When Jayson Tatum left Duke, a lot of people thought he’d be good but that maybe he wasn’t athletic enough to be great.
Danny Ainge wasn’t one of them, and he pulled off what is in retrospect a brilliant trade, giving the #1 pick to Philly and getting Tatum at the #3 spot when Tatum was the goal for Boston all along.
Philly took Markell Fultz with that pick while the Lakers took Lonzo Ball at #2. Neither player is with the team that drafted them while Tatum has gone on to be a brilliant forward for the Celtics.
Ainge’s trade is not on a par with Red Auerbach’s masterful draft moves that a) brought Bill Russell in a trade for Easy Ed McAuley, b) drafted Bird as a fourth-year junior, and c) traded the #1 and #13 picks in the 1980 draft for Robert Parish and the #3 pick that they used to pick Kevin McHale, but outside of those genius moves, it was a great, great move.
On Friday night, Tatum made Philly sick again over that trade as he scored 60 points, nearly breaking Bird’s franchise mark of 61 and pulling Boston to an epic 32 point comeback over the San Antonio Spurs. Boston was really, really bad early - so bad that coach Brad Stevens’ daughter left at halftime.
He shot 20-37 overall, 5-7 from behind the line and 15-17 from the line. He also had eight rebounds and five assists.
It was an epic performance and another sign that Tatum’s ascent is not yet complete. If he keeps this up, he’s on a Hall of Fame arc.