When the Boston Celtics are in the NBA Draft Lottery you can count on one thing: they’re not landing the #1 pick. They never had a chance. If they miss the playoffs again next season…forget that, if they win 10 games and lose 72 next year, they will get 4th pick. Luck is absent for the Celtics in the Lottery, their chances are the same as Bluto’s grade point average in Animal House: ZERO. POINT. ZERO. Last night the year 2014 joined 2007 and 1997 in the miserable history of green ping pong balls. So, now what?
Okay, I’ve calmed down a little bit but I was extremely pissed off last night and still am to some extent. I’ll get to the Celtics and what they should do with the 6th pick in a second but before I do, I have a bone to pick with the powers that be of the National Basketball Association (that means you, Adam Silver). Regardless of how the Celtics fared last night, my opinion would not have changed. The NBA Draft Lottery system is a joke. Cleveland has now gotten the #1 pick in three of the last four years. Three out of four. They took Kyrie Irving first overall in 2011 (first year post-LeBron), last year they took some kid who I’ve never heard of, and they won it again last night. This system does not work, and it needs to be abolished. I know what you’re thinking“But Scotty, the NBA Draft Lottery is in place to prevent tanking…” No, the NBA Draft Lottery was invented in 1985 so that David Stern could gift wrap Patrick Ewing and ship him to New York and make it seem like a coincidence. Besides that, it doesn’t deter teams from tanking; just ask the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. Teams are going to tank no matter what system is in place, so just get rid of it.
Recently, enough people have been perturbed about the current system in place that they have tried to come up with a permanent solution. The most prominent of these has been the “lottery wheel” model. Its premise is to eliminate tanking by assigning draft picks in a particular cycle over the course of 30 years. In theory, if a team knows what pick it’s going to have, there’s no reason to tank. This also will not work. Let’s say that the next LeBron James is a freshman in college. Assuming that system is enforced, let’s also say that Milwaukee has the first pick after his freshman year, but after his sophomore year, LA has the first pick. That kid is going to stay in school another year to duck Milwaukee and will come out the next year to go to the Lakers. This will make the system worse, as kids will leave school or stay in school based on who has the first pick. It’s a bad idea, and hopefully someone has mentioned this. The fact that Cleveland has won the lottery three times since LeBron left town is fishy, and a team that wins the lottery should be ineligible for the first pick for the following year to keep things balanced. The easiest solution is to go back to the way it was. Worst record = first pick. It’s the only thing that’s fair and it’s the only thing that makes sense.
Now, as for what the Celtics should do next month. There are a couple of different ways they could go. Danny Ainge has to choose a direction by draft night.
Scenario A- Trade for Kevin Love, extend he and Rondo, deal for a third piece, hope that the East remains horrible and try to win titles for the next five years.
Scenario B- Trade Rondo, go completely in the tank, let deals expire and rebuild the team through the draft and free agency.
Those are his options, so let’s go into the specifics of what the Celtics can do.
Make a push for Kevin Love.
Forget drafting some unproven college kid, set your sights on a guy who can impact your team immediately in the terrible Eastern Conference. There are a couple of possible caveats with attempting to acquire the Timberwolves’ big man. The first (and most obvious) issue is that if you make the deal, he and Rajon Rondo have to sign extensions to stay in Boston long-term. Danny Ainge said a few months ago that this draft was over-rated. Let’s assume there was no poker face and he was telling us the truth. If their plan was to trade for Love all along, it got a lot harder after last night. It would have been much easier to land Love with the 2nd or 3rd pick than the 6th pick. It could still be done, but Ainge has to give up more assets than he perhaps anticipated. Even if the Celtics land Love, he and Rondo alone are not enough to win championships. You need that third guy, and Ainge has the assets and the cap flexibility to do it. It all becomes a question of what Minnesota will want, and what the Celtics are willing to give up. Boston has first round picks in 2016, 2017, and 2018 from Brooklyn. I imagine some, if not all of those would come into play.
Trade Rondo and move up in the draft.
If Ainge can’t get Kevin Love and decides to rebuild, Rondo is wasted on a rebuilding team. He’s 28 years old and in his athletic prime, so trading him to a contender makes perfect sense. The problems that Ainge and the Celtics will have is that Rondo played last season on a surgically repaired knee, and he is in the last year of his deal and will test free agency next summer. That essentially kills his trade value, he’s not attractive to a non-contending team with a high draft pick because there’s no way that he’ll resign there. If Ainge wants to trade Rondo and start from scratch they should revisit trade talks with Houston. Danny and Kevin McHale are comfortable with each other obviously, and Rondo would have incentive to sign with the Rockets beyond one season to play with Dwight Howard and James Harden. In return the Celtics could ask for center Omer Asik and draft picks. It’s not out of the question that Houston would do that deal, especially with the Celtics knowing that they likely will not be getting equal value back in a trade for Rondo.
Part Two of this equation then becomes finding Rondo’s replacement. The Celtics have the assets to move up but they will not crack the top three selections in this draft. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid will be playing in Cleveland, Milwaukee and Philadelphia respectively. Orlando at #4 is a possibility to move up. The Celtics could offer the Magic the 6thand 17th picks in exchange for the 4th pick, and with that pick Boston could select Australian point guard, Dante Exum. The 19-year-old Exum is 6’ 6” and can play point guard or two guard, and in any other year would likely be the first pick in the draft. The Celtics then would have their center and point guard for the foreseeable future, and would still have several draft picks over the next few years to either draft a high-scoring small forward or make a package deal for another star who wants a change of scenery.
Even with their lack of luck on Tuesday night, the Boston Celtics are in a position that most NBA teams envy. They have a few good, young players, an infinite number of first round picks, and cap flexibility both now and over the next few years with some deals expiring. Danny Ainge can do whatever he wants next month. This is either going to be a quick turnaround into contention, or a five year plan. But it might be better than praying that a college kid doesn’t end up being a bust.