BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics organization and their fans are still buzzing over Sunday’s 108-83 beatdown of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. It was a thorough victory that has some people envisioning a trip to the NBA Finals for the Celtics.
But the Celtics’ fortunes could jump from “very good” to “comically high” before Game 2 even tips.
On Tuesday evening, prior to Game 2 between the Cavs and Celtics, the NBA will hold its annual draft lottery. And while the Celtics aren’t as deeply involved as they were last year, when they held the Nets’ pick and ended up with the No. 1 overall pick, there’s still a chance that Danny Ainge ends up looking like a gluttonous basketball genius if the pingpong balls bounce a certain way.
That’s because the Celtics still have some hope to land either the No. 2 or No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft. It’s a long shot, yes, but there’s a chance.
As a refresher: The Celtics traded last year’s No. 1 overall pick to Philadelphia for the 76ers’ No. 3 overall pick in 2017 and the Lakers’ first-round pick in 2018, so long as it landed between Nos. 2 and 5. If the Lakers’ pick ended up being anywhere else, then the Celtics will instead (in all likelihood) get the Sacramento Kings’ first-round pick in 2019 (unless it’s the No. 1 overall pick).
That can all get confusing, as can the details of the draft lottery process. But as far as the Celtics are concerned, it comes down to this: On Tuesday night, there’s a 2.9 percent chance of the Lakers landing the No. 2 or No. 3 pick in this year’s draft. If that happens, the pick will go to Boston.
Obviously, 2.9 percent does not represent great odds for the Celtics. But it is nevertheless a chance for arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference to add yet another high draft pick to its roster. Or it would give Ainge some more ammo to use for another trade that yields benefits for years to come.
Top-10 Picks Already On Celtics Roster
Kyrie Irving, No. 1 overall (2011)
Al Horford, No. 3 overall (2007)
Jaylen Brown, No. 3 overall (2016)
Jayson Tatum, No. 3 overall (2017)
Marcus Smart, No. 6 overall (2014)
Gordon Hayward, No. 9 overall (2010)
Of course, it could be argued that a team in the conference finals that will get Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back in the offseason doesn’t need that high pick in any sort of desperate way. But if the basketball gods decide to gift a top-three pick to the Celtics in the early part of this roster build toward title contention, then Ainge and the Celtics probably wouldn’t mind.