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Paul Pierce says Jayson Tatum is ‘smart beyond his years’

Paul Pierce, Jayson Tatum

Boston Celtics icon Paul Pierce was flattering when compared to rookie Jayson Tatum, noting their careers have had a different arcs, but ultimately flattered to be considered among some of the greats of the franchise.

“When I came out, I was a 21-year-old. He was 19 for most of this season. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but a year-and-a-half, two years, that’s a lot of developmental time,” Pierce told Chad Finn of Boston.com. “I had three years of college [at Kansas] to develop. He had one year [at Duke], and he’s already doing this. He’s a superstar in the making. You can compare a kid like that to me anytime you want.”

Pierce’s career was indeed very different, having had more experience during his time with the Jayhawks, compared to Tatum’s lone year under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, that while it was a deep run in the postseason, still left room for additional improvement.

Yet the rookie has shown plenty of promise in his first year in the league, not only getting a start in his first game of the season, but showing consistency throughout the regular season and mixing his athleticism with a refined jump shot that has him projected to be a top notch scorer for years to come.

Tatum put up 13.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and 43.4 percent from deep this season. His scoring average has seen a jump to 18.1 per game in the postseason, tasked with a heavier scoring load and more playmaking with the absence of Kyrie Irving.

“I see a lot of things Jayson does—how he creates space, gets to the hole deceptively, the way he knocks down shots. He’s a real shot-maker; he can get his shot off on anybody,” said Pierce. “He’s smart. He uses his body well, the way he pushes off with his shoulder to get an open shot. He has a lot of craftiness to his game, and that probably reminds a lot of people of me.

“I see it, I definitely do. I wasn’t the most athletic guy. Tatum is a lot more athletic than I was. He can use either hand. Once he gets a little stronger in the near future, look out. I mean, he’s obviously smart beyond his years.”

The two might be different players, but Tatum surely seems to be in the same line for greatness the way his first season has gone.