Nick Wright has managed to be wrong about Jayson Tatum every step of the way

If you are unfamiliar with Nick Wright, he is a talking head on Fox Sports 1 television. Most everything I have ever seen from him has been shared in jest on Twitter, retroactively trashing the takes he is paid handsomely to spew for hours every day. He is as unabashed in his love for LeBron James as he in his hatred of the Boston Celtics, so much so that I am pretty sure I saw him walking around TD Garden in a James jersey at a playoff game during the 2018 Eastern Conference finals.

He did think Boston might not be so bad in a 2018 segment he spent trading James to the Celtics.

In the span of a few days over the summer, Wright flip-flopped from preferring Kemba Walker over Kyrie Irving when he thought the former might join LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers in free agency to liking Irving over Walker when the latter chose the Celtics instead. Mental gymnastics at its finest.

One of Wright’s running schticks has been bashing Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge about his unwillingness to trade top draft assets for players like DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler and Paul George, all of whom have played for multiple teams since said bashing.

Over the years, he has flip-flopped on this, too, suggesting Ainge “doesn’t really know what he’s doing” in 2017, admitting he was “spectacularly wrong about him” when the Celtics cashed in a Brooklyn Nets pick for Kyrie Irving in 2018 and then blaming both Ainge and Celtics coach Brad Stevens for the “structural issues” that led Irving and Al Horford to leave in 2019 free agency.

This, of course, after referring to Stevens as a magician in years past.

Where Wright has been most wrong, though, has been his evaluation of Jayson Tatum, the ascendant Celtics superstar who has only gotten better since making his first All-Star team at age 21 earlier this month and will almost surely be named Eastern Conference Player of the Month.

Celtics star Jayson Tatum has taken his game up a level this season. (Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
Celtics star Jayson Tatum has taken his game up a level this season. (Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)

Let us review, shall we?

May 16, 2017: Wright does not even have Tatum among his top five prospects in the 2017 NBA draft. His top five: Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Josh Jackson and Lauri Markkanen.

June 22, 2017: Wright mocks Ainge while suggesting the Celtics will draft Jackson, who was selected fourth by the Phoenix Suns and salary dumped with two second-round picks in 2019.

June 22, 2017: Amid reports that the Celtics were trading down from the No. 1 spot to No. 3 while adding Sacramento’s 2019 lottery pick via Philadelphia in the process, Wright to his credit upgrades Tatum to fifth on his draft board, ahead of Markkanen but still behind Ball, Fox, Fultz and Jackson.

Nov. 15, 2017: Fifteen games into Tatum’s NBA career, Wright concedes he was wrong, even suggesting that Tatum “looks like he was the best player in the draft,” along with Dennis Smith Jr.

April 15, 2018: After Tatum posted 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals in his playoff debut opposite Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, Wright is fully on the bandwagon.

May 17, 2018: In one tweet, Wright retroactively upgrades Tatum to the fourth-best player on his draft board, admits he was wrong about that, too, and then lauds Ainge for the Irving trade again.

Oct. 17, 2018: At the beginning of Tatum’s second season, just prior to struggling in a sophomore slump campaign, Wright declares Tatum an “elite-level NBA star” and “a superstar.”

Feb. 6, 2019: Wright believes a Lakers package of Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma should trump a Celtics package of Tatum and Jaylen Brown in a trade for Anthony Davis. He also thinks Tatum is the best asset of the bunch, insinuating that Kuzma is a significantly better trade chip than Brown. Wright goes on to call Brown “an athletic defender who is going to be offensively challenged” and not “one of the 75 most valuable trade chips in the NBA” — “a homeless man’s Kawhi Leonard.”

The Celtics, of course, never got too far down the road on a deal with New Orleans, since Irving was leaving and Anthony Davis made it pretty clear he was not going to re-sign in Boston. For the record, though, Brown is averaging a career-high 20 points on 49/38/74 shooting splits this season.

March 1, 2019: In the midst of Ingram’s 31-point game in a meaningless loss to Milwaukee last season, Wright dubs the performance better than any in Tatum’s career — presumably including Tatum’s 28 points in a Game 1 second-round playoff victory against the 76ers as a rookie in 2018.

June 17, 2019: As news of Irving’s impending departure becomes more concrete prior to the draft, Wright tells us, “Boston is now in no-man’s land,” neither a contender or a free-agent destination.

June 18, 2019: Wright declares Ainge’s master stroke — trading the aging Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce for the equivalent of four unprotected lottery picks — an abject failure. He anoints the Nets in a “FAR better position” than the Celtics with two max-salary cap slots to spend in free agency.

June 18, 2019: Wright points to Boston’s past free-agency failures, after they signed All-Stars Al Horford and Gordon Hayward in the previous two summers and before they signed Kemba Walker.

June 29, 2019: After suggesting the Celtics were not free-agency players, Wright still figures it a good time to mock Ainge for salvaging his summer with another All-NBA point guard on the market.

July 4, 2019: Admittedly, I too was down on Boston’s title prospects after news broke that Davis was headed to Los Angeles and Horford was leaving along with Irving in free agency. Walker’s signing readjusted that thinking a bit, but not for Wright, who called Ainge’s summer “a disaster.”

“You still have the same problem of Tatum, Brown, Hayward,” says Wright. “Those are three guys who play two positions. How are we going to make that work? Those things did not go away, and the identity of this team has been defense. With Kemba Walker at point guard and Enes Kanter as your center ... you have no defensive answer [against Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Toronto]. Those are facts. This team last year had the second-highest projected win total in all of basketball behind only Golden State, and next year they are going to be projected as about the 11th or 12th best team, which is about where they will be, so of course they are worse than they were last season.”

As it turns out, the versatile triumvirate of Tatum, Brown and Hayward is Boston’s greatest weapon, as many expected, and a big part of why they are projected to win nine more games than last season. The Celtics currently own the NBA’s fourth-best record and third-best defensive rating.

Feb. 15, 2020: Wright upgrades Tatum to the second-best player in the 2017 draft, presumably behind Donovan Mitchell, all while seemingly suggesting that the Celtics still should have selected Fultz No. 1 overall rather than trading down, drafting Tatum and adding Romeo Langford in 2019.

Feb. 24, 2020: Sixteen months after declaring Tatum a superstar, Wright says the recently named All-Star is now “a leap and a half away from being a superstar and a half leap away from star.”

This is where we inform you that Tatum is in the midst of a three-week stretch in which he is averaging a 31-8-3 on 53/50/78 shooting splits while rating as one of the league’s best defenders. (To say nothing of his jersey being the NBA’s fourth-highest selling.) Presumably a leap and a half from that would be something like 40-12-6 on 65/60/90 splits — or the greatest player to ever live.

Feb. 26, 2020: When Tatum responds by scoring 36 points on 8-of-12 shooting from distance in a victory over Portland the night after the non-star declaration, Wright has only his Ainge crutch left.

Feb. 27, 2020: And when Tatum follows that with 33 points and 11 rebounds in a Walker-less win over Mitchell and the playoff-bound Jazz, Wright tries to redefine what he means by being a star.

“Jayson Tatum is really, really good, and Jayson Tatum is on his way to maybe, maybe, making an All-NBA team this year, which would elevate him to the star category, which he is not currently in,” he says. “He’s in the category of really, really good player. ... If you think Tatum’s a star, then you think there are more than 20 stars in the league. There’s not more than 20 stars in the league.”

There are actually 24 players in the All-Star Game. We should also note that Wright includes several players who are not even playing this season and others who are not in Tatum’s league on his list.

Feb. 27, 2020: Mere minutes after saying “Tatum is on his way to maybe, maybe, making an All-NBA team this year,” Wright clarifies how he defines a star as someone on his tier of “the All-NBA, maybe will be superstars as soon as next season or once were superstars now on the tick-down.”

Imagine talking about someone this much and literally never saying a single correct thing about him. Given how often Wright has been wrong, at this rate Tatum might catch his beloved LeBron.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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