Basketball

Traded NBA draft picks that turned into gold: Jayson Tatum, Magic Johnson, Kyrie Irving, more


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Two trades, one that took place years before the 2017 draft, saw Jayson Tatum eventually go No. 3 overall to the Celtics.

Originally, the pick was slated to belong to the Sacramento Kings. However, during the 2015 offseason, in a move that can only be described as asinine (or insane), Sacramento agreed to trade Nik Stauskas (coming off of an uninspiring rookie season that saw him average 4.4 points) and veterans Carl Landry and Jason Thompson, along with a 2019 first-round pick and first-round pick swaps in 2016 and 2017 to the Philadelphia 76ers.

What did the Kings receive in exchange for all of that juicy draft capital?

The draft rights to Artūras Gudaitis and Luka Mitrovic.

Neither player has played a minute of NBA basketball yet.

And why did they do that?

To make a splash in free agency that year by ridding themselves of the hefty salaries of Landry and Thompson. And by hefty, we mean the former was owed $6.5 million and the latter $6.4 million the next season. Landry did have one more year on his deal after that (worth another $6.5 million) but Thompson’s deal was non-guaranteed after that one campaign.

The Kings did wind up landing one of their top free-agent targets that year in Rajon Rondo, who played one season with the club and performed admirably, averaging 11.9 points and a league-leading 11.7 assists. But the team still went 33-49 and missed the playoffs.

So basically, Sacramento traded three extremely valuable draft assets for a year of Rondo, who it lost a year later to the Bulls anyway after refusing to pay him what Chicago was offering.

It’s not hard to see why Vlade Divac is no longer calling the shots over there.

Regardless, the draft pick that became Tatum would be traded again, this time to the Celtics by the Sixers. That deal was a blockbuster by the two rivals, one that was supposed to help Philadelphia land the final piece of The Process and turn the franchise into contenders.

The 76ers traded the No. 3 pick to Boston, along with a 2018 first-round pick that they got from the Lakers if that pick fell between the second and fifth spot. When that didn’t happen, the pick the Celtics actually got from the Sixers became the No. 14 pick of the 2019 draft, a selection originally owned by the Kings. That pick would become Romeo Langford, so a pretty inconsequential loss for the 76ers (and the Kings, for that matter).

In return, Philadelphia got the No. 1 pick and used it on the consensus top prospect on the board that year, Markelle Fultz.

Truth be told, the Sixers got somewhat unlucky there, as that trade could have turned to gold for them if Fultz had developed into the player many saw him as in college, a three-level scorer and playmaker with length and athleticism who could defend, too. Fultz, along with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, was supposed to form an elite, young Big 3 in Philadelphia.

Instead, he’s now a member of the Orlando Magic coming off a major knee injury, and Tatum, the player the 76ers could have had had they just kept their pick, has blossomed into one of the best players in the league.

A Tatum-Embiid tandem doesn’t sound half-bad in hindsight, does it?



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