Stephen A. Smith was awfully impressed with Jayson Tatum’s performance against the Lakers, and who could blame him?
Yes, the Boston Celtics suffered a 114-112 loss to their archrival, but Tatum nevertheless dropped 41 points and looked like a legitimate star. During Monday’s episode of “First Take” on ESPN, Smith couldn’t help but wonder how different things would be for the Lakers had they drafted Tatum over Lonzo Ball in the 2017 NBA Draft.
“I saw a 21-year-old in Jayson Tatum that dropped 41 on them,” Smith said. “I saw an elite — probably the elite defensive player in the game — in Anthony Davis; Jayson Tatum scored six of eight shots when Anthony Davis was guarding him for 14 points. I saw a Lakers team that needed the heroics of LeBron James to close the deal.
“And, by the way, I also saw a guy in Jayson Tatum that, I’m sorry to be a spoiler for Laker fans, but this is the guy you passed up on to draft Lonzo Ball. How does that feel? Obviously, it might not have ended up this way, but let’s fantasize for a moment here. Could you imagine if the Los Angeles Lakers had LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Jayson Tatum on the same team?”
Obviously, it’s pointless to speculate about whether the Lakers should have selected Tatum. The fact is the Celtics, who held the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, had the Duke product as their top priority from the start. If Danny Ainge thought there was a chance of the Lakers taking Tatum with the second overall pick, he never would have executed the trade with the Philadelphia 76ers to slide down to the No. 3 spot. Plus, Los Angeles eventually wound up including Ball in its trade package for Anthony Davis.
In any event, Tatum has become the face of the Celtics, and LeBron James is among those who believe the third-year forward is a “problem” for the rest of the NBA.