Ping pong balls in NBA Draft Lottery could dictate Celtics' summer

Ping pong balls in NBA Draft Lottery could dictate Celtics' summer

The Boston Celtics are no longer solely reliant on ping pong balls to dictate their future, but Tuesday night’s draft lottery could go a long way towards determining exactly how their summer will play out and how their roster might look next season.

There is potential for an unexpected boon, or a stunning stomach punch. The Celtics are in such a unique position that they are actively rooting against immediately acquiring a fourth first-round pick, one that would almost certainly be a top-10 selection.

Beyond their own selections, where the No. 1 pick lands could dictate, in part, whether Kyrie Irving comes back, or if another team can launch into the Anthony Davis sweepstakes.

The Celtics already know they will have picks Nos. 20 (via the Clippers) and 22 (their own). A look at how Tuesday night’s lottery impacts the other two picks in play:


Current slot: 14 … Chance at top 4: 4.8% … Chance at No. 1: 1.0%

The Celtics landed this pick from Philadelphia as part of the 2017 swap in which Boston dealt the No. 1 overall pick (later used on Markelle Fultz) for the No. 3 pick (Jayson Tatum) and the Kings’ 2019 first-round pick (top-1 protected).

Given the Kings’ seemingly perpetual rebuilding process, this seemed like a boon for Boston. Just look at Sacramento’s initial first-round draft location over the past decade (starting in 2009): 4, 5, 7, 5, 7, 8, 6, 8, 5, 2.

But then a (not-so?) funny thing happened. The Kings were good this season. They were young and entertaining. They almost snagged a playoff spot. They were, essentially, the best of the worst and slotted with the lowest lottery odds.

This is good and bad. Sacramento’s pick has just a one percent chance of vaulting to No. 1, in which case Philadelphia would retain it and instead deliver to Boston the Sixers’ own first-round pick (No. 24 overall).

Boston is hoping, though, to catch a little lottery luck with the 3.8 percent chance that Sacramento’s pick jumps to spots Nos. 2, 3, or 4.

What you’re watching for: When they start opening envelopes on Tuesday night, if the Kings (or Celtics, if they go that route) aren’t the first logo revealed, then the next 15 minutes or so will be filled with incredible anxiety as Celtics fans wonder where exactly that pick will slot in the Top 4.


Current slot: 8 … Chance at top 8: 57.4% … Chance at 9+: 42.6%

The Celtics landed this pick from Memphis as part of a three-team swap in 2015 involving Jeff Green. It might be Green’s only chance of being remembered fondly by Celtics fans (if only because he had the misfortune of being part of the deal that sent out the much-beloved Kendrick Perkins).

While a top-10 pick is nothing to sneeze at, the Celtics would much prefer this pick stick with Memphis this season. Not only do the Celtics already have three-first-round picks in hand — albeit, none as glitzy as the top-10 that Memphis could deliver — the Memphis pick’s protections loosen moving forward and could be an even glitzier asset moving forward.

There is some risk in that, however (see also: 2019 Kings pick). Still, with Memphis likely to be in rebuild mode for a bit, the pick might be more valuable to Boston in 2020 (top 6 protected) or 2021 (unprotected). 

What you’re watching for: If any of the six teams currently slotted behind Memphis vault into the top 4, then Boston will collect that pick as the Grizzlies will slip to 9 (or worse). Of course, if Kings vault to spots 2, 3, or 4, Boston fans can live with the early arrival of the Memphis pick as collateral damage.

Why would it help Boston if the Grizzlies pick didn't convey this season? That Memphis pick might be Boston’s glitziest non-player trade asset and could be a key piece in pursuing a known commodity (Davis or otherwise). The biggest fear would be that, should Boston collect the pick, and not find a way to move it before draft night, the team would have to draft another young player and that makes it slightly more difficult to complete a deal this summer (when the receiving team might not be as high on that player).


So how exactly will Tuesday’s lottery play out? You can get an idea of the possibilities by trying our 2019 NBA Draft lottery simulator… 

The Jackpot Scenario for the Celtics would involve vaulting to No. 2 with the Kings pick and having the Memphis pick leap somewhere in the top 4 as well. The odds of this happening are incredibly low, but, hey, it came up on one of our handful of spins on the simulator …

In this scenario, the Celtics would vault to No. 2, but the Grizzlies would vault as well, keeping their pick. New Orleans is the third team to vault, putting them in position to select a quality young player and maybe even more motivated to move Davis and go young. Even better, the Knicks slide to No. 5 and can’t add the sort of impact draft talent or make the big-splash move that might further entice Irving to consider them in free agency.

On the flip side, there is a Doomsday Scenario … 

Philadelphia, with just that 1 percent chance to vault to No. 1, connects on the Hail Mary and is able to add Zion Williamson to the core of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, making the Sixers a potential Eastern Conference wrecking ball for the foreseeable future.

What’s more, that Philly vault would force the Grizzlies’ pick to convey. Boston would be left with four first-round picks, but three of which are in spots Nos. 20-24.


Given the hype surrounding Williamson, the No. 1 pick is particularly valuable this season, either with the ability to build around him or trade that pick for more surefire talent. 

The Knicks, Cavaliers, and Suns have the best odds (14%) of landing in that spot. New York might be the worst possible option for Boston. That would leave the Knicks with a glitzy asset that could either be kept and used to entice someone like Irving to play alongside Williamson, or dealt as the centerpiece of a deal to acquire someone like Davis. Phoenix, too, with its recent collection of lottery talent and a high pick could potentially inject itself into the Davis conversation.

Even a Hawks vault makes things a bit more interesting in the East, particularly since Atlanta stands to collect a top-10 pick if Dallas doesn’t vault into the top 5. The Hawks would have a Williamson/Trae Young/Top-10 pick to build upon and could be a force down the road.

The new lottery odds and ability for teams to vault to Spots 1-4 instead of top 3 adds a new layer of intrigue to this year’s event, as do all the pick protections this year.

And the Celtics and their uncertain summer will be at the center of it all.

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Enes Kanter Show: Celtics center explains importance of mental strength in NBA bubble

Enes Kanter Show: Celtics center explains importance of mental strength in NBA bubble

The NBA's bubble at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida will provide the players with plenty of fun activities -- bowling, golf, movies, video games and ping pong, among others -- in their spare time. This doesn't mean the environment will be without challenges, though.

The Boston Celtics traveled down to Orlando on Wednesday night, and they will be staying at the Gran Destino Tower during the league's restart.

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Not every player will be in perfect basketball shape once practices ramp up soon. That's understandable, and it's a challenge the players eventually will overcome. The mental challenges will be the most important -- and maybe the toughest -- to battle through given the uniqueness of the situation. 

In the latest episode of the The Enes Kanter Show podcast, Celtics center Enes Kanter explained the importance of mental strength in the league's bubble.

"All we have to do is get in game shape. We all know how to play basketball. It's like riding a bike -- you can't forget how to play basketball," Kanter said. "You can be a little rusty and get back into shape. But I think the important thing is the mental part because you're away from your family and loved ones for three months and now all you have is your basketball family and coaches. That's why the 3-month period before Orlando was so important to keep building that chemistry. I think now we're all bonding and the chemistry is really good. We all care about each other. We're just going to go out there and play golf, go bowling and fish all day, and other than that just play basketball. I feel, besides from the games, you can actually just relax. Read a book, just invest in yourself."

Enes Kanter Show: C's center gives first impressions of NBA bubble | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

The bubble was made to ensure the players can continue playing in an environment that's as safe and as healthy as possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Players won't have the same freedom they normally do on the road, and the teams that are mentally tough and well prepared likely will enjoy the most success in Orlando.

Kanter is in no mood to complain. He's going to make the most out of the opportunity to compete for a championship, and you can bet his Celtics teammates will have a similar attitude. 

"Love it or hate, you're going to be here for three months," Kanter said. "So you might as well look at the positive side of it.

Check out The Enes Kanter Show on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or watch on YouTube below:

Celtics at Home: Which superhero is Marcus Smart most like?

Celtics at Home: Which superhero is Marcus Smart most like?

Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart often plays like a superhero on the basketball court.

The versatile guard plays multiple positions on offense and guards all five positions on defense. He'll hit 3-pointers, set up the offense, dive on the floor for loose balls, guard the opposing teams' best player, etc. There aren't many things Smart can't provide the Celtics. This all-around skill set is quite valuable to the C's, especially on defense. Smart was named to the league's All-Defensive first team last season, and he deserves a spot in that group again in 2019-20. 

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In the latest episode of Celtics at Home, one of the topics in the Celtics Census segment was, "which superhero is Marcus Smart most like?"

We asked 300 Celtics fans for the top six answers, and several of them are superheroes you would definitely associate with a player who excels on the defensive end of the court.

NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin and former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins teamed up against C's head coach Brad Stevens and Smart to see who could come up with the right answers. 

Watch the video below to find out which team won. Be sure to check out the NBC Sports Boston YouTube page for more Celtics at Home videos and other content.