P.J. Tucker impressed with Jayson Tatum, 2017 draft class at USA training camp

Nick Goss
NBC Sports Boston

USA Basketball's roster for the 2019 FIBA World Cup isn't going to have the superstar names we normally see at the Summer Olympics, but the upcoming tournament in China is a great opportunity for the stars of tomorrow to get valuable experience on the international stage.

One of the veteran players at Team USA's pre-World Cup training camp in Los Angeles is Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker.

Tucker singled out a few members of the 2017 NBA Draft class, including Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who have really impressed him during USA Basketball's camp over the last few weeks.

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"Honestly, I swear all these guys are better than I realized," Tucker said Thursday, per the team. "It is crazy, playing against people a couple times a year is one thing but when you get here and you're working every day, or you see how these guys work.

"All these young guys like De'Aaron Fox is amazing, he is way better than I thought he was, not saying I didn't think he was good, but he is really, really good. I play Donovan (Mitchell) all the time with Utah so I know how good he is, but he's been really great. Jayson Tatum is great. All these guys, I'm serious, top to bottom, all these guys are really good, and they are really going to be great in their individual careers."

This draft class received a ton of praise during the 2017-18 season, and it was much deserved. Tatum helped lead the Celtics to one win from the NBA Finals, while Mitchell led the Jazz to a surprising second round appearance in the Western Conference playoffs. Many other rookies from that class had impressive first seasons, including Fox, Lauri Markkanen and Kyle Kuzma.

Players from the 2017 class will be entering their third pro seasons in October, and Fox and Tatum are two to keep an eye on.

Fox had a breakout sophomore season for a young, talented Sacramento Kings team that exceeded nearly everyone's expectations by staying in the playoff race almost the entire 2018-19 campaign. He averaged 17.3 points and 7.3 assists per game, and his 3-point shooting rose from 30.7 percent as a rookie to 37.1 percent last season.

Tatum had a disappointing second season despite some of his stats improving. He shot too many mid-range jumpers, struggled to get to the free throw line consistently and saw declines in his field goal and 3-point percentages. Not only did Tatum struggle individually at times, the Celtics as a team failed to meet expectations en route to a lackluster second-round playoff exit.

The 2017 class will take a back seat to the 2019 class once the new season starts -- that's the Zion Williamson effect. But several members of the 2017 class will be playing important roles for teams hoping to contend in 2020, most notably Tatum (Celtics), Kuzma (Lakers) and Mitchell (Jazz). The development of these players could have a huge effect on the title race as a result.

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P.J. Tucker impressed with Jayson Tatum, 2017 draft class at USA training camp originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

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