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.
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.