Celtics have seen how NBA Draft lottery can change fortune and future

Celtics have seen how NBA Draft lottery can change fortune and future

BOSTON –The Boston Celtics have seen first-hand how the NBA Draft lottery can forever change the fortunes and futures for a franchise which is why tonight’s lottery could put Boston on the fast track to being a title contender.

In 1997, San Antonio had injuries to David Robinson and Sean Elliott that dropped them to having the third-worst record in the NBA.

Their reward?

They landed the top overall pick and selected the no-brainer choice of Tim Duncan, a draft in which the Celtics had a pair of lottery picks and went into the lottery with a 36 percent chance of landing the top overall pick.

Five NBA titles later, the Spurs are the standard that all teams competing for titles are measured against.

And a decade later, draft lottery heartbreak struck the Celtics again with Boston, having the second-best odds at landing the top overall pick, slipped all the way down to the fifth slot.

But through that adversity the Celtics found solace in flipping that pick along with a handful of players to Seattle (now Oklahoma City) for Ray Allen.

And that led to trading for Kevin Garnett which led to Banner 17 in 2008.

The way Boston was able to turn the disappointment of landing the fifth overall pick into an NBA title a season later was seen as a lightning-in-a-bottle moment.

And while this draft does not have a Tim Duncan-like player available, make no mistake about it: Boston landing the number one overall pick would do wonders for this organization in their search for a superstar player.

If Boston were to land the top pick, it would likely mean Boston drafting 6-foot-10 forward Ben Simmons of LSU, a player who has been compared at times to LeBron James but is probably more Magic Johnson because of his penchant for passing and ability to rebound at a fairly high level

Simmons became the first player in 30 years to average more than 19 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in a season.

And he did it in his only season of college basketball.

The previous player to achieve that milestone was Ron Harper, a senior at Miami of Ohio in 1986.

But the impact of adding a player like Simmons (a slim favorite for the top pick over Duke’s Brandon Ingram) goes much deeper than just acquiring more talent.

It also has the potential to impact what the Celtics will look to do on the free agent market with a young blossoming star in the making with Simmons.

Still, Boston will continue to search out to try and add at least one difference-making, high impact superstar caliber player this offseason with Kevin Durant their top target.

They will also make a run at Al Horford and at least look into a potential trade for Jimmy Butler.

But if the Celtics strike out on all those fronts, they can continue to build their depth with good, young talent like Simmons, the kind of talent that has allowed them to nearly double their win total from Brad Stevens’ first season to this past season, his third in Boston.

It’s not the most ideal way to build a title contender and certainly not the quickest route. But as we have seen in recent years, the majority of players drafted by Boston show growth from one season to the next with Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart being two examples of that.

Boston has also been able to make trades for players whose talent outpaces their paycheck like Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder.

And while Boston has never made a huge splash on the free agent market, there’s no question that the additions of Evan Turner two years ago and Amir Johnson last summer as being instrumental in Boston finishing in a four-way tie for the third best record in the Eastern Conference this past season.

But all that success begins with tonight’s lottery, a lottery that could go very far in determining the direction of this Celtics franchise for many years to come.

Landing one of the top-two picks would mean Simmons or Ingram are likely to be drafted by Boston and in all likelihood, not be traded.

If Boston stands pat at No. 3 (they have the third-best chance at landing the number one overall pick), the Celtics will be more than pleased to select Dragan Bender or possibly Jaylen Brown.

Picks 4-6 would provide them with more good players, but don’t be surprised if the Celtics are aggressive in their efforts to move that pick for a player later in the draft and a future pick, or include it as part of a larger package for a player of significance (DeMarcus Cousins?).

Indeed, the Celtics can go in a number of directions tomorrow night with the only one that Celtics fans care about is up – up the Eastern Conference standings, back to being a legit player in the hunt for an NBA title and that ever-elusive Banner 18. 

Blakely: Why Celtics should feel pretty lucky on St. Pat's

Blakely: Why Celtics should feel pretty lucky on St. Pat's

It’s hard being an NBA fan and not thinking about the Celtics on St. Patrick’s Day.

All that green, the shamrocks and the libations that so many of us enjoy even more today than most days, it’s pretty cool and certainly something – well, for me at least – to be thankful for.

The Celtics, yeah, they got a few – quite a few - things to be thankful for as well.

So what better day to point a few of them out than the unofficial holiday of the Celtics, St. Patrick’s Day.


When Danny Ainge drafted Terry Rozier three years ago, I admit I wasn’t a believer. You had guards, Danny Ainge. What do you need another one for? Draft Sam Dekker from Wisconsin, or UVA’s Justin Anderson. Hey, that kid Bobby Portis from Arkansas looks pretty good, too.

Ainge and the Celtics took a look at all those guys and came away convinced that Rozier was the best fit for what the wanted both in the short and long-term from that draft.

While Rozier has not emerged as a star, he has shown us all more than enough to know that he’s a pretty damn good player.

And throw in the fact that the dude was born on St. Patrick’s Day - as was Ainge - how can this guy not have a little bit of luck on his side?


