Jayson Tatum at center? - Brad Stevens may not be joking
Celtics coach Brad Stevens recently joked about rookie Jayson Tatum, having played everywhere on the court, may be tried at the center spot. There is always some truth in jokes, and that includes those that emanate from Stevens.
He joked about putting Gordon Hayward on the playoff roster, and guess what? He's on it. He joked about Gordon preparing to play in game three against the Bucks on Friday. We won't be seeing that, but we may see Gordon before the post-season is done. Now here comes the joke about Jayson at center.
I have argued this point all season. Tatum came into the League listed at 6'8" and 205 pounds. He may be close to 6'9" now and around 210 pounds. Jayson is definitely stronger that he was early in the season and is now able to withstand the pounding by the bigger, stronger opponents he faces. He can drive to the hoop, maintain control despite the physical contact and finish.
Brad Stevens is definitely a coach that wants his troops to be capable of defending 1-through-5. He wants few mismatches. That means length and versatility. Adding an additional 5-10 pounds of muscle in the off-season would get it done. Jayson is stronger than he looks right now. He may never be able to counter the pounding from the big, bruising centers, but his versatility would offset some of that.
Particularly when Hayward and Daniel Theis return, it can be said that the Celtics may have too many wings. Hayward, Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Theis, Marcus Morris, Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele and Al Horford when he plays power forward. You can add Marcus Smart to the mix if Boston is able to retain him next season. You just know that a trade or two will take place this summer, but I doubt Tatum would be part of any deal.
“It doesn’t matter,” Stevens told reporters shortly after Boston made their first selection on Thursday.
Fair enough. Part of what made Danny Ainge and the Celtics’ brass fall in love with Tatum was his versatility, and Stevens must be salivating at all the ways he can deploy his new player.
“We think Jayson can play a variety of positions with a variety of guys. I think that, in this kind of position-less league, those guys are really valuable,” said Stevens. “A couple of years ago, I talked about how we were thin on guys that could play a number of different positions, when you talk about, really, 2-3-4. Now we’re starting to really — we’ve got a lot of position-less players that can dribble, pass, and shoot. That’s a good thing.”
Dave Cowens came into the NBA at 6'8.5" and 225 pounds. He played center his entire career and handled the bigs like Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul Jabbar as well as any center in the League. Jayson can do the same with added strength and muscle, not as a permanent fixture at the position, but rather as a play-any-position-on-the-court guy. As Brad Stevens said, "It doesn't matter" where he plays. It can be anywhere.