The build up to the 2017 NBA Draft provided for a lot of speculation amongst the lottery teams, with the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers attempting to redefine their respective franchises. In a bit of a surprise, the 76ers ended up trading the No. 3 pick and their 2018 first-round pick (via the Lakers) if the pick falls in the 2-5 range, or a 2019 first round pick (via the Sacramento Kings) in order to secure Markelle Fultz with the top overall pick, while the Celtics dropped down to the third pick and selected Jayson Tatum.
The 76ers felt that the loss of a future pick was well worth securing a point guard like Fultz at No. 1 overall. However, the situation may not have been as crystal clear as they were lead on to believe. Leading up to the draft, Danny Ainge and the Celtics continually led out rumors surrounding which rookie they were favoring, never stating one definitive selection.
However, the Celtics may have had an ace up their sleeve, turning it into the situation they originally envisioned. According to Tatum, the Celtics were always convinced on selecting him, baiting the 76ers into making a trade, via Dan Feldman of NBC Sports:
The Celtics was always going to pick me No. 1, but Philly didn’t know that. Philly thought that Boston was going to pick Markelle. So, Philly traded the pick and gave Boston a pick for next year. So, Boston was like, “Well, we can still get the player we want, a next-year pick, and then we get the player we wanted for less money.” So Boston still got all what they wanted, and Philly had to give up still to get the player.
But Philly didn’t know that Boston was gong to pick me. So, that’s why they traded up.
The wildcard in all of this was the Lakers though, as if the 76ers remained at No. 3 and the Celtics took Tatum at No. 1, the Lakers could have then taken Fultz with the second pick.
Despite the Lakers front office saying that Lonzo Ball was their top selection after the draft ended, Magic Johnson was reportedly enamored with Fultz after he worked out with the Lakers before the draft.
Tatum is widely regarded as the most NBA ready prospect amongst his peers, ready to make an impact on a team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The Celtics were missing a wing scoring presence, while also being composed enough to space the floor and knock down the perimeter shot.