Boston Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge stated after taking Jayson Tatum with the No. 3 pick of the 2017 NBA Draft that he would have taken Tatum at No. 1 had he had decided to stay there and not trade back to No. 3 with the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for three 1st round draft picks.
Most assumed that Ainge was being partially honest, I mean he was obviously comfortable with trading back to get Tatum with the option to take Markelle Fultz or Tatum at No. 1. Ainge is a guy that is all about value though, if he were unable to move back and get Tatum while picking up additional assets, he likely would have taken Fultz in my opinion.
Tatum has corroborated Ainge’s comments, saying that the Celtics essentially were planning on drafting him the entire time, whether at No. 1 or No. 3.
“The Celtics was always going to pick me No. 1, but Philly didn’t know that. Philly thought that Boston was going to pick Markelle. So, Philly traded the pick and gave Boston a pick for next year. So, Boston was like, “Well, we can still get the player we want, a next-year pick, and then we get the player we wanted for less money.” So Boston still got all what they wanted, and Philly had to give up still to get the player.
But Philly didn’t know that Boston was gong to pick me. So, that’s why they traded up.”
I apologize if this is a little harsh, but Tatum isn’t exactly a wordsmith in his explanation of the situation in that quote, not the kind of wordsmith you would expect for a player that attended Duke University for a semester at least.
While if this is true, you could argue that Philadelphia was duped into thinking Boston was going to take Fultz at No. 1. This trade was still more than worth it for a 76ers team that knew it had the perfect piece to surround Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Utilizing some of their accumulation of assets to ensure they acquired him was the right move and more than worth it if he was their guy and they had the draft picks to make a trade happen. Even if Boston would have just taken Tatum at No. 1 (which I am skeptical of), there is no guarantee the Lakers would have still opted for Lonzo Ball over Fultz at No.2. I would have actually bet that they would have decided to take Fultz if Magic was as enamored with him as he said he was.
At the end of the day, it seems like a rarity in the NBA Draft. All top five teams got exactly the player that made the most sense for their franchise in the 2017 draft with Fultz to Philly, Ball to LA, Tatum to Boston, Josh Jackson to Phoenix and De’Aaron Fox to Sacramento.