Anton Watson motivated after being drafted during commercial


“I’m not saying I’m Jokic, but they did the same thing to him.”

The Celtics selected Anton Watson in the second round after he spent five seasons at Gonzaga. AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

When the Nuggets selected Nikola Jokic with the 41st overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, a Taco Bell commercial played on ESPN while the pick was announced at the podium that night.

Ten years later, Gonzaga forward Anton Watson received similar treatment when the Celtics selected him with the 54th overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. ESPN’s broadcast cut to a commercial while the Celtics were on the block and remained there when the recognizable jingle sounded to share the pick was ready.

ESPN didn’t cut back from the commercial break to show NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum announce the pick. Instead, an ad for Pacifico played while Watson’s name appeared on the chyron.

Watson found some humor out of the situation.

“I’m not saying I’m Jokic, but they did the same thing to him,” Watson jokingly told The Spokesman-Review‘s Theo Lawson. “They put a Taco Bell commercial on him. … Might have to get the (Pacifico) sponsor, might have to get the sponsor.”

By the time ESPN returned from a commercial break, the focus had shifted toward the next pick: the Lakers’ selection of Bronny James. ESPN’s studio show played up the inevitability that Los Angeles would pick the son of LeBron James with the 55th overall selection before breaking down the pick when it was announced, glossing over Boston’s pick of Watson.

As the draft concluded three picks later, the majority of ESPN’s broadcast focused on the younger James. Watson took notice and is using it as a bit of motivation.

“I think the last 10 picks they were talking about Bronny,” Watson told Lawson. “You don’t try to focus on that, but that definitely puts a chip on your shoulder. That’s crazy, I think it’s a little bit crazy.”

Watson was projected to either be selected at the end of the draft or be one of the top undrafted free agents entering the week. He progressed over his five seasons at Gonzaga, turning from a role player into a key starter by the end of his college career. He averaged 14.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game while posting .578/.412/.653 shooting splits this past season.

Standing at 6-foot-8, Watson’s play style was compared to Al Horford’s in recent years by The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor. Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens told reporters that he’s hoping Watson develops a similar trigger from 3-point range that Horford has during his time in Boston, noting that he thinks he can play center.

“I really like him,” Stevens said. “Anton’s strength and ability to move his feet laterally give him a chance to be one of these big, strong, hybrid forwards that can switch, guard a lot of people.

“I want him to come in here with the mindset that he’s gonna let it fly like he’s never let it fly before, because I think he’s a better shooter than he sometimes thinks he is. And so, I’m looking forward to getting him in here in eight days or so.”

Stevens also liked the winning contributions that both Watson and Celtics first-round pick Baylor Scheierman made to their respective college teams.

“I think you’re looking at what’s available when you draft,” Stevens said. “In the first round, we all thought really highly of Baylor and were excited that he dropped to 30. And in the second round, a similar thing with Anton. Those guys both are winning players. They’ve played in a lot of big moments and a lot of big games and big environments. They know how to play on both ends of the floor. They’ve been really well-coached.

“At these picks, when you’re not picking top five in the draft, you’re probably not weighing that stuff quite as strongly, right? You’re looking for best fit, best player, who can come in and accentuate your team and who can grow within your group. They’re both young enough they can do that too.”

Watson shared with Lawson that the Celtics actually worked him out in 2023 as well, when he declared for the draft but opted to remain in school for one more year. As he called the Celtics a “powerhouse” after their title-winning season, Watson is hoping to pay them back after the work they’ve put in with him in the pre-draft evaluation process over two years.

“They stuck with me and they believed in me,” Watson told Lawson, “so I’m going to give them everything.”

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