LeBron James’ timing has been impeccable when it comes to leaving for greener pastures. So, when Kyrie Irving let the Cavs know he wanted out of Cleveland, it took a minute to sink that they were about to be LeBron’d by someone other than LeBron. But in making his desire to be traded, Irving was giving the Cavs an opportunity to get something in return for shipping him out to who knows where. The Cavs eventually wound up with a couple of draft picks, with one being a coveted first-rounder via Brooklyn in June’s NBA draft along with a trio of players headlined by Isaiah Thomas who was still on the mend from a hip injury.

The injury took longer to heal and the Cavs wound up trading Thomas and ex-Celtic Jae Crowder to teams out West.

Today, Cleveland is treading water as a middle-of-the-pack club that has shown very few signs of late that they will be nothing more than first-round fodder for some team with deep playoff aspirations and a roster ready to make that happen.

And Irving?

He was named to his fifth All-Star team and has spent most of this season playing for a Boston team that until recently held down best record in the East and currently sits in the No. 2 spot.

Irving is dealing with a sore left knee that has limited him recently to not playing, but it doesn’t appear to be an injury that will significantly impact what he does in the postseason for a Celtics team that, despite all their injuries, still holds out hope of making a strong postseason run.


Whenever you ask Brad Stevens about his decision to leave Butler for the Celtics in the NBA, he makes it clear from the outset how difficult a decision it was for him and his family.

Just imagine if Stevens had won a national title instead of having a pair of national runner-up finishes to his name? Leading a mid-major like Butler to an NCAA title, which would have meant slaying UConn or Duke in the process? Stevens would have been more than just a big deal on the Butler campus. He would have been seen as a basketball god who would have had an even tougher time walking away from what he had helped build at Butler.

So Celtics fans, be thankful for Duke and UConn because without their national title game wins over Butler, there’s a very good chance that Brad Stevens would not be coaching the Celtics now.


Remember back in 2013 when Danny Ainge had the serious basketball man crush on Duke’s Justise Winslow, a player that he was willing to trade plenty of draft picks (reportedly as many as four first-round picks) to acquire the rights to draft?

Ainge suspected the Miami Heat would select him with the No. 10 pick, so Ainge tried to swing a deal with the Charlotte Hornets who were in the No. 9 slot.

Charlotte liked Winslow, but they were more smitten with Frank Kaminsky. Because of that, they wouldn’t do a deal with the Celtics.

Not doing that deal allowed Boston to have the kind of assets to eventually acquire Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Irving, moves that have collectively led to Boston’s surge towards the top of the NBA standings despite having the fifth-youngest team in the NBA.

Winslow, selected by the Heat with the 10th overall pick, has come nowhere close to being the impact player Miami was hoping they would get. And while Kaminsky has had some decent stretches, he too has been a bit underwhelming. Meanwhile, Boston kept its 16th overall pick and used it to select Rozier who as it turns out, has arguably been the best player among the trio.

Having a good scouting staff is important, of course.

But a little luck every now and then doesn’t hurt, either.




Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Beating one of the few teams already eliminated from the playoff race is in itself not that big a deal.

It’s called doing what you’re supposed to do.

But for these Celtics, their 92-83 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night was more than just another victory.

It was the latest installment in a season filled with teachable moments and lessons that can bolster in some fashion their chances at a deep playoff run.

While there’s no way they’re going to go far without their core guys Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, getting guys to fill in for them and still manage to win, is important in this team’s overall development in both the present and future.

No one on the Celtics’ roster can score like Irving, the league’s 11th-ranked scorer at 24.4 points per game.

Still, getting his fill-ins Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin to go for 17 and 10 points certainly helps.

And Jaylen Brown’s ability to play both ends of the floor at a high level is huge, but rookie Abdel Nader has shown he too has some potential to be a solid two-way talent.

Smart’s defense sets him apart from others, but the Celtics collectively were able to make up for that with an impressive defensive rating of 83.1 against the Orlando.

And their collective efforts serve as yet another teachable moment for the Celtics.

Here are five takeaways from a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might lead one to believe: 

There may not be another Celtic whose stock has risen more than Terry Rozier’s this season. He has become a reliable two-way talent off the bench whose capable of giving you starter-like production when needed. He had 17 points against the Magic along with seven rebounds and five assists.

With Marcus Smart (right thumb) out for the rest of the regular season, Terry Rozier in the starting lineup along with Marcus Morris, those are three really big chunks of Boston’s second unit no longer coming off the bench. The second unit players might have been different, but that didn’t affect the Celtics’ bench from impacting the game in a significant way. Against the Magic, they outscored Orlando’s backups, 39-28. 

He signed with the Boston Celtics at a time when a role for him was far from defined. His patience and Boston’s faith in him has paid for both as Larkin continues to be that utility player that Brad Stevens has leaned on at times. Larkin was solid off the bench, scoring 10 points.

This may be one of the closest Coach of the Year votes we have ever had in the NBA. Regardless how short the list may be, you can bet Brad Stevens will be on it. The way he has been positioning the Celtics to be among the last teams standing despite all the injuries they have endured this season, speaks to his ability to not just draw up X's and O’s but also his ability to develop players who when called upon to play, are more than ready for the challenge.

It’s fair to expect the Celtics are going to be short-handed for the rest of the season, which means those still around have to step their game up – Horford included.

For Horford, stepping up involves being more assertive as a scorer and not rely as much on his skills as a play-maker. We saw that from Horford on Friday, as he tallied a near double-double of 15 points and nine rebounds but more important, he took a game-high 18 shot attempts.