BOSTON (CBS) — As fans watched the Boston Celtics lose 57 games during the 2013-14 season, there was always light at the end of the tunnel.
As the losses piled up, so did the number of ping-pong balls for the Celtics in the NBA Draft lottery. Each time they let another game slip away in the fourth quarter, the C’s were inching a little bit closer to possibly landing the first overall pick in the upcoming draft, or at least a high lottery pick that could lead to a franchise-altering selection.
On Tuesday night, we’ll finally find out where the Celtics and the rest of the NBA’s lottery group will pick in next month’s draft. A bunch of ping-pong balls will determine who gets that coveted first overall pick on June 26th.
This year, co-owner Steve Pagliuca will represent the Celtics at the lottery. Celtics legend and play-by-play man Tommy Heinsohn went in 2007 when the Celtics fell to fifth, but the C’s are probably hoping Pagliuca, who graduated from Duke, brings them enough luck to get a high enough pick to draft Blue Devils’ star Jabari Parker.
Here is all you need to know about Tuesday night:
The odds are against the Celtics getting a Top 3 pick in the draft, but the worst they can do is the eighth pick. Here are the odds for landing each pick:
1st Pick: 10.3%
2nd Pick: 11.11%
3rd Pick: 12.01%
4th Pick: 0.0%
5th Pick: 23.83%
6th Pick: 34.21%
7th Pick: 8.18%
8th Pick: 0.37%
Boston has roughly a 33% chance at getting a pick in the Top 3, but are likely looking at the sixth or fifth pick.
The Celtics don’t find themselves in the NBA Draft lottery too much (given those 17 banners hanging in the TD Garden), but when they have they haven’t had the best of luck.
The one time things bounced Boston’s way 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 the second overall pick. The Celtics used that to select Len Bias, a highly-touted college star who was supposed to be the next great Celtic as the original Big Three phased out. But just two days after the draft, Bias died of a cocaine overdose. A promising young star had lost his life, and the Celtics’ future was in trouble.
The Celtics were also high in the lottery and counting on ping-pong balls back in 1997, when Tim Duncan was the cream of a solid crop of prospects. That year, the Celtics ended up with the third pick and selected point guard Chauncey Billups, who Rick Pitino sent to Toronto for Kenny Anderson halfway through his rookie season.
The most recent time the Celtics found themselves in the lottery race was 2007, when Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were the prize for the NBA’s worst teams. Boston had an abysmal season where they lost 18 straight and finished 24-58. While the C’s had the best odds to land the No. 2 pick (which would have been Durant), they instead ended up with their worst-case scenario and landed the fifth pick. Things worked out pretty well, as that pick was shipped to Seattle for Ray Allen, which led to Kevin Garnett joining Boston.
The NBA Draft lottery hasn’t done the Celtics any favors, so maybe they’re due this time around.
Of course, you wouldn’t find teams purposely losing games during the regular season if there wasn’t some payoff in the near future. This year, it’s a talented field of NCAA (and international) prospects filling the dreams of NBA GMs and head coaches.
Danny Ainge has stated numerous times that he feels the 2014 draft class is a bit overrated, and doesn’t have that franchise-altering talent to pick from. Ainge may be right, though there’s also the chance he’s being slightly dishonest, but there are some very good players early in the draft who can help turn a team around.
Gallery: Top Prospects In 2014 NBA Draft
Included in that group are Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kentucky’s Julius Randle. While all four are coming to the NBA after their freshman year, each brings plenty of talent (and hype) with them. Embiid has drawn comparisons to dominating big men such as David Robinson and Tim Duncan, while Wiggins and his freak athleticism are expected to be the top overall pick in June after he averaged 17.1 points per game for the Jayhawks. Parker averaged 19 points and nearly nine rebounds for the Blue Devils, and Randle’s 6-9, 250-pound frame makes him look like he’s ready for the league.
While Ainge maintained throughout the season that he didn’t feel like a franchise-altering player was available, he has to like the options if he lands a Top 3 pick. However, like 2007, Ainge has numerous backup plans, and backup plans for those backup plans, should the C’s be burned by those ping-pong balls again. There’s even a chance if the Celtics do get a high pick, Ainge packages that with his numerous other assets (future picks, young talent, expiring contracts, and some cap space) to bring in another All-Star, or two, to play alongside Rajon Rondo.
There will still be plenty of waiting after Tuesday night for the NBA Draft and Ainge’s future plan to play out, but once the Celtics’ upcoming pick is announced, we’ll all have a much better picture for what the future holds.
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