How Coach K ruined Jayson Tatum’s plan to get selected by Phoenix Suns

Jayson Tatum, Phoenix Suns (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Jayson Tatum, Phoenix Suns (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Jayson Tatum’s ideal landing spot in the 2017 NBA Draft was with the Phoenix Suns, but his college coach prevented that from coming to fruition

With the fourth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns selected Josh Jackson, a pick they’d like to re-do if they could. Jackson never quite panned out in Phoenix, and the team ended up parting ways with him in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies for Jevon Carter.

Just one pick before Jackson, Jayson Tatum was selected, and Tatum this year has flashed some MVP potential with the Boston Celtics. Tatum went on a tear this season in the period of time where Kemba Walker was out, showing he has what it takes to be a leader and primary scoring option on a playoff team in the NBA.

In 2019-20, Tatum is averaging 23.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. He was selected to his first All-Star game.

He was this close to doing it in Phoenix, instead.

Boston, in 2017, had the first overall pick, positioned to take whoever they liked. Markelle Fultz, a springy and athletic point guard out of Washington, looked to be the likely first overall pick, and the Sixers coveted him heavily. So much so, Philly traded with Boston to not only swap picks, but tack on another first-round pick as well.

At second overall, the Los Angeles Lakers were likely to select Lonzo Ball, who, in part due to his dad’s constant chatter of how Ball was best suited to be a Laker, seemed like they had their sights locked on him.

That meant Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson were likely to go third and fourth. According to Tatum on the All the Smoke podcast with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, he desperately wanted to come play for the Phoenix Suns. After completing some workouts in LA, Tatum went on a visit with the Suns organization to see the facility and check out the area.

Tatum was sold. Tatum toured the area, and the Suns showed him some of the player’s houses as well. The beautiful landscape and luxury living appealed to the St. Louis native.

Shortly after, though, it was clear the Celtics wanted Tatum at third overall. Tatum’s agent rang him up and let him know the Celtics wanted him to come to work out in Boston, setting in the likelihood that he could go third.

Recalling his thoughts on the podcast, Tatum said:

"“Nah, I don’t want to go to Boston, like, I like it out here in Phoenix. It’s cool. The weather is nice, I get a big house I get a pool. My mom’s gonna be alright,” Tatum said to Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes."

Tatum wanted to be in Phoenix. He was sold on avoiding the workout in Boston, perhaps leading to Boston passing on him and taking Jackson instead.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Tatum’s coach at Duke University, gave Tatum a call and suggested Tatum reconsider.

"“So we hang up, I’m like, ‘I’m not going to this workout, I’m cool.’ So then coach K called me right after my agent did. He’s like ‘Jayson, you know, the Celtics called, they want you to come work out, I think Brad Stevens is a great coach, you know it’s a great place to be, you’ll learn a lot.’ So I’m like, ‘ugh, alright. I’ll go.’”"

Of course, the workout went well, despite the fact that Tatum was battling a sinus infection, and the Celtics would take Tatum at third overall and add him to their budding young core.

So, yes, Coach K essentially ruined Phoenix’s chance at selecting a star wing to pair next to Devin Booker. Otherwise, Tatum would be living the dream in a warm-weather city and obviously pushing the Suns toward the top of the Western Conference with Devin Booker.

We can dream, right?

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