-101 victory over the Sixers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup Monday. He added 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting in a 108-103 victory Thursday.
Fultz, on the other hand, has not played in either game.
Tatum has had an exceptional rookie season, averaging 13.9 points and 5.0 rebounds in 30.5 minutes per game during the regular season. During the playoffs, he has tallied 17 points and 5 rebounds per game.
A shoulder injury limited Fultz to 14 games during the regular season. He averaged 7.1 points, 3.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 18.1 minutes per game. He has only played in three postseason games, logging just five points.
However, both were excellent college players that were perceived as elite prospects leading up to the draft.
Tatum averaged 16.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 45.2 percent from the floor in his only season with Duke. Fultz recorded the sixth-highest scoring average in the country at 23.2 points per game. He also tallied 5.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
It is impossible to extrapolate an entire career based on one season. But, as of now, Tatum does have the upper hand in regards to who deserved to be the top pick.