Report: Contrary to Earl Watson story, Suns would’ve drafted Jayson Tatum over Josh Jackson
The biggest reason Jayson Tatum doesn’t play for the Suns? The Celtics drafted him No. 3 in 2017 – one pick ahead of Phoenix’s selection (used on Josh Jackson).
If that weren’t enough, former Suns coach Earl Watson blamed Suns owner Robert Sarver for thwarting Watson’s plan to unite Devin Booker and Tatum (who was initially on board).
Watson, via Jay King of The Athletic:
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:
This Earl Watson story is laughable. I went back to my draft notes from that year - the Suns had Tatum ranked ahead of Jackson. They would have taken Tatum over Jackson if they had a choice, which they didn't. Tatum killed it in his PHX workout and Jackson's workout was not good.— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) May 12, 2020
Whether or not Watson’s story is accurate, Sarver hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt. He has a history of interfering with Phoenix’s draft plans. I’m unconvinced we could ever know what the Suns would do if both Tatum and Jackson were on the board.
But a couple half-hearted defenses of Sarver:
1. Teams too often prioritize scorers. There’s only one ball. There should generally be more consideration to players who can help without the ball in their hands.
But talent matters, and both Booker and Tatum are highly talented. Teams should generally acquire talented players and hope they learn to play together.
It likely wouldn’t have been difficult for Booker and Tatum, anyway. Tatum’s defense and outside shooting would’ve complemented Booker. As shown this season while playing with Ricky Rubio, Booker also has off-ball juice that could’ve been unlocked more often with Tatum.
2. I rated Jackson ahead of Tatum on my board.
But a big reason: I thought Tatum was too much of a ball-stopper without the shooting ability to easily fit into a quality team offense.
I’d like to believe, if I saw him make 40 straight 3-pointers, I would’ve upgraded my projection.
Again, there was likely no reasonable way for the Suns to get Tatum no matter how badly Watson wanted him. The 76ers traded up for the No. 1 pick to get Markelle Fultz. Boston was enamored with Tatum, who came around on the Celtics (which paid off for both sides).
Maybe Phoenix could have traded up to No. 2, where the Lakers picked Lonzo Ball. Probably not. But there were some strange aspects to Los Angeles’ process. So, maybe. But probably not.
At No. 4, Tatum was gone. The Suns were left to take Jackson, who has struggled.
And we’re left with these differing accounts.