BOSTON (CBS) — The NBA Draft lottery isn’t until May 20, but even if you spend the next month hunting down four-leaf clovers, don’t count on much luck being on the Boston Celtics’ side when those ping-pong balls go bouncing.
Why? Because it never has when it comes to the wild and wacky NBA lottery.
There’s a great line from the classic movie Hoosiers that sums it up perfectly for the Celtics: “The sun don’t shine on the same dog’s ass every day, but, mister you ain’t seen a ray of light since you got here.”
You would hope the Celtics’ day in the sun would be coming (and by no means am I calling the Celtics a dog’s backside). The Chicago Bulls had just a 1.7% chance of getting the first pick in 2008, and they’ve been printing Derrick Rose jerseys (and knee braces) ever since.
In finishing tied with the Utah Jazz for the fourth-worst record in the NBA after a 25-57 season, Boston is likely looking at either the fifth or sixth pick. There is a slight glimmer of hope though, a 33.6% chance, that they’ll land one of the top three picks in June’s draft. Courtesy of 98.5 The Sports Hub’s radio voice of the Celtics, Sean Grande, here is the breakdown:
1st Pick: 10.4%
2nd Pick: 11.2%
3rd Pick: 12%
4th Pick: 5.0%
5th Pick: 30.6%
6th Pick: 26%
7th Pick: 4.8%
8th Pick: 0.2%
The odds are that the Celtics land the fifth or sixth pick, which Danny Ainge would most likely try to package with a few of the many assets/trade chips he’s built up over the last year. The last time that happened things turned out pretty well for Boston basketball, but that instant turnaround will be a little more difficult this time around.
But there’s a much better chance at that happening than the slim chance at landing a top three pick and enjoying the likes of Julius Randle, Jabari Parker of Joel Embiid for the next decade.
The one time things bounced Boston’s way with the draft lottery was in 1986 when Seattle’s first round pick (acquired by Red Auerbach for Gerald Henderson a few years earlier) defied the odds of being fifth overall and turned into #2. The Celtics used that to select Len Bias, a highly-touted college star who would learn under the Big Three (original version) and lead the the way to the next great Celtics team. But just two days after the selection was made, Bias was dead after a cocaine overdose. A promising young star had lost his life, and the Celtics future was in trouble.
For those that remember counting on ping-pong balls back in 1997 when Tim Duncan was the belle of the ball, the Celtics ended up with the third pick instead of the second or first. The basketball gods (ie David Stern) weren’t on their side that year, but the Celtics still ended up with Chauncey Billups with that pick. If you were happy with that, it didn’t last long, because Rick Pitino sent Billups to Toronto for Kenny Anderson (a serviceable veteran point guard, but still Kenny Anderson) just halfway through the Billups’ rookie season.
Then there was 2007. An abysmal season that saw the Celtics lose 18 straight was a little easier to stomach at the end of the year when Boston was supposed to get a top two pick in the draft. That 24-58 campaign was OK because either Greg Oden (whoops) or Kevin Durant would be wearing green come 2007-08. Instead, the Celtics ended up with the worst-case scenario and finished with the fifth pick, which to this day many Celtics fans still can’t put into words, just a cold, blank stare.
Had that fan known what the bad luck of the 2007 lottery would turn into, Ainge sending the pick (Jeff Green), Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak to Seattle for Ray Allen and Glen Davis, he probably would be jumping for joy rather than holding down that evening’s chicken wings. But that also brings up the question if the draft is even worth it.
Ainge has said throughout the season that he isn’t as impressed with the draft class as others, which could be a smoke screen, but could also mean he’s much more interested in playing “Flip That Pick” than calling someone’s name on June 26.
Just a top three pick won’t turn around the Celtics into a contender, but it certainly won’t hurt. To state the absolute obvious, the better the pick, the better player Ainge can take or the better return he can demand from a potential trading partner. Picks five or six should still yield a serviceable building block, but one of those top three picks would sweeten a package for an available All Star (cough, Kevin Love, cough) more than Sugar In The Raw makes that last sip of coffee taste like a childhood bowl of cereal.
So cue your best Lloyd Christmas impression when it comes to landing a top three pick next month, but remember, even Lloyd walked away with just a kiss on the cheek from Mary Swanson.
Instead, hope Trader Danny has a few different plans up his sleeve to try and repeat the luck he made on his own back in 2007. It’s much better than relying on a bunch of ping-pong balls.
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