What if the Lakers drafted Jayson Tatum in 2017 over Lonzo Ball?
In the 2017 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers held the second overall selection. First overall, the Philadelphia 76ers selected point guard Markelle Fultz from the University of Washington. Next, the Lakers chose a divisive prospect in Lonzo Ball in the wake of his father’s boisterous antics.
Following Ball’s selection, the Boston Celtics drafted future three-time All-NBA forward Jayson Tatum out of Duke. Tatum quickly became the modern face of Boston basketball alongside 2016’s third overall selection Jaylen Brown. Together, they reached the NBA Finals in 2021 and have a combined six All-Star appearances.
On the Lakers, Lonzo Ball’s poor outside shooting halted his development, although his defense and court vision were immediately clear. Once LeBron James joined the Lakers, though, Ball’s inefficient scoring diminished his role on the Lakers even further. He was eventually included in the historic Anthony Davis trade, sending him to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Although Lonzo Ball became an indispensable leader for the Chicago Bulls before an unfortunate injury sidelined Ball, his early years in Los Angeles were nothing in comparison to Tatum’s early career success.
Considering the heights that Tatum has reached, drafting Lonzo Ball over him is a major contention in the Lakers’ recent past. In fact, a number of NBA stars were chosen after Ball, including Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, Lauri Markkanen, and De’Aaron Fox.
If the Lakers had drafted Tatum, pairing him with LeBron James might have accelerated the Lakers’ ability to compete for the Finals and continued their success with Tatum as the franchise cornerstone into the following decade.