Celtics

Could blowing a 28-point lead deliver a first-round pick to Boston?

Could blowing a 28-point lead deliver a first-round pick to Boston?

Could the so-called worst loss of the Brad Stevens era actually help deliver a first-round pick to Boston in June?

The Los Angeles Clippers, who roared back from a 28-point deficit to stun the Celtics here earlier this month, are set to send their 2019 first-round pick to Boston if it lands outside the lottery. That means Los Angeles would have to make the playoffs, which seemed unlikely after the Clippers dealt Tobias Harris to Philadelphia before the trade deadline.

But as the race for the final Western Conference playoff spots begins to take shape, the Clippers find themselves with pole position next to fellow hopefuls Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers. What’s more, the Athletic reported Friday that Clippers owner Steve Ballmer prefers the team make a playoff push this season. 

On the surface, it sounds counterproductive for the Clippers considering a lottery pick could be beneficial to the team’s rebuilding process, even as they prepare to chase max-contract free agents this summer. But let the Celtics stand as a model of how even a small taste of the postseason can help a young core, especially right before the team adds top-end talent. The Isaiah Thomas-led Celtics got a couple small bites of the playoffs a few years back and, as soon as the team added Al Horford in the summer of 2016, it rocketed the team to the conference finals.

The Clippers won on the road over the Grizzlies on Friday night to improve to 33-27 on the season and now sit 2 games ahead of the Kings and 3 ahead of the Lakers.

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Entering Friday’s action, projections heavily favored the Clippers making the postseason. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gave the team a whopping 80.6 percent chance to make the playoffs based on the team’s performance throughout the season, with the Lakers (9.2 percent) and Kings (8.6 percent) lagging well behind.

Even FiveThirtyEight's NBA projections, which factor in roster and lineup changes, important considering the Clippers’ trade, had the team at 62 percent to make the playoffs, a comfortable distance ahead of the Lakers (28 percent) and Kings (9 percent).

The Celtics would benefit from both the Clippers making the playoffs and the Kings missing out. Boston will collect Sacramento’s first-round pick, so long as it doesn’t vault to No. 1 in the lottery.

Entering Friday’s action, draft-tracking website Tankathon had Boston set to collect picks No. 14 (via Kings), 18 (via Clippers), and 23 (its own). Ranking teams by total pick value, the Celtics projected to have more 2019 draft capital than, say, the Knicks if they landed the No. 2 pick.

That’s important given the Anthony Davis pursuit that could loom this summer. The team that emerges with the No. 1 pick could dangle that selection — more commonly referred to as “the chance to draft Zion Williamson” — and put themselves in the running for Davis’ services. But the Celtics can make a very intriguing package with both picks and proven young talent.

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Even though the Celtics can’t formally deal for Davis until July 1, the parameters of a deal could be in place with the Pelicans and Boston would simply draft for them with any 2019 picks that are set to be swapped.

The Clippers' pick is lottery protected again next season before morphing into a 2022 second-round pick if not conveyed by 2020. Given the Clippers’ hopes of adding max-contract talent this summer, there’s a strong chance that pick might simply deliver next June in the event the Clippers fade this season.

But if the Clippers pick delivers, and especially if it ultimately is flipped as part of a deal to acquire a talent like Davis, then maybe just maybe the Celtics coughing up a 28-point lead won’t be as bad as it seemed in the moment.

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Kyrie Irving to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, will not face Celtics this season

Kyrie Irving to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, will not face Celtics this season

Well, we can't say we're surprised, can we?

Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving won't be playing against the Boston Celtics at all this season. The 27-year-old is set to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania.

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Irving didn't play in the Nets first two matchups against his former team this season while dealing with the shoulder injury that has seen him miss more than half of the 2019-20 season. In just 20 games played, Irving averaged 27.4 points while shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 39.4 percent from beyond the arc.

We should also mention that even though Irving has missed a majority of the season, he still nearly stole an All-Star game spot from Kemba Walker -- the fan vote ranked him second behind Atlanta's Trae Young.

The Celtics are nipping at the Toronto Raptors heels and sit third in the Eastern Conference while the Nets are on the rise, going 7-3 in their last 10 games and ranking seventh in the East.

If Boston were to take over second place in the conference, the Celtics could potentially meet the Nets in the first round of the playoffs -- Boston having home court advantage.

With Irving set to miss the remainder of the season, this elimates any chance he'll have to face the Celtics in the postseason -- surprise, surprise.

This Friday is Jayson Tatum Day here at NBC Sports Boston. Be sure to check out our exclusive content around Tatum throughout the day, both online and on the broadcast of Celtics-Timberwolves, which begins Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream it on the MyTeams App.

 

These crazy stats emphasize Jayson Tatum's superstar potential

These crazy stats emphasize Jayson Tatum's superstar potential

This Friday is Jayson Tatum Day here at NBC Sports Boston. Be sure to check out our exclusive content around Tatum throughout the day, both online and on the broadcast of Celtics-Timberwolves, which begins Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream it on the MyTeams App.

* * * * *

Jayson Tatum's numbers through the first three years of his promising career are beyond impressive.

But when you put those numbers into perspective and compare them with what some NBA legends did at such a young age, it's truly remarkable what he's accomplished already.

At 21, Tatum has joined elite company in several categories. While he enjoys an All-Star season in Year 3, the 2017 No. 3 overall pick is setting himself apart from other young Boston Celtics standouts who have preceded him.

Here are some of the craziest Tatum stats entering Friday night (courtesy of @BostonSportsInf on Twitter) as he continues to develop into a bonafide superstar.

Click here for the gallery.