Since being drafted by the Boston Celtics, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have gone from strength to strength and have fast become the two best players on the roster and among the best in the entire league.
Jayson Tatum is a 4-time All-Star and potential MVP candidate, and Jaylen Brown is a 2-time All-Star who is thriving as a mid-range scoring specialist. As standalone players, both are formidable, but together, they create one of, if not the, strongest duos in the entire NBA. Yet, according to Danny Ainge, the Celtics almost traded away the opportunity to pair these two stars together.
In a recent interview with Underdog Fantasy, Ainge revealed how the Celtics once considered trading away their 2016 and 2017 draft picks to acquire Jimmy Butler, who, at the time was still with the Chicago Bulls.
“There was a situation where I could have given away both of those picks to get Jimmy Butler, and so, like, that criticism is fair, like ‘you’re hoarding your picks to get rid of Jimmy Butler.’ I just thought it was too rich at the time, and thank goodness, we were lucky, and that turned out to be Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum…You never know how those are going to work out, Jimmy was really good, and we liked him, and we wanted him,” Ainge said
Butler went on to have an amazing career that has since taken him to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Philadelphia 76ers, and Miami Heat; however, you would be hard-pressed to envision the Celtics’ future being as bright as it is right now if Ainge had decided to push ahead with the trade.
Of course, there’s no telling if Butler’s presence in Boston could have led to a championship or what other players would have wanted to follow him to the TD Garden, but given where Boston currently finds itself, it certainly looks like Ainge made the right call in keeping hold of those draft picks.
It’s kind of funny, in a poetic way, that the former President of Basketball Operations, who was consistently ridiculed for his poor drafting, has his fingerprints all over the current core that is thriving under Joe Mazzulla’s stewardship and Brad Stevens’ organizational management.
It makes sense, then, that Ainge is looking to repeat a similar process with the Utah Jazz, having traded away their top stars for a haul of draft picks, as he looks to turn their fortunes around in a similar fashion to what he did in Boston — although there is no guarantee the Timberwolves are going to tumble toward the bottom of the Western Conference the same way the Brooklyn Nets did in the East.
So, as you sit down to watch the All-Star festivities this weekend, and see Tatum doing his thing (hopefully Brown sits out to continue healing), just remember, there was an alternative world where neither of these players end up in Boston, and the Chicago Bulls are once again one of the most dominant forces in the NBA landscape.