Ex-Suns HC Earl Watson Told Owner 'We Need to F--king Get' Jayson Tatum

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2020

FILE - In this Oct. 18, 2017, file photo, Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson reacts to a call during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers, in Phoenix. The Suns announced the firing of coach Earl Watson Sunday night, Oct. 22, 2017,  after hours of meetings at the team's headquarters. Assistant coach Jay Triano, a former head coach of the Toronto Raptors, was named interim coach. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)
Matt York/Associated Press

If former Phoenix Suns head coach Earl Watson had gotten his way, the team would've built around a backcourt of Devin Booker and Jayson Tatum coming out of the 2017 draft.

Watson recounted to The Athletic's Jay King how he was immediately impressed with Tatum during a predraft workout.

"He drilled 40 straight off the first shot," he said. "Forty straight. So I immediately turned to the owner and the GM. And I said, 'What else do we need to see?' ... We need to f--king get Tatum."

The what-if became a talking point after Tatum revealed on Showtime Sports' All The Smoke he was hopeful of landing with Phoenix upon entering the NBA (h/t Celtics Wire's Justin Quinn).

"I'm like, 'I'm not trying to hear it. I want to go to Phoenix,'" the Boston Celtics star said. "My agent's like, 'Just think about it.' And then, we hang up. I'm like, I'm not going to this workout. Like, I'm cool. Then, Coach K called me right after my agent did. He's like, 'Jayson, the Celtics called; they want you to come work out. I think Brad Stevens is a great coach, and it's a great place to be. You'll learn a lot.'"

Perhaps Tatum could've turned off the Celtics by refusing to work out, but that wouldn't have precluded Boston from selecting him third overall anyway. 

Stevens spoke highly of the Duke star at the time, and general manager Danny Ainge added that the team would've taken him with the No. 1 pick. The Celtics had traded out of that spot, with the Philadelphia 76ers moving up to get Markelle Fultz. 

Watkins' lament is understandable, all the more so since the Suns' first-round pick (Josh Jackson) has been a flop. Phoenix moved on from Jackson after only two seasons.

Watson told King that owner Robert Sarver communicated his belief the Suns "do not need another Devin Booker" and generally preferred Jackson.

The Suns had the No. 4 pick, though, which makes the thought exercise somewhat moot.

In order to actually land Tatum, they would've needed to leapfrog the Celtics. Phoenix didn't have the kind of trade capital the Sixers did, which Philadelphia assembled during its protracted rebuild. In addition, it's difficult to envision a scenario where the Los Angeles Lakers slip down from No. 2, thus jeopardizing their chances of getting Lonzo Ball.

Pairing Booker and Tatum together would've been great, but it was likely little more than a pipe dream. Tatum made his first All-Star team this season and is averaging 23.6 points per game, which ranks 16th in the league.