Pelicans Interested in Tatum

Speculation regarding the Boston Celtics trading for Anthony Davis has been a topic of conversation all season. The Celtics don’t have the ability to trade for Davis while retaining Kyrie Irving because of the Rose rule. It also doesn’t make much sense to trade for one superstar as the other superstar leaves. The obvious answer would be the Celtics trading their draft picks or young stars. When the draft lottery dust settled the Boston’s draft prospects weren’t as enticing, leaving the young stars.

It has been reported that New Orleans Pelicans GM Daniel Griffin are interested in trading Davis to the Celtics for Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, a filler player and the 14th pick in this year’s draft. The question then becomes, should the Celtics trade that package for Davis? Should the Celtics trade any of their young stars for Davis?

IrvingBoston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving (11) and forward Jayson Tatum (0) celebrate after a three point shot by Tatum. Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Rising Star Regression

Midway through the 4th quarter of Game 7 of the 2017-2018 Eastern Conference Finals the Cleveland Cavaliers led the Boston Celtics 71-67. Jayson Tatum got the pass at the top of the key, made one move and posterized LeBron James. It was the dunk heard ‘round the World and seemed to cement Tatum’s arrival to the NBA. Tatum averaged almost 5 ppg more (18.5 ppg) in the 2017-2018 playoffs than in the regular season (13.9 ppg). The future looked bright for Tatum and the Boston Celtics.

Tatum’s ascent seemed to continued when he improved in 2018-2019 in nearly every important metric besides shooting percentage splits. When the playoffs ended, however, fans had witnessed a serious regression. Tatum saw dips in points, assists and shooting percentage splits with no improvement in defense. Tatum’s only playoff improvement over 2017-2018 was rebounding. Kyrie Irving’s presence seemed to handicap Tatum’s game, along with Jaylen Brown’s, whose production also decreased.

Davis CelticsJayson Tatum, right, and Jaylen Brown, left, have long been considered the future of the Boston Celtics. Herald Photo by Jim Michaud

Is Anthony Davis Worth It

Speaking of regression, Anthony Davis was a model for regression in 2018-2019. Davis saw decreases in points (-2.2 ppg), assists (-1.6), his signature blocks (0.2) and his even more signature shooting splits. One could argue it was due to the animosity surrounding Davis and the Pelicans, which I would argue was self-indused. What’s the difference between regression and regression because you’re forcing a mid-season trade? It’s the difference between trading or not trading players like Tatum or Jaylen Brown for Anthony Davis.

It has been reported the Celtics wouldn’t trade Brown for Kawhi Leonard. Perhaps the Celtics don’t feel either player is worth trading away, especially for what might be a one-year rental. The Celtics are seeing how that plays out with Kyrie Irving. Brown also regressed in the presence of Irving, which begs the question, what if Tatum and Brown were the stars, a la the 2017-2018 NBA Playoffs? Both players progressed from their rookie to sophomore years. Brown and Tatum were All-Rookie selections, respectively, and both players possess a skill set that extends to both sides of the floor. The Boston Celtics were within a few minutes of making the NBA Finals in their rookie (Tatum) and second (Brown) years.

When you consider Davis’ effect on the Pelicans last year, his regression and contract status, trading for him becomes questionable. When you consider the potential of Tatum and Brown, trading them for Davis becomes difficult. Now consider none of these scenarios take Kyrie Irving’s uncertainty with the Celtics into account. Suddenly trading Tatum, draft picks and the heart of the team in Marcus Smart for Davis becomes impossible.


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