Going into the 2016 NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, the Celtics were fortunate enough to have a shot at the top pick in the draft from the Brooklyn Nets from the 2013 trade that sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to Brooklyn. There was a 15% chance of them landing the first pick and a 15% chance for the second pick. The clear top picks in this year’s draft are LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram and these guys are expected to be effective immediately and become franchise players. But after all was said and done, the Celtics came up just short and landed the third pick in the upcoming draft this summer. But this may be a blessing in disguise for Danny Ainge and the Celtics because it is eerily similar to a situation that they were in 9 years ago.
The 2007 lottery was extremely important because the top two prospects were sure winners (at the time). Ohio State’s Greg Oden and Texas’ Kevin Durant were the obvious choices for picks and were expected to lead the Celtics back to relevance and bring back the tradition of winning to the Boston Garden. But on lottery night, the Celtics were unlucky and drew the 5th pick in the draft, leaving them out of the Oden, Durant sweepstakes. But, as you may remember, this was the best thing that could have happened to the Celtics as they used that pick to draft Jeff Green out of Georgetown and then send him out to Seattle for Ray Allen. This deal was the final piece needed as Kevin Garnett waived his no trade clause and came to Boston from the Minnesota Timberwolves for Al Jefferson and several other young assets. They went on to win the 2008 NBA Championship and had they not had so many injuries to key players in future years they could have won a couple more. But championships aside, it brought the winning attitude back to Boston and made it a basketball city again.
Now I’ll bring it back to the present. The Celtics have 8 picks in the upcoming draft and plenty of young talent that they could use to make a deal. Besides Isaiah Thomas and maybe Marcus Smart, there is no one who is guaranteed to be in a Celtics uniform next season. There is a very good chance that President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge will put together some sort of blockbuster deal to bring in a young superstar to help bring the Celtics out of their rebuild and back to title contenders.
Kevin Durant is still a possibility in free agency this summer, but the more the Thunder win, the less likely it is he will go elsewhere. The name that was talked about all season is Demarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings. He has two more years left on his deal and is one of Isaiah Thomas’ best friends off the court. Cousins has been publically unhappy with his situation out in Sacramento and has been a nightmare for coaches. The Celtics have a huge gap in the paint and are missing out on a true center in their lineup to rebound and protect the rim, and his 26.9 ppg wouldn’t hurt either.
Another possibility would be Paul George. The Indiana Pacers made the playoffs this past season and lost to the Toronto Raptors in 7 games, but after firing their head coach, Frank Vogel and bringing in Nate McMillan, they are searching for a new identity. Paul George is owed over $18 million per year for the next three years, and if the Pacers are trying to start over it may be smart for them to make a deal with the Celtics to take advantage of their young assets and draft picks. It might be a stretch for the Celtics, but if it happened I would not be surprised in the least bit.
The dark horse that I believe has a chance to be in green next season is Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are struggling and after not making the playoffs a season ago they have to decide whether or not they are going to try and rebuild or reload going forward. Butler just signed a massive 5 year deal worth $95 million last July and if the Bulls are going to commit to a rebuild, it would be smart for them to use the Celtics assets to try and get younger and build for the future. It would take a lot from the Celtics, but if Butler’s name isn’t in the mix I will be very surprised.
One thing that all Celtics fans should know is that Danny Ainge always makes the best of every situation. He has worked his magic in the past and I believe that he will do it again before this summer’s NBA Draft. The Draft Lottery is often viewed as the day that can make or break a franchise. But not having the top pick is definitely not the end of the world, and it might be the best thing for the Boston Celtics going forward.