Best and worst top-six picks
The best and worst draft scenarios for Celtics
By A. SHERROD BLAKELY
BOSTON -- No matter how many tournaments, practices or individual workouts players have with teams leading up to the NBA draft, there’s always going to be an element of hit-or-miss when it comes time to make a pick.
Draft-night studs and duds become even more pronounced near the top of the board . . . which is exactly where the Boston Celtics find themselves.
The Celts, courtesy of the unprotected first-round pick they hustled, er, OBTAINED as part of the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett trade in 2013, are guaranteed of having a top-six pick that, depending on how the ping-pong balls bounce on May 17, could be the top overall selection.
Here’s a look at what can be best described as the best and worst-case scenarios for the Celtics . . .
Sixth overall pick
BEST: Antoine Walker
Drafted by the Celtics in 1996, Walker went on to become a three-time All-Star in addition to winning an NBA title in 2006 with the Miami Heat.
Runner-up: Damian Lillard (Portland, 2012)
WORST: Jonny Flynn
His NBA career lasted just two seasons after Minnesota selected him in the 2009 draft. What began as a promising career (he was All-Rookie second team) quickly took a turn for the worse after he underwent hip surgery in 2010. He was never the same player afterwards.
Runner-up: Jan Vesely (Washington, 2011)
Fifth overall pick
BEST: Ray Allen
One of the best shooters to ever play in the NBA, Allen became a perennial All-Star who was instrumental in Boston bringing home Banner 17 in 2008, as well as helping the Miami Heat win a title in 2013. A 10-time All-Star, he is the NBA’s all-time leader in made 3-pointers (2,973).
Runner-up: Vince Carter (1998)
WORST: Nikoloz Tskitishvili
Selected by Denver in 2002, Tskitishvili’s NBA career lasted four seasons with four different teams. He never came close to living up to the hype that catapulted him from a virtual unknown into the top portion of the lottery. He would later go on to have moderate success overseas.
Runner-up: Jonathan Bender
Fourth overall pick
BEST: Chris Paul
Arguably the NBA’s best point guard not named Stephen Curry, Paul has been a mainstay among the game’s elite for the bulk of his career. The nine-time All-Star ranks among the game’s best playmakers, which is evidenced by him leading the league in assists four times, and one of its better perimeter defenders, which is why he has been named to the All-NBA Defensive Team seven times.
Runner-up: Russell Westbrook
WORST: Tyrus Thomas
So much of his value was based on potential, something Thomas never fully reached during his six-plus seasons in the NBA. Even though his career was filled with a high amount of highlight plays, they couldn’t mask the deficiencies in his game that brought an end to a career that showed such promise in its early stages.
Runner-up: Eddie Curry
Third overall pick
BEST: Carmelo Anthony
Anthony was part of a 2003 class that ranks among the NBA’s all-time best, which is why he was still on the board at No. 3. He scores as well as anyone in the league and -- while he hasn’t been able to lead the Knicks to the kind of success he enjoyed during his lone college season at Syracuse -- Anthony stands tall as the best No. 3 pick in the last 20 years.
Runner-up: Pau Gasol
WORST: Adam Morrison
Charlotte got this one wrong, big time. Morrison’s career began with a solid rookie season in which he averaged 11.8 points per game. That would be the highpoint of his NBA career, as he averaged less than five points per game in each of the following two seasons. He did, however, hang around long enough to get a pair of NBA titles (2009 and 2010) with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Runner-up: O.J. Mayo
Second overall pick
BEST: Kevin Durant
A 7-footer who can handle the ball like a point guard and knock down shots like a shooting guard. There really isn’t a more complete offensive weapon in the game right now. That’s why lots of teams -- the Celtics included -- will be lining up at a shot at signing him this offseason when he becomes a free agent.
Runner-up: LaMarcus Aldridge
WORST: Hasheem Thabeet
The Tanzanian-born Thabeet was never able to provide the kind of imposing defensive presence many anticipated the 7-foot-3 center would provide. In five seasons, he averaged 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds.
Runner-up: Stromile Swift
First overall pick
BEST: Tim Duncan
There have been some great players taken with the top overall pick in the last 20 years, but none have been able to blend as much individual success with team success the way Duncan has. To see his career play out the way it has only adds salt to the wounds of Celtics fans, who remember all too well how Boston had the best odds of getting the top pick in the 1997 draft and how that pick would have surely been used on Duncan.
Runner-up: LeBron James
WORST: Anthony Bennett
His selection by Cleveland as the top pick was a shock on draft night. Sadly, he did little afterwards to justify being chosen at the top of the NBA food chain. The Cavaliers traded him to Minnesota as part of the Kevin Love deal. From there, he was traded to his hometown Toronto Raptors. Bennett continued to struggle and was eventually waived by the Raptors -- all this within three years.
Runner-up: Greg Oden