Danny Ainge Debunks Popular Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown Trade Rumor

Tatum, Brown were subjected to multiple trade rumors


Feb 16, 2023

The Celtics were linked to multiple star players during Danny Ainge’s tenure as president of basketball operations, but Boston never went through on a major acquisition during his final few seasons as decision maker, except for Kyrie Irving.

The current Utah Jazz CEO did swing a trade with the Nets that sent franchise icons Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn, which ended up changing the fortunes of both franchises but not in the way many had intended.

Ainge sat down with Underdog Fantasy’s Rob Perez, better known as “World Wide Wob” on social media, for a live edition of “Radio Roulette” on Thursday. He admitted the Celtics were lucky to be in the situation they are in now because anything can happen. He noted the Nets were seen as a championship contender after the trade and no one envisioned the Celtics would get two top five picks out of the deal.

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were among Boston’s multiple picks during its post-Big Three era, and they ended up being the top prizes of the trade, but Ainge credited good fortune in drafting and how Boston lucked out when trading out of the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

There were questions over whether the star duo could play together, and the pair often were subjected to trade rumors that involved players like Kevin Durant or Anthony Davis. The latter seemed to gain significant steam to arrive to Boston during his fallout with the Pelicans in 2019.

There were rumors either Brown or Tatum, or possibly both stars, would have been sent to New Orleans for Davis. Those talks reportedly stalled out due to the Celtics wanting to keep their young stars and Irving’s unknown future with the franchise, which he would end up leaving after the 2018-19 season.

But Ainge corrected Perez on the trip down memory lane and actually revealed a different star the Celtics were close to acquiring.

“There never even was that deal. That’s the other thing,” Ainge told Perez. “You’re assuming there was a deal like that. There was no deal like that. There might have been on truth in that era — yes, I’m saying that wasn’t true. And second of all, there was a situation where I could have given away both of those picks to get Jimmy Butler. That criticism is fair: Hoarding your picks to get Jimmy Butler. I just thought it was too rich at the time.

“Thank goodness, we were lucky. It turned out to be Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Anthony Davis, no. Jimmy Butler, yeah. That was fair criticism, but you never know how those are going to work out. Jimmy was really good, and we liked him and we wanted him. And I was still mad I didn’t draft Jimmy Butler.”

This would have been before the 2016 NBA Draft, according to Ainge, since he mentioned trading picks, one of which would have ended up being Brown in that draft.

Butler was with the Chicago Bulls during this time, but he was traded during the 2017 offseason along with Justin Patton, who was the 16th pick of that year’s draft to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen, who was the seventh pick of the 2017 NBA Draft.

Ainge was correct in saying the Celtics were lucky to not have jumped the gun on that deal. Butler is a great player, but Brown and Tatum have blossomed into two of the best wing players in the NBA. But it marks another interesting “what-if” in Ainge’s time in Boston.

Thumbnail photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports Images
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