BOSTON (CBS) — If you’re not feeling great about the Celtics’ chances in next week’s NBA Draft Lottery, their history when it comes to those ping-pong balls won’t make you feel any better.
Since it started in 1985, things have not always bounced the Celtics’ way in the lottery. They’ve moved up just twice in their 11 trips to the lottery, falling into their slotted draft spot six times while falling back three times.READ MORE: Amid Concerns Over Omicron COVID Variant, CDC Says All Vaccinated Adults Should Get Booster Shots
History will mean very little when the Celtics send Isaiah Thomas to New York next week (Danny Ainge joked he’s Boston’s “leprechaun”) when they will be counting on those ping-pong balls once again. Boston owns Brooklyn’s first-round selection from the 2013 trade of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, which has a 15.6 percent chance of landing first overall and a 46.9 percent chance of being a top-three pick. The worst possible outcome for the Celtics is the pick becomes the sixth overall selection.
As history shows, luck has rarely gone in Boston’s favor:
Things actually bounced Boston’s way in their first trip into the lottery 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 slotted into the ninth selection heading into the lottery, and that’s exactly where they ended up. With the pick, they drafted Eric Montross out of North Carolina.
He donned the No. 0 jersey for two seasons in Boston before being dealt to the Mavericks for a first-round pick in 1996 (Boston and Dallas swapped picks) and another first rounder in 1997.
That first rounder from Dallas landed in the lottery, and jumped up three spots for the Celtics. They ended up with the sixth overall selection and used it to draft Kentucky star Antoine Walker, who wiggled his way through eight seasons in Boston, chucking up nearly 3,000 three-pointers along the way.
Employee No. 8 was a fan favorite when he arrived and gave one hell of a motivational speech in the Celtics’ incredible Eastern Conference Finals comeback against the New Jersey Nets in 2002, but ultimately took too many three’s (and trips to the buffet line) during his time in green.
This one… this one hurts. The C’s were expected to land the No. 2 selection, but actually had the best odds to land the first overall pick (27.51 percent) due to Vancouver being an expansion team. That would have landed them a franchise cornerstone in Tim Duncan, but they instead fell to the third pick. Rick Pitino drafted a promising guard in Chauncey Billups, but he traded him to Toronto for Kenny Anderson halfway through his rookie season.
Duncan went to the San Antonio Spurs instead, where he’s won four NBA titles. Damn you, ping-pong balls.
The Dallas pick acquired in the Montross trade was projected to be and ended up as the sixth pick, which they used to draft Ron Mercer. He averaged 15.9 points per game in his two seasons for the Celtics before being traded to Denver in 1999.
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Once again, the Celtics drafted where they were slotted ahead of the lottery, using the 10th overall selection on Paul Pierce. This one worked out pretty well, with Pierce becoming the franchise’s second-leading scorer and winning a title in 2008. After a 15-year career with the Celtics, expect Pierce’s No. 34 to be hanging in the Garden rafters as soon as he decides to retire.
The Celtics would have found themselves in the lottery, but traded their first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers along with Andrew Declerq for center Vitaly Potepekno. The pick fell from seventh to eighth when the ping-pong balls were done bouncing, with the Cavs drafting guard Andrew Miller.
The Celtics landed the 11th pick, which was expected, and drafted Jerome Moiso out of UCLA. He played just 24 games his rookie season, and was traded to Philadelphia for Roshown McLeod and a 2003 first-round pick (which became Dahntay Jones, who was swapped for Kendrick Perkins). Moiso went on to play for five different teams (including both the Charlotte and New Orleans Hornets) in his five-year NBA career.
The lottery odds proved true again, with Boston landing the 10th overall pick. They drafted Joe Johnson, who was shipped to Phoenix during his rookie season in a package for Rodney Rodgers and Tony Delk.
After a five-year absence in the lottery, the Celtics once again landed their projected pick in 2006. They drafted Randy Foye of Villanova with the seventh overall selection, sending him to Portland on a draft night trade for Sebastian Telfair and other heaps of garbage. The best thing to come out of the deal was Theo Ratliff’s contract, which was a key part of the trade that landed Kevin Garnett the following offseason.
Tankapolooza was in full effect in 2007, with the Celtics finishing 24-58 for the season and entering the lottery with 20 percent chance to pick Greg Oden or Kevin Durant first overall. Heck, even if they had stayed at No. 2 they would have landed Durant.
Tommy Heinsohn’s expression explains it all:
The C’s flopped down to No. 5, which was devastating at the time. But Ainge packaged the pick (which became Jeff Green) with Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West on draft night and sent them all to Seattle for Ray Allen and a second-round pick that became Glen “Big Baby” Davis. A few weeks later Kevin Garnett was holding up a Celtics jersey, and the rest is history.
So sometimes, on rare occasions, bum luck isn’t bad news at all.
That “bad luck” in 2007 led to a lengthy absence from the lottery, something few Celtics fans will argue against.
When the C’s were back in the ping-pong mix in 2014, they were projected to land the fifth pick but left with the sixth overall selection. They drafted Marcus Smart, a promising defensive-minded guard who could be a key part of their future, or a key part of future deals to get a superstar to Boston.MORE NEWS: Attleboro Man Wins $1 Million On Scratch Ticket Gifted To Him After Having Heart Surgery