Is Jayson Tatum the future of the Boston Celtics or a trade chip?

Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images /

With Anthony Davis officially on the market, an arms race of assets has risen across the league as teams scramble for a chance at the generational talent. Jayson Tatum may rank as the best, but should the Boston Celtics move him?

In what will surely be fondly remembered as a talent-filled class, Jayson Tatum may currently be the cream of the crop of the 2017 NBA Draft. While many have shown great promise as future leaders of the league, the Boston Celtics wing may have the edge due to his shooting touch, defensive versatility, smooth handles and instincts on the offensive end.

When a franchise stumbles into a player of this potential — and make no bones about it, Tatum has All-NBA potential — it should take heaven and hell to pry him away.

Now, in the ever-changing landscape of the NBA, superstars are available to the highest bidder while small market teams cling for dear life hoping they can organically grow contenders. In the past two calendar years, the likes of: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, DeMar DeRozan, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler and more have moved on to become cornerstones of new franchises.

Value on superstars is subjective. Some teams can get away with a low-ball offer (see: Kyrie Irving trade), while others may be forced to open up the war chest and dump out every prized position they have.

Throughout the league, Jayson Tatum may just be among the most coveted of all assets. The man has playoff success as a leader, No. 1 scoring option potential, boundless defensive potential and the killer mentality that’s so valuable with the game on the line. There is no reason not to be incredibly optimistic on the 20-year-old’s future in the NBA.

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

In a league where versatile wings are so valuable, and no change looks to be on the horizon from all the perimeter-centric offenses, the Boston Celtics have as close as a sure thing they can get when building toward the future. Pairing Tatum with third-year wing Jaylen Brown has paid off already for Boston, who witnessed firsthand last postseason how much damage those two can inflict when synced up.

With a healthy 26-year-old Kyrie Irving, who can potentially be locked up long-term after opting out of his current contract this offseason, the tandem of those three along with Gordon Hayward (28) and Marcus Smart (24), Boston has a serious foundation to build upon for the foreseeable future.

While Kyrie is the pilot of this ship, Tatum will sooner or later slide into the second star role as long as his progress stays on its current trajectory. Kyrie’s presence could serve as a cap on Tatum’s long-term potential as a No. 1 option and leader, though he’s already proven he can take a backseat and contribute to winning on a well-balanced team.

However, the Boston Celtics have found themselves at the proverbial fork in the road: cash in on assets, create a super-team of established stars and go all in right now, or build with what they have, develop Tatum and Brown, and hope the Hayward’s rehab allows for a return to form.

No available player is more tantalizing than Anthony Davis. No non-Zion Williamson asset is more worth waiting for than Jayson Tatum. The New Orleans Pelicans were never going to move Davis before the deadline, because they needed Tatum and the Boston Celtics to get involved, either for a direct move between the two franchises or to drive up the price for others.

The Pelicans’ plan may be to demand Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The Celtics probably should not give up both of them and come up with packages that revolve around one or the other, but any deal for Anthony Davis has to at least be entertained by Danny Ainge and the front office.

If Ainge can swing the deal for a package centered around Brown, then Davis should absolutely be wearing Celtics green next season. However, Dell Demps‘ dreams of Tatum should cause hesitation within the entire Celtics organization.

Opportunities for a player of Tatum’s caliber and potential do not grow on basketball trees, but if he were moved and the return was Anthony Davis, it would be genuinely hard having any resentment toward the Celtics front office regardless of Davis’ long-term commitment.

Even so, the long game may be the best move for the Boston Celtics. The organization and city should be confident in their ability to sell themselves to any prospective player, but at the end of the day, it’s a gamble.

Tatum and the Celtics have the chance to build something special with one another. He is an ideal prototype to help usher in a new age of glory for Boston basketball, and he along with Kyrie Irving have legitimate potential to go down as Celtics greats.

Rolling the dice on Davis could result in a competitive Finals against the Golden State Warriors, assuming they hold onto to at least four of their starting five (no guarantee of that all), or it could completely backfire in a nightmare scenario that leaves them with Irving gone in free agency, Tatum and Brown in New Orleans, and Anthony Davis making good on his promise not to stay in Boston long-term.

Committing to Tatum seems like the right move for the franchise right now. It allows them to have a player with huge upside that is cost-controlled for two more seasons, with restricted free agency rights for his next contract, as well as roster cohesion as the rest of the league’s teams are constantly shaken up in the pursuit of talent.

Tatum will probably never be quite as good as Anthony Davis. However, he could be a first or second option moving forward on a team that has the potential to win multiple championships down the road.

Next. 10 potential Anthony Davis trades. dark

The Boston Celtics should feel absolutely no pressure in making a move for Davis. If they can swing it this summer, great. With that being said, there is no need to jeopardize their future with Jayson Tatum by getting caught up in the trade hype.