Jayson Tatum’s talent would’ve been squandered if he was drafted by the Phoenix Suns


Heading into every NBA Draft, prospects always have favorites on where they’d want to land. Whether it be for geographical reasons, team culture or the opportunity that a specific franchise can provide. Players don’t often divulge where they wanted to be drafted until they’re later into their career, as any potential blowback would be minimal at best. However, during these times of quarantine and staying at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has NBA stars opening up a bit more.

On the most recent episode of the All the Smoke podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Boston Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum told the duo that he definitely had a preference on where he wanted to be drafted, and it most definitely wasn’t the Celtics. The former Duke standout had his eyes set on the beautiful deserts of Arizona.

I remember I went to Phoenix — this was a week before the draft — just to meet with Earl Watson and talk to the GM and see the facilities. Earl Watson showed me all the houses where the players were living and I remember I called my mom and was like ‘I think I want to go to Phoenix.’ 

I’m about to fly back home, and my agent calls me and he’s like ‘Danny Ainge called and said they’re going to trade their No. 1 pick and move down to No. 3 and they want you to come to Boston to workout.’ I’m like nah, I don’t want to go to Boston, I like it out here in Phoenix. Then Coach K calls me and he’s like ‘Jayson the Celtics called, they want you to come workout. I think Brad Stevens is a great coach and it’s a great place to be, you’ll learn a lot.’ So I’m like, alright I’ll go. 

[Before the draft] I didn’t know where I was going. I figured it may be Boston or Phoenix, and when I finally heard my name called it was by far the best day of my life. But there was a part of me that didn’t really want to go to Boston, because they were just the No. 1 team in the East. They had Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, [Marcus] Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder. I was like I’m not gonna play, I’m trying to get buckets, but everything worked out, it was the best decision.” 

It’s understandable why Tatum fell in love with Phoenix when he went out there. As a kid who grew up in St. Louis, experiencing the great weather Phoenix has was probably eye-opening for Tatum. Playing alongside Devin Booker would also be enticing. However, let’s not pretend that Tatum and Booker would’ve seen any more success than what the Suns are experiencing right now. The Suns’ front office would’ve figured out a way to muck this one up too. 

Tatum mentioned that former Suns coach Earl Watson sold him on forming a dynamic duo with Devin Booker, however, regardless of whether Tatum was drafted to Phoenix or not, Watson would’ve still been fired. He revealed last year that he was given a two-week notice during training camp before the 2017-18 season, long before his actual firing happened just three games into the season. 

That means just three games into his rookie season, Tatum would’ve already endured the first coaching change of his career, on a team where Eric Bledsoe famously tweeted “I don’t want to be here.” The dysfunction in the front office has always overshadowed the actual product on the court in Phoenix. Tatum and Booker would’ve still managed to find similar levels of success, however, just as the Suns have squandered the first five years of Booker’s career, the same would be done if Tatum was there as well.

Nevermind the fact that Watson told The Athletic’s Jay King that the Suns front office — mainly Robert Sarver — wasn’t too high on Tatum in the first place. Watson pushed to have the Suns trade up to draft Tatum No. 3 overall, and said he had several “uncomfortable” conversations with Sarver about it. But the Suns’ owner was set on taking Kansas product Josh Jackson, who Phoenix eventually traded to Memphis in the summer of 2019.

Sarver has been at the root of many issues for Phoenix over the years. He’s been called a “control freak” by Suns great Charles Barkley, because he doesn’t let the people he hires make sound decisions. He’s threatened to move the franchise to Seattle or Las Vegas if the city of Phoenix wouldn’t pay to build the team a new arena. There have been several players who have left the franchise unceremoniously after dealing with Sarver.

As talented as Booker and Tatum are, Sarver would’ve figured out a way to mess it up.





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