By: Jake Mackey
The most important date for the future of the Boston Celtics franchise lies just six days away, on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn with the NBA Draft Lottery. Funny that the ping pong balls will be bouncing in the home of the team that Danny Ainge absolutely made look like fools three years ago when he traded two aging stars in exchange for first round picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018. After that trade was made Nets owner Mikhalil Prokhorov said, “Today the basketball gods smiled down on the Nets, this team will be dazzling to watch and tough to compete against.” Three years later both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are out of Brooklyn and they finished this past season with a 21-61 record.
Nevertheless, Danny Ainge pulling the wool over the eyes of Mikhalil Prokhorov could mean nothing if the team does not fall within the top three of the draft on Tuesday. The green have 15.6 percent chance of receiving the top pick and a 46.9 percent chance of landing in the top three. Those are the third best odds behind only the Lakers and Philadelphia.
The consensus top two picks overall are expected to be Brandon Ingram; a 6-9, 195 pound 18-year old out of Duke, and Ben Simmons; a 6-10 Aussie from Louisiana State who turns 20-years old this summer. Simmons fits that mold for the prototypical big man that they Celtics have been searching for since Kendrick Perkins was dealt to Oklahoma City in 2011. However, Simmons maturity and overall brains has been questioned throughout his time in the United States. He flunked out of college because he could not manage to keep up the minimum GPA of a student athlete on a full scholarship. The over-under on his NBA development into a true star should be set at about six years. I would pound the over.
Brandon Ingram coming in as a soon to be 19-year old will probably be much of the same. The worry for him is more about his physique. At 6-9, 195 pounds he is an absolute bean pole. He will get battered around in his first couple of professional seasons, and who knows how he would handle that type of scrutiny if he were to play in a city like Boston, where winning has to be done now.
Usually when you take a player near the top of the draft, you are establishing the fact that you are going to build around that player. Also, you could be positioning yourself to be in that same spot for multiple years, like Philadelphia and Minnesota have been doing for the last few seasons. For Minnesota it appears to be working as they have two former top overall picks in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. They look to be a very solid team in a few years, but right now they aren’t even in contention for the playoffs as they finished 29-53 this past season. It is a work-in-progress for them that will take many years.
Boston Celtics fans, including myself do not feel like waiting five, six, seven years for another team to, “contend” for a title. At some point, the gritty team who plays their behinds off every night will get worn out among the fanbase when they are getting bounced in round one over and over again. In addition, in three years Brad Stevens contract will be up, and at that point if they are still a 45-50 win team every year he might get tired of, “not having the groceries” to quote Bill Parcells, and he might want to move on to a place with better talent or a top paying college gig.
The ideal step one for Danny Ainge in making the Celtics more of a championship team would be trading this draft pick if it were to fall within the top two. The most talked about player in that trade would be Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls, whom the Celtics inquired about at the trade deadline. Butler has averaged 20 and 21 points per game in each of the last two seasons.
(GIF Credit: Giphy.com)
According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune however, Jimmy Butler could be off the market. Johnson wrote on Tuesday, “In a sign of commitment not present at management’s season-ending postmortem, the Bulls have asked their two-time All-Star to represent the franchise on the dais at the May 17th NBA draft lottery, sources said.”
Personally, I am not buying into that notion. Chicago could have the shot at having two picks inside the top ten. That could be tough to pass up for Chicago who might be looking to rebuild slightly. Danny Ainge should do everything in his power to make that happen. Even if that means dealing the likes of Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart. When you get Jimmy Butler to pair up with Isiah Thomas you already have two superstars, and one that can be a consistent reliable scorer when you need a bucket late in the game. Furthermore, that could make Boston a more attractive place for an even bigger star to land, and I think most Celtics fans can anticipate who that may be